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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.  

Alrick H Man IV January 24, 2013 at 12:12 PM
This article suggests a good and sensible place to start
Lisa Bigelow January 24, 2013 at 09:33 PM
thanks for reading and commenting! Lisa B.
Johnny B. Good April 16, 2013 at 06:37 PM
I completely agree with secure storage requirements. If a child/criminal/mentally ill person lives in a home with a law abiding gun owner, it should be the owners responsibility to control access to the guns. Outside of that, the laws passed in SB1160 are reactionary nonsense. It just infringes upon the rights of law abiding citizens. Not to mention the questionable morality and legality of railroading thru new laws without public review for political gain. We simply need to ENFORCE existing laws. I know Malloy & Obama want you to believe that "assault weapons" are the biggest problem facing society today, but it simply isn't true. According to the FBI's 2011 statistics, an assialants feet & hands are more likely to be used to murder someone than an AR-15: Murders with knives: 1,694 Murders with personal weapons (hands, fits & feet): 728 Murders with blunt objects like clubs & hammers: 496 Murders with shotguns: 356 Murders with rifles: 323 So, if SB1160 was not a purely political and emotional response, why haven't we begun to ban knives, bats & clubs?
Wait Wait Don't Tell Me April 16, 2013 at 06:49 PM
Perhaps many of the people who comitted murders with knives, personal weapons, and blunt objects would have preferred to kill using firearms but didn't have access, but would have done even more damage if they had such access.
Johnny B. Good April 16, 2013 at 07:33 PM
Another perspective would be that improving mental health evaluation and access to treatment would actually address the root of the issue and make our nation that much safer - without having to pass needless additional legislation regulating guns, knives, hands, feet, golf clubs, bowling balls or garden tools. Murder is already illegal. We don't need a new law - although bringing back the death penalty in CT would certanly restore a huge deterrent - we just need to enforce the ones we have and figure out how to better identify & treat the mentally ill.
Wait Wait Don't Tell Me April 16, 2013 at 07:37 PM
The death penalty is not a deterrent. People who are about to commit murder don't all of a sudden stop and think: Oh wait, if I do this, years from now, after the appellate process runs its course, I may get the death penalty.
Johnny B. Good April 16, 2013 at 07:43 PM
'twas just a comment - the focus of this article is gun control. So, Wait Wait, do you disagree that identifying and treating the mentally ill individuals that commit these heinous acts of violence would be the most effective way to preventing further incidents?
Wait Wait Don't Tell Me April 16, 2013 at 07:47 PM
Yes, as stated, I disagree. The identification and treatment of the mentally ill is important and must be done, but the *most* effective way to prevent further incidents is to make firearms more difficult to obtain. Sorry, JBG, but I'm in favor of strict gun control.
Johnny B. Good April 16, 2013 at 08:02 PM
That's fine. You're certainly entitled to your opinion. I just find it hard to believe that a rational person could honestly believe that preventing further access to guns - of which there are already MILLIONS in this country - will somehow be a more effective means of keeping crazy people from snapping and killing than treating the core issue of mental illness. But clearly we are different, because quite frankly, I could care less HOW someone is murdered. Is someone more dead because they were shot instead of beaten, stabbed or poisoned? I don't think so, but apparently it makes a big difference than you. I'd like to stop all needless violence. Not just gun violence. I truly hope you never face an armed burgler or intruder and have to try to defend yourself & your family with your bare hands - but you hope that someday that will be my only option. Thanks, neighbor.
Wait Wait Don't Tell Me April 16, 2013 at 08:06 PM
The posts I read here by gun proponents make me nervous that my neighbors have guns. I am in favor of handling this problem from both angles: treating the mentally ill, but also through gun regulation. I do care about how murders are committed because, if you want to kill me with a knife, your hands, or a bat, you have to get right up close to me. I could be down the block, or in my home (with the door closed), and you can still manage to shoot me. Thank you for your sentiments, but I personally do not want a gun in my home. I think that would put my family in more danger than not having one at all.
R. Ludlowe April 16, 2013 at 08:17 PM
<<So, if SB1160 was not a purely political and emotional response, why haven't we begun to ban knives, bats & clubs?>> Don't you gun-nuts ever get tired of this argument? I know I do. Bats and knives actually have purposes OTHER THAN KILLING SOMEONE. Guns? ...yeah. Pretty much one purpose there, right? NEXT.
R. Ludlowe April 16, 2013 at 08:21 PM
I'm with you, WWDTM. If people want to abide by the rules and take advantage of their 2A rights, thats fine... but they need to understand that just like driving, owning a business, or getting married... there are a few laws and processes that need to be followed for the populace as a whole to be able to pursue their own rights to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Johnny B. Good April 16, 2013 at 08:54 PM
Wait Wait: Have I given you the impression that I want to go running down the street waving a gun? I simply wish to maintain my ability to protect myself & my family (as well as enjoy traget shooting and hunting). You are free to decide if you want a gun. No one wants to force you to keep a gun in your home. We simply want to maintain our ability to protect ourselves. I don't want to try to tell you what you can or can not have in your home, nor do I want you telling me what I may or may not own. THAT is the American way. R. Ludlow: Law abiding gun owners in no way infringe upon YOUR rights. You trying to tell gun owners what they can do is infringing upon their rights (and of course our Constitution delares that they "shall not be infringed"). Criminals do not care. They will use weapons - regardless of legality - to commit their crimes. Other than the privacy issues of creating a registry of firearms, I'm not against the idea of requiring a background check - including mental health - for every gun purchase. Frankly, even before SB1160, the VAST majority of firearm purchases required background checks. People are under some false impression that a person can walk into a gun show and buy anything they'd like. That isn't at all the case. The majority of sellers at a gun show are licensed gun dealers, and they are required to get an authorization # from the CT State Police that a background check has been run before they can complete the transfer.
Johnny B. Good April 16, 2013 at 09:00 PM
R. Ludlow: I've yet to find a paper target or clay pigeon with a heartbeat. I'm also fairly certain that no serious harm comes to the metal targets that biathalon competitors shoot at in the Olympics. Perhaps there are other purposes for a gun.... besides killing.
Wait Wait Don't Tell Me April 16, 2013 at 09:01 PM
JBG - No, you have not given me the impression that you want to run around with a gun. Unfortunately, some of the other people who post here have given me a very negative view of gun proponents, making me even more anxious about gun owners than I had before. If they wanted me to see them as reasonable, they would not have posted here with such gun-lust and lack of empathy in light of recent events.
Johnny B. Good April 16, 2013 at 09:31 PM
Wait: It's unfortunate to hear that, but that is the beauty of this country. We're afforded the right to have our own opinions and express them freely. I'm not sure what comments you're talking about, but I've seen some extremely reactionary folks on both sides of the issue. I'm not defending anyone, but I think most gun owners are reluctant (at best) to give up any ground, as historically, when we've given an inch, a mile has been taken. I may be a strong believer in gun rights, but that didn't prevent me from crying about the senseless violence that occured in Newtown and made me hug my children extra tight. I'm all for any resonable solution that protects our SAFETY and RIGHTS. I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree about this, but based on logical reasoning and deduction, SB1160 infringes upon our rights without improving safety.
Wait Wait Don't Tell Me April 16, 2013 at 09:47 PM
I appreciate that you can disagree with me without resorting to name-calling.

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