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.  

Concerned Parent & Gun Owner January 28, 2013 at 10:57 AM
Grea list Greg, now it just our elected officials and March for Change shared the same priorities and were as sensible.
Greg Burns January 28, 2013 at 11:47 AM
Concerned Parent: The reason for permit cancellations really does not matter, they are insignificant to the total number of permits. Permitted gun owners do not commit crime. They are not the bad guys. They are actually the only men and women who stand between the criminal and harm. The police will not be there and will not likely get there on time to save you. You better hope you have a neighbor or citizen close to you who will step up "with his or her gun and save your butt". To save you, your children, your grand children, your wife or husband. Obviously the criminals and nuts (and terrorists to come) will show them NO MERCY. The criminal last Tuesday in the New Haven local convenience grocery showed no mercy shooting the shopkeeper in the back. He did not have to do that, but he did! That's why I carry a gun. You better hope I am there with more than 7 bullets if you meet a guy like that. There are plenty of them out there. YOUR legislature released 7,500 of them from prison last year. Ask them about that, ask your leaders who are sopposed to be protecting you? ! I intend to ask them today at the gun control hearings. Many of you will be harmed or killed by them within the next 2 or 3 years. They have killed tow already that we know of. DOES THAT MAKE SENSE TO YOU???????
Greg Burns January 28, 2013 at 12:12 PM
Respect Ultimate Defense & Deterrant to Criminal Violence: Defense: When you are being violently attacked, YOU are the ONLY defense against crminal violence - OR the man or woman around you capable of effectively defending you, with a gun. Deterrant: The greatest deterrant to violent crime is the licensed gun owner. He or she protects your home just by owning his gun, simply because the criminal does not know who has a gun. Gun owners protect you in public the same way. If a criminal attacks you he is risking attacking or dealing with me. That is the only reason why public crimes are less common than other crimes. Criminals fear armed citizens, not police, courts, laws and prison. Hell many will kill you before the police can get there just so you will not be a whitness. There is no mercy in many who will use a gun or violence to get what they want. Warning: An armed citizenry is your first line of defense against crime, often your only defense. You had better treat them with more respect. You could live or die by it.
Greg Burns January 31, 2013 at 04:33 PM
April 20, 1999, at Columbine High School, almost 14 years ago. What have our "leaders" done since then to protect our kids??? Are our kids any safer today? Ironically laws will not stop the bad guys, only a gun will, and only one gun may not be enough ! Sad but true. Oh yes, our leaders did release 7,500 criminals from prison last year, two deaths already from it that we know of, God knows what else. Is more of that part of our future strategy? Did that come up last night? Nobody is talking about that?
Bill C February 20, 2013 at 05:28 AM
This is a Bill from the State of Missouri that I could back. http://house.mo.gov/billsummary.aspx?bill=HB633&year=2013&code=R


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