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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 Connecticut. 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.  

Pedals January 27, 2013 at 05:50 PM
There is not one reason to own an assault rifle and high capacity magazines. Is this for protection, hobby or sport...only if you are going to war. The war is taking place in the United States through the use of this excessive weaponry.
Walt January 27, 2013 at 06:48 PM
It's the immature macho yahoos who imagine that they're at war when shooting these guns, they never grew up and to make up for inadequasies they need a big gun like the real army men use. For them, it's like adding an extra inch to their penis. These guns are not suitable for hunting and not suitable for home defense. But at thuh shootin' rynge they kin myke uh wawttomellin blow up reeeel gud, hoooweee! Ah wonts me won!
Alex January 28, 2013 at 02:28 AM
Depends how you define an assault weapon. Some of the bills proposed in the state have a pistol grip as a definition of an assault weapon. That bill would make some pistols used in the previous Olympics illegal to possess in CT. Limiting the capacity of ammo is reasonable regulation. Banning firearms because they have a grip made to better hold a human hand is stupid knee jerk regulation.
jim laguardia January 28, 2013 at 04:12 AM
MOST rational adults don't want to take away all guns, nor do they want to put an assault riffle in everyone's home but there are extremists on both sides and Since the sheep have not made their way to this new pasture yet, let me try and cover as many off the top of my head of their talking points for the extremists who value words written on paper more than innocent lives being taken so you understand why they act like children who have a 64 count box of crayons and can't share one with anyone... "Slippery slope" "shall not infringe" "senseless violent videos games/movies" "defense free zones" "those who faught to protect your rights" "mental deficient" "liberal agenda" "casket as a pulpit" "Nazzi Germany" "liberal media" "tyranical government" ... Just to name a few, and everyone's least favorite.... "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun, is with"..... Say it with me "a good guy with a gun"
Geezer January 28, 2013 at 12:43 PM
wonder how many assault weapon owners have actually participated in front line combat?
Crown Royal January 28, 2013 at 05:24 PM
There are also people who feel very strongly about the 2nd amendment, in that the only way to overthrow a government would be actually being capable of fighting (and killing) them. Them (The govt) banning certain weapons for civilians, while retaining them for themselves does not sit well with those people as they are effectively defenseless against a tyrannical government.
jim laguardia January 28, 2013 at 06:23 PM
Crown one reply for those that think they could fight the government (first of all that the U.S. government would want to fight an individual is crazy) "air strike" all the AR-15 in their arsenal would stand no chance against one air strike...
Crown Royal January 28, 2013 at 11:20 PM
Quite obviously, I agree. But how does the government distinguish between those carrying the AR-15s and those who are not armed? Once they start bombing their own citizens, the people rise up, the military starts to defect, and those in power fall. If you look at all of those countries that fell and are still falling during the Arab Spring, at its root, it was about governments that that were restricting rights. Granted some of those restrictions were far more heinous than banning certain types of weapons; nonetheless they 'broke the camels back'.
jim laguardia January 29, 2013 at 12:42 AM
Sorry I can not take any argument seriously who compares modern America to nazzis Germany or the Arab spring countries... Sorry just can't bring myself to even equate them

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