Let’s start this discussion with something on which I hope we can all agree. We would all like to reduce the number of firearm-related deaths in our country. Unfortunately, from all I’ve read and heard, this idea appears to be where the agreement ends and the partisan rhetoric begins.
Unfortunately, like so many other things in our country now, there appears to be little interest in compromise. In the case of firearms you either love them or hate them. A “Keep your hands off our guns” or a “confiscate all the guns, we don’t need or want them” scenario. Neither of these positions is very helpful, and not surprisingly, I feel the solution lies between the two.
One big mistake I’ve observed when hearing discussions regarding this issue is the noticeable lack of, or acknowledgement of the facts, regarding firearm fatalities. Neither side wishes to give an inch.
If you’ve already taken a hard stance, one way or the other, I would suggest that you research and confirm the information you assume to be factual. For example, one of the proposals is to ban “assault weapons.” If you are in this camp, you should be able to define (exactly) what it is about a rifle that turns it from an ordinary rifle into an assault weapon. In other words, what is it that you want banned and how, directly, do you feel it will reduce the number of deaths by these particular rifles?
If you are in the camp which believes that not every firearm purchase should have a background check, then you should research the number of times those restricted from owning a firearm have tried to purchase them. (It’s a lot more than you may think.) Why don’t you think background checks would make us safer?
There are two well known groups whose statistics should at the very least be verified before throwing them around in defense of your position. The NRA, and the Brady Center for the Prevention of Gun Violence. Both of these organizations, while well intentioned, “have a dog in the fight” and tend to omit, or at least obfuscate, the information which doesn’t further their cause.
However, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report and the Department of Justice Crime reports have no such bias.
The following information is from the FBI’s and/or DOJ’s crime reports.
Murder victims by firearms dropped every year from 2007 to 2011 (10,129 – 8,583).
Murders with all types of rifles remained constant at about 3.5 percent of the total murders by firearm. In 2011 it was 323.
Over two times as many people were killed by fists/feet as by rifle.
Five times as many were killed by knives as by rifle.
I bring up these points because the AWB (assault weapons ban), in my opinion, is “feel good” legislation which allows us to do something, and then move on. Additionally, “A 2004 critical review of research on firearms by a National Research Council panel also noted that academic studies of the assault weapon ban 'did not reveal any clear impacts on gun violence' and noted due to the fact that the relative rarity with which the banned guns were used in crime before the ban ... the maximum potential effect of the ban on gun violence outcomes would be very small...."(Wikipedia)”
Another area I believe should be looked at is who is actually committing these murders with firearms, and who are they murdering. I don’t know, but I suspect the vast majority of both categories (especially the shooters) already have a criminal record and/or are already in the process of committing a crime (drug deal, robbery, home invasion) when they pull the trigger. If so, why do you think they will follow the next set of laws we enact? Additionally, these criminal acts happen multiple times every day of the year and honestly, we don’t seem to care. If criminals kill other criminals, why should we?
We only care when it’s a movie theater, a mall, a church or a school, where “people like us” get killed. The shooters in these types of incidents have all, undoubtedly, had mental issues – they were not career criminals and most had no record at all. These cases shouldn’t be used to judge the preponderance of legal firearm owners.
Let me state clearly, I will support any proposed legislation regarding firearms which I believe will further the cause of reducing the number and severity of mass shooting incidents. This is really what we’re discussing here. I don’t support “quick fix,” gun legislation which, as stated above, does little to help solve the actual problem.
I would support thorough mandatory background checks for purchasing a firearm. I would support a waiting period prior to receiving your firearm, and also a one-gun-per-30 day-period limitation in order to curb trafficking.
Other areas which need serious consideration are mental stability evaluations of purchasers, a solid review of the violent gaming industry, and mostly, enforcing our plethora of current laws without creating new ones.
We cannot, even as much as we’d like to, legislate away crime. Whether it’s rape, robbery, murder or speeding, it’s all against the law. Yet, in spite of the law, they all happen every single day, and criminals, by their very definition, don’t obey the laws. Again, one more useless law won’t deter them in the least, but I’m sure we’ll feel good about having done something.
I’m a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a firefighter. I’m a veteran, a Democrat and an NRA member. I’ve never had a single encounter with law enforcement and am, hence, legally allowed to own and carry firearms (with a permit). I am your average firearm owner.
If you’d like to get the facts on crime data, check out fbi.gov.
That’s my opinion, what’s yours?
Rick Godfrey writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.