How does one react to the tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday?
It didnâ€™t take long for the anti-gun lobby to jump to the conclusion that the massacre of 20 young children and six women members of the faculty and staff at the Sandy Hook Elementary School illustrates the need for stricter controls on guns. In fact, one congressman issued a press release within an hour of the announcement of the event, literally before any facts were known. Perhaps he has a press release prepared â€śjust in caseâ€ť.
One woman friend who has a pre-school age son told me she couldnâ€™t sleep Friday night thinking about the children who were killed and their families. She said that although she has owned a gun for several years for self-defense, â€śsomething needs to be done to make gun regulations the same all over the country.â€ť When I asked her which stateâ€™s law should be adopted nationwide, she fell silent.
Therein, gentle reader, lies the first problem with gun control. Thirty-one states â€“ a clear majority- are â€śright to carryâ€ť or â€śshall issueâ€ť states. In Vermont, for example, a gun may be carried openly or concealed without a permit of any kind. The fact is, in states with liberal laws for carrying a weapon the rates of homicide, armed robbery, rape and assault are much lower in those with strict gun control laws.
Contrast this with Illinois, which prohibits anyone from carrying a gun outside of their home except to transport to and from a firing range or while hunting. The last time I checked Chicago is still part of that state and is currently regarded as the murder capital of the country. A federal judge has given Illinoisâ€™ legislature 180 days to come up with a reasonable law which will not impair or infringe on a citizenâ€™s right to carry a gun.
Rhode Islandâ€™s constitution simply says a citizenâ€™s right to bear arms shall not be infringed. There is no â€śmilitia clauseâ€ť. The chief law enforcement officer of the Ocean Stateâ€™s cities and towns is the issuing authority for a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Yet, because all of them want to avoid a potential lawsuit and every municipality trembles before the so-called â€śinsurance trustâ€ť, requests for permits are routinely bumped up to the attorney general where it is almost impossible to get a permit.
I say â€śalmost impossibleâ€ť. A friend of mine who used to tend bar at a popular nightclub was often asked by her boss to make the nightly deposit at the bank on her way home. One day a co-worker told her the boss wanted her to carry a gun and gave her a paper to sign. He told her he would take her to a firing range the next day to teach her how to use a handgun.
A few days later she had a permit to carry a concealed weapon. I asked her if the co-worker was a cop and if the paper she signed was an application. She didnâ€™t know what the paper was but that the co-worker was â€śconnectedâ€ť. This is the second problem with gun control.
Syndicated talk show host Don Imus says it should be harder for anyone to buy a gun. He acknowledges that he is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict and has a â€śhorrible temper.â€ť Yet he also brags that he owns â€ślots of gunsâ€ť and has a permit to carry a concealed weapon in New York City, which has the notorious Sullivan Law prohibiting citizens from carrying guns. Moreover, in order to buy a gun anywhere you have to sign an affidavit that you are, among other things, not an alcoholic or drug addict. Imus must have used his contacts in the NYPD to get his permit and either lied or had a straw man buy his guns.
Gun control advocates will often state that you have to have a driverâ€™s license to drive a car but no license is needed to carry a gun. It is also true that you donâ€™t need to be licensed in every state in order to drive there. Your state license is honored all over the country. However, our congressman David Cicilline and several others nearly had apoplexy when a bill was entered during the last session that would require states to honor valid concealed carry permits issued by other states.
Others are calling for a ban on high-capacity magazines. I agree that it is hard to demonstrate why a civilian (and most police departments, as well) should have a 100-round drum magazine. Neither do I think that anyone needs to drive a car with a 400 horse power engine capable of speeds in excess of 200 mph.
I doubt that everyone will agree on what constitutes â€śhigh-capacity,â€ť however. Keep in mind, too, that some revolvers hold as many as 10 rounds. Revolvers donâ€™t have â€śmagazinesâ€ť.
New York Cityâ€™s mayor Michael Bloomberg chided President Obama about not renewing the Clinton-era â€śassault weaponâ€ť ban. The devil is again in the details. There is no general definition of what an assault weapon is. It is very likely the Bushmaster rifle used by Adam Lanza would not be regarded as an â€śassault rifleâ€ť under the ban definition.
Some anti-gun talking heads are calling for a ban on semi-automatic weapons without any idea what that would entail or that a broad definition would outlaw millions of rifles and shotguns used for hunting and sport shooting. Such a ban would never get through Congress.
Connecticut has one of the most stringent gun control laws in the country. All of Nancy Lanzaâ€™s firearms were legally purchased and registered. She was a gun enthusiast who taught Adam to shoot from the time he was nine years old but he was denied the purchase of his own gun due to his mental condition. The two pistols and rifle Adam took to the school with him were stolen.
Most Americans want to live in a riskless society but such a place comes with a price. That price is the surrender of our personal liberty. There is no law or laws which would prevent a tragedy such as Newtown.
The worst mass killing at a school was not Newtown, Virginia Tech or Columbine. It occurred in 1927. Thirty-eight children in grades 4 through 7, six adults and the perpetrator were killed and 58 others injured. The school boardâ€™s treasurer set off three bombs at the Bath School in Michigan to protest increased property taxes resulting from the new consolidated school district.
Richard August is a North Kingstown resident and a regular contributor to the Standard Times. His opinions are his own and do not reflect the opinions of The Standard Times or SRI Newspapers.