Shooting With Our Sights on the Facts

March 14, 2013

guns

 

No background checks on gun owners?  No permits?  Are these people crazy?!  I am not in love with guns.  I don’t relish the idea of anyone having them, and yet, I have many gun toting friends and family members.  The gun control debate is raging, and most people are passionate in their views.  I admit to ignorance.  I don’t know all the facts, but I try to read both sides and understand.  I even went to a shooting range to shoot a pistol and find out what the allure is.  It is fun, blasting a paper target to smithereens.  I would not feel that way shooting something animate, however.  I say a prayer of regret for the mosquitoes I am forced to smoosh, and I bring spiders outside to let them go rather than kill them.  (I do step on cockroaches, but I get no pleasure from it.)

 

I support 2nd Amendment rights, and yet I worry that the zealots who even go so far as to suggest permits are unnecessary are a bit extreme.  Fortunately, I am the lucky aunt of a wonderful law enforcement officer of ten years in Arizona.  She is a brilliant young lady, who wanted to be in law enforcement her whole life.  She followed her dream, graduated first in her class, and is rising through the ranks in the department where she works.  I thought a good place to start in understanding the gun debate would be talking with someone who lives with the consequences of gun laws every day.

 

Arizona is a no-permit state.  My niece, Renee was happy to chat with me about what she sees as the salient issues in the gun debate.  The opinions she expressed are her own, and do not necessarily reflect official philosophy of the department she works for.  I felt it best to leave that department unnamed, in case Government officials decide Renee’s message concerns them, and they send some unarmed drones her way…

 

Arizona doesn’t require permits to carry a gun or to carry a  concealed weapon, but when purchasing guns from a vendor, background checks are still required.  Person to person sales are allowed without a background requirement, due to an inability of the average citizen to run thorough background checks.  Currently, Tucson just enacted a city ordinance prohibiting person to person sales on city property.  The ordinance is an effort to stop gun shows where private vendors sell without background checks being conducted.  As a result, there is currently a small movement of people trying to encourage more regulatory legislation outside the city limits as well.

 

Renee states, “As far as my opinion on a permit to carry a weapon…  I am ok with no permits required for people who are carrying visibly.  If I can see the weapon, I am less concerned about its existence.  Ever since it came out, I have had a problem with the legislation that allowed people to carry concealed without a permit.  I think it is very dangerous for everyone, especially police officers who have contact with bad people, and we have that much more to worry about.  There are some built in protections that help provide some level of accountability.  I don’t think it’s stiff enough but it’s better than nothing.  The most important provisions are that without a conceal and carry permit you can’t take the weapon into any establishment that prohibits it (by posted signs) nor any of the establishments that fit a category of not ever allowing weapons, such as schools.  Also, if you are carrying concealed and you have police contact,  you are required to immediately identify that you have the weapon.  If you don’t, we can confiscate it and criminally charge you for weapons misconduct.  It isn’t a serious enough offense however, to make you a permanent prohibited possessor.  So while it allows an avenue for us to take law enforcement action, it doesn’t have a particularly stiff penalty.  If you have a conceal and carry permit (you can still get them) you are afforded more allowances on where you can carry then people who don’t.  You also can carry in other states since there are reciprocal agreements across several states.”

 

This part of gun control always eludes me.  As stated, I am a pacifist, a peaceful gentle soul that reveres all life, except as noted, perhaps cockroaches. However, even I smirk every time I enter a building with a sign that says, “No guns allowed.”  Does anyone really believe that criminals are going to stop in their tracks, hold up their hands, and say, “Dang!  And I did so want to go on a shooting spree,” then turn on their heels and go find a place where their guns are allowed?  I did a little research and found out that the vast majority of mass shootings occur in places with those little signs warning the dastardly ones of a gun-free zone.  If I were a criminal, intent on killing more than cockroaches, I can assure you, the first place I would go are the places that advertise no one else will have any weapons to stop me.  But maybe that’s just me.

 

gun permit“The biggest benefit to the permitting of guns (in general, or in conceal and carry cases) is you can enforce a requirement for people to have completed some type of safety course.  In general, people are horribly undereducated about proper handling, maintenance, and laws regarding guns.  If a permit requirement is instituted, at the very least a minimal level of education would help with all the firearm ‘accidents’ people have.  On the average of once a week, we respond to situations where someone has shot himself while doing something stupid with his own gun,” Renee told me.

(Personally, I think this is Natural Selection in action, and should not be interfered with.  Those types of people will rapidly cull their gene pool from the population and this can only be a good thing for the survival of the human species.)

 

Renee had interesting insights regarding concerns about mentally ill people having easy access to guns without background checks.

“Unfortunately there is no guarantee that a background check would catch something like that,” she told me, “Unless they have a documented criminal history or something that would show up, there isn’t any way to know they have mental issues.  Even having been involved at some point with mental health treatment wouldn’t show up on an average background check.”

 

Hmmm.  Really?  Background checks won’t help with the major concern of the gun control crowd- keep mentally ill folks away from guns.  The more Renee shared with me, the less convinced I was that those no-permit supporters were as nutty as they seemed on first blush.

 

She sees the problem of the mental health issue in gun control as part of a broken system that needs fixing as a whole.  Renee suggests, “There is no good communication between courts, law enforcement, and mental health providers.  If we could find a way to have some type of link between the three to coordinate and make choices to truly affect long term change and solutions, then we would have a way to get that information to people who are selling guns.”

 

I asked her if she knew of hard data that demonstrated evidence of violent gun related crime based on the level of gun regulation, and permit laws.  She referred me to an interesting site  where state by state gun crime statistics are listed.  One of the most heavily regulated states, California, has an abysmal gun crime record, with 1220 gun murders for every 100,000 people.  Arizona, a no permit state, had 222 gun murders per 100,000 people.  The other three unrestricted states are Alaska, Vermont and Wyoming.  Per 100,000 citizens, gun related murders for those three states were respectively 16, 4, and 11, some of the lowest in the country.  It certainly seems that a strong argument could be made that requiring permits for firearms does not affect the gun murder rate, and indeed, eliminating permit regulations seems to reduce it!

 

In conclusion, Renee opined, “From what I can see Massachusetts and California are two of the most restrictive on their gun laws.  MA may be ok, but California is still a mess, so while it sometimes helps to have more laws, that isn’t always true.  The thing we always tell people is more restrictive laws only affect people who get their guns legally anyways.  Criminals don’t obtain them that way so it really doesn’t change the amount of guns they have.  Upstanding citizens who do it right are the only ones who suffer with restrictive legislation.”

 

By: Vicky Kaseorg

Bio: Vicky Kaseorg is a published author of 7 books and writes a daily inspirational blog.

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Tags: 2nd amendment, concealed carry, gun control, gun laws, open carry, Second Amendment

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