Saturday, December 15, 2012

After Conneticut Shooting---No Excuses for Not Adding and Enforcing New Gun Laws

Often times I start out with a position on a particular issue, then as I write my position changes perhaps even softens.   As with most Americans, yesterday’s slaughter in Connecticut angered and saddened us.

My first reaction would was to ban assault weapons and make gun ownership so restrictive that few people could own a gun.  Then I decided that perhaps there were more decent gun owners in the United States, but men and women who suffer severe mental illness issues should all be labeled as potential mass murderers and they should never they possess a firearm. (Which of course is an idiotic thought!)   And of course, my real anger is directed (and probably will not change) toward the NRA and their spineless politicians who have blocked any meaningful and needed gun regulation. 

But as I started writing, I started to appreciate the complexity of potential gun law regulation. (And sadly, it is easy to be calm and pontificate on changes in gun control legislation.  Unlike the parents and spouses in Connecticut or Oregon, I did not have a loved one killed by a gun!)

I choose not to be a gun owner for many reasons.  My father was not a gun owner so other than playing cops and robbers or soldier, real guns, were not in my blood.  I am not a hunter so I don’t need a gun.  I do not target shoot. 

As owning a gun for self-defense, well my sense of straight lines is such that if I took a shot at my attacker, there is a good chance the bullet would hit an innocent bystander.   And at least where I live now, I don’t feel that there are people out to do me physical harm as such that I need a loaded gun to protect me.   (Two years ago, an angry man in our community of Copley, Ohio went on a rampage  and killed 7 innocent people because he was angry with his girlfriend---so incidents like Connecticut do hit home.)

I do appreciate the history of the technology of guns and the development of newer ones with more accuracy and firepower.  As we all know the nations with the most sophisticated weaponry could conquer their enemies or prevent their enemies from conquering them.  

And though I choose not own a gun, I really do believe in the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which reads:

A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

This ability to own and bear arms perhaps keeps the government a servant to the people and not the other way around as is the case in other world dictatorships.

However, I do believe in sensible gun regulation which is aimed to protect Americans from incidents which occurred yesterday, last week, and on and on and on. Obviously the laws have not been working.

Yet there are federal gun laws---which if enforced and perhaps amended---might keep guns out of the hands of people who should never own one. 

Federal laws are very specific as to who cannot own a firearm.  And federal laws are often times not the same as state laws.  Edward S. Armstrong Summation of Federal Firearms Laws goes into great detail about specific federal gun laws and lists the groups of people who cannot own a firearm.   Very briefly, those who cannot own a gun are the following:
Felon (This does not include felons convicted under unfair trade practices, restraints of trade, other similar offenses relating to the regulation of business practices; or the conviction has been expunged, set aside, pardoned, or full civil rights restored unless they expressly provide for no firearms possession.
Fugitive from the law
Unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance 
Person Adjudicated as mental defective or committed to a mental institution – This person may not knowingly possess etc. any firearm or ammunition affecting interstate commerce:
Illegal alien - This person may not knowingly possess, etc. any firearm or ammunition affecting interstate commerce
Person dishonorably discharged from the armed forces
Person who has renounced U.S. citizenship
Intimate partner under restraining order
Person Convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence
Juveniles (Person (under 18 years of age) may not knowingly possess a handgun or handgun unless he has the prior written consent of his parent or guardian for use in employment, in ranching, farming, target practice, hunting, or a course in the safe and lawful use of a HG; the juvenile is a member of the Armed Forces or National Guard; or as protection during a home invasion.
So the laws are broad enough and the honest Joe will obey the laws and not own a gun.  But as we all know, the bad guys will get the guns and present themselves as a serious risk to the community.  And very recently, serious killing have been instigated by young men with serious mental health issues who  have accumulated and used their dangerous gun arsenals.

After yesterday's  slaughter as well as other recent slaughters, gun law regulation needs to be re-examined.  The aim should be to keep military type firearms out of the hands of most civilians and more importantly keep guns away from citizens very serious mental health problems.  

The mental illness component of those possessing a firearm and how they were able to purchase a firearm needs to be carefully examined. As noted, there is a federal law restricting gun ownership to those deemed mentally unfit.  However, as with all good laws, there are cracks people slip through.   If a person has never been hospitalized or has had prior dealings with the law due to mental illness issues, there is a good chance a gun could be sold to that person who most certainly should never own a gun due to their emotional instability.

That is a difficult criteria---a person’s mental stability in determining gun ownership---however it needs to be addressed and appropriate legislation and enforcement of legislation without NRA barriers need to be established.   This is the time to act and at least reduce the number or severity of the mass killings that are occurring.

Yesterday, a deranged 85-year-old man attacked 22 students in China with a knife.  Proponents for arguing that manslaughter could occur with other weapons are grasping at straws as they cite that incident as well others to use for silly comparisons.

 As of this writing, those Chinese students walked out with injuries but managed to survive.   Little children and unarmed big adults are  no match for a gun toting mad man as what occurred in Connecticut and Portland and in my own community of Copley, Ohio.

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