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. 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.  

oldtimer January 27, 2013 at 01:10 PM
My part as a Ct licensed pistol owner is by the book. I do not use rifles, semi or bolt action. If you want to own one, this is OK by me. If a mentally un-stable person gets their hands on a gun, I believe the signals were known to SOMEONE prior. Computer games, violent reality shows, peer pressure are all contibutors to the insane and disastrous results. But, I will not give up MY rights for societies wack jobs.
Thomas Soukup January 27, 2013 at 02:41 PM
I enjoyed your post, but it ends pretty much where it begins when you say at the close "Can we not limit access to weaponry without infringing upon the rights of those who own guns safely and responsibly?" Sorry to say the answer is no. The reason is simple, and is the result of killers not complying with the law. While your list of sensible suggestions sound pretty good at face value, there isn't one which can't be foiled by those hell bent on a repeat of Newtown, or worse. I do concede that for reasons of good gun safety number 3 and 6 are sound ideas, but have nothing to do with preventing another Newtown. You say but with the guns locked .... Stop ,the black market has plenty of guns to offer so there is no need to break into someones gun safe,however, it is a good idea with small children about. Number 7 gets the booby prize, why would any criminal want to turn in his weapon after he just purchased it on the black market. Even those programs which offer a bounty of say $200 are silly because the gun most likely cost the criminal significantly more. He can sell it himself back on the black market. Lisa you sound like a good compassionate person, but unfortunately your ideas simply don't connect with the reality of solving the misuse of firearms.
COSMO P January 27, 2013 at 07:44 PM
Simple answers 1 Then the gun grabbers will limit the amount of ammo one can have and or buy. Back door gun banning. Also the commerce clause in the constitution will be blatantly violated. UNCONSTITUTIONAL PLAIN AND SIMPLE 2 The nicks check does not include back round checks for mental health. The liberal democrats will go wild on this one. What if the doctor is biased and hates guns. The person might be sane but the doctor black listed the person. 3 NG the HELLER decision by the supreme court says mandatory storage is unconstitutional. But safe storage should be used in my opinion on a voluntary bases. Other than your carry gun. Safe storage is good but state law protects gun owners from theft as it should be. 4 NG that means if you get hit in your strong hand you cant switch to your weak one. Also liability to gun makers if malfunction occurs. Been tested does not work. The technology is not there yet. And if the battery's are removed the gun goes in to fail safe and works. BAD BAD IDEA. 5 This is just garbage and meaningless. Train them and give them guns. If a teacher has a pistol permit and is denied the ability to carry it under this states constitutional wording and he is injured or killed he can SUE for the fact that he was denied the right of self protection. Read the Constitution of CT. 6 Proper use YES. Storage Once again HELLER 7 NG bad guys don't follow the laws and don't turn in guns. Gun buy backs and amnesty programs don't work Period.
COSMO P January 27, 2013 at 07:52 PM
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? Totally ridiculous statement. Is my kids more important than the presidents? NO neither is your kids. So the kids are exposed to armed protectors. At least they can come home at the end of the day. Why do you not understand gun free zones do not work and are a magnet for people wanting to harm to others. These cowards always pick gun ferr zones because it is an easy target for them. In Israel the teachers are armed since the seventies. Now school shootings have stopped in Israel. So what is better armed teachers and private citizens that qualify and pass a NICKS check or having body bags readily available. Your choice. NEWTOWN just proves my point YOU CANT RUN AWAY FROM WACKO'S. St better protect yourself . And the best way is with a gun with lots of BULLETS. Thank you


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