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Let CT's Gun Control Debate Begin: Part II

Last week’s Patch Back on gun control made fodder for several well-reasoned online debates throughout Fairfield County. What do you think will help stem the tide of gun violence?

Will a high-capacity magazine and assault weapons ban make us safer? Are gun owners more or less likely to become the victim of a crime? How can we best protect our schools and homes? What's the easiest way to control guns without trampling the Second Amendment and the rights of law-abiding, gun-owning citizens?

Last week's Patch Back readers had plenty to share (thanks, readers!).

The conversations made two things abundantly clear. The first is gun owners really needn’t fear the government confiscating their weapons, as that isn't on anyone's agenda. The second is gun control supporters have ample reason to hope that a high capacity magazine ban will become reality in Connecticut, if not the entire U.S.

Yet as I monitored the conversations, I began thinking about varying types of gun violence and how advocates on both sides often twist statistics to support their own views. It also occurred to me that although mass shootings garner the lion’s share of media attention, the reality of gun violence that occurs in Chicago, Washington, New Haven, New York, Los Angeles and beyond claims many more lives still. 

This type of violence occurs mostly from handguns, not assault rifles. Two contradictory points here are also abundantly clear: although those who own guns are more likely to be the victim of gun violence it is also true that those who carry guns are less likely to become the victim of someone with criminal intent.

Makes no sense, right?

Yet according to JustFacts.com, a nonpartisan independent research organization, it’s true. For example, JustFacts found that the much-quoted statistic about those who own guns being three times more likely to become a homicide victim is not credible. Yet many pro-gun advocates who claim that existing controls are already strict enough fail to mention the ease with which someone with a fake ID can secure a gun. 

In fact, the Government Accountability Office had a 100 percent success rate buying firearms in five states using false identification that also met the minimum requirements of the federal background check system, according to JustFacts.

Clearly, change is in order.

So where does this leave us? First, one can certainly make an argument that the motivations behind a mass shooter and a common street thug are vastly different; one is likely mentally ill while the other is likely committing a crime for socioeconomic reasons.

Limiting magazine capacity and banning assault rifles at the state level may make it more difficult to commit a mass shooting, but it isn't foolproof and it won’t help with the everyday problem of handgun violence. A shooter using a handgun or two and holding extra ammunition can inflict just as much damage as one with an assault rifle, unfortunately. Isn't there a way to prevent mass shootings while also stemming the tide of handgun violence, which is, overall, a much greater threat to the safety of society?

Plus, although it pains this writer to think about asking Congress to take on anything of this magnitude, shouldn’t any change in our gun laws hold true for all of our citizens? After all, the Second Amendment is a federally guaranteed right. Isn’t buying a weapon at a gun show in a gun-friendly state and then hopping on the interstate pretty easy for a would-be criminal?

Local handgun bans, assault weapons bans and other technology-focused legislation seems to produce one step forward, two steps back results. Some sensible suggestions, many of which were provided by readers, include:

  1. On the federal level, requiring universal background checks, closing the gun show loophole and monitoring sales of weapons and ammunition, even when sold privately. 
  2. Incorporating mental health screening as part of the background check and requiring repeated applications, as we do for driver licenses (“You could write a whole new column about driving requirements,” my husband grumbled after one long commute home). This should include those living in the home with the weapon in question.
  3. Developing safe storage laws and enforcing penalties for those who do not follow them, especially if the un-stored gun is stolen and used in a crime.
  4. Making standard trigger mechanisms that unlock via fingerprint.
  5. Training teachers and administrators in self-defense. One reader suggested tasers or tear gas.  
  6. Requiring gun owners to train family members in the appropriate use and safe storage of weaponry.
  7. Offering a federal gun amnesty program to get as many guns off the streets as possible.

Adding armed guards to schools, as the NRA suggested, may make sense for President Obama’s children, but the idealist inside me is saddened that our kids may have to learn under armed protection. Can we not limit access to weaponry without infringing upon the rights of those who own guns safely and responsibly?

People who purchase guns want them for protection, hobby or sport. Those who don’t want guns will probably never understand the motivations of those that do. But reaching a compromise will require each side to cross the impasse of their own making.  

Debra Ritchie January 26, 2013 at 02:43 PM
Why does the discussion on violence never include entertainment and its impact on society? Violent movies and television programming along with rap music all impact our youths view on the acceptability of violence. We have become desensitized. Some children may not be negatively impacted, but some who are more vulnerable perhaps due to other contributing factors may be. Are we going to ignore? Shouldn't we discuss and research the violence that we call entertainment to determine its impact on behavior? Or do we believe slapping a rating on something relieves us of responsibility?
Steve January 30, 2013 at 02:55 AM
Some rebuttals: "Confiscation isn't on anyone's agenda." Perhaps you missed where confiscation was exactly what was proposed by some legislators in NY State's recent legislation that passed. It was cut from the final bill, but it was on some legislator's agenda. http://youtu.be/ryUbJfg4tAo 1. Depends upon implementation. 2. What kind of mental health screening? Currently, anyone who has already been adjudicated as having mental health issues is prohibited. 3. Where else do we hold a person responsible for their stolen property being used to commit a crime? What kind of expense are you requiring gun owners to take? How biased is it against lower income people who are more likely to need a firearm for self defense? 4. The point of a firearm is to be as close to 100% reliable as possible so that when its needed you can rely on it to work. Adding electronic devices to firearms defeats that purpose. If it was practical, you would see police departments asking for this technology to prevent a pistol stolen from an officer's holster from being used against him. Also consider a wife who needs to use her husband's firearm to protect herself when he's not home. What if you're already bleeding from an attack & your fingerprint can't be read due to being bloody or sweaty? 5. Those that are interested should be allowed. 6. Good idea but responsibility can't be legislated. 7. Studies show they're a waste of money.

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