Gun Control Debate Way Off Track

Much of the gun control debate focuses on assault rifles, ammunition clips, keeping guns away from the mentally ill and those with criminal records. Also, prayer is employed as one reaction to the latest mass killing; however, prayer will not remove a single firearm from the nation’s extensive inventory. It is also futile to vow that we will not allow something terrible that has happened multiple times in the past to never happen again, as the National Rifle Association(NRA) has recently vowed. The NRA is the most inappropriate organization in the U.S. to make such a vow, as it has opposed virtually every proposed restriction on firearms and ammunition.

Rarely in the gun control debate is a distinction made between long guns (rifles and shotguns) and handguns, yet annual FBI ststistics show that handguns account for roughly half of all homicides and long guns acount for about seven percent. Once more, handguns injure far more people than they kill. The five national commissions established to study the problem of violence in the United States have all identified the handgun as a major contributor to that violence: one of the commissions called for a ban on manufacture and importation of handguns and handgun parts.

Handguns are the primary home defense weapon, because of ready accessibility and being less cumbersome to handle. Yet, home defense weapons are highly problematic, since the Cleveland and Detroit studies — the two most significant studies of home defense weapons — found that four to six family members or visitors to the family are shot for every intruder shot.

In regard to mass shootings, the main solution proposed by those who don’t want any restrictions on their right to keep and bear arms is carry and conceal. The contention is that an armed citizenry would stop firearms violence in its tracks. Mother Jones magazinre investigated 65 mass shootings (defined as four or more persons killed, excluding the shooter) since the year 2002. There was not a single instance in which an armed citizen stopped a shooting. Notably, regarding mass shootings in Colorado and Wisconsin this year, each state had issued about 120,000 carry and conceal permits leading up to the shootings in a movie theater and a religious compound. Neither shooting was stopped by an armed citizen.

Most instances of firearms violence are not caused by those diagnosed with a mental illness associated with outbursts of violence, or have served a term in prison; instead, they occur in family situations, among people who know and interact with one another, among those who feel they have been treated very unjustly, deeply insulted in public, or those without a history of violence who suddenly and unaccountably snap.

Some opponents of gun control claim that hundreds of thousands or even millions of people use a firearm in self-defense every year. Annual FBI statistics show fewer than 1,000 documented cases of firearms used in self-defense.

How does the National Rifle Association fit into this matter of gun control The NRA is subject to a fear described as a “slippery slope” or the camel’s nose under the tent, whereby any restriction on firearms or firearms ammunition not vigorously contested, will lead to more restrictions. When, for instance, a ban was proposed on the production of a bullet that could penetrate a police officer’s protective vest — the so-called “cop-killer bullet” — the NRA opposed it.

The NRA is heavily subsidized by firearms and ammunition manufacturers. The NRA has a big problem, however, because firearms, with minimal maintenance, have a virtually limitless life. Thus, the NRA feels it must oppose even weak measures, such as limiting firearms purchases to one a month. It also helps to explain why a number of years ago the NRA bagaan a big push to persuade women of the need for a protective firearm and be trained in the use of it. The NRA must continue to build its customer base.

In summary, although I would support a ban on semi-automatic rifles and clips holding four of more bullets, the far more meaningful limitation on firearms would be to ban the manufacture and importation of handguns and handgun parts. As a means of cutting down on the large number of handguns presently in the United States, I propose a government buy-back program based on a sliding scale, in which a premium of 10 to 20 percent over the purchase price would be paid at the beginning and payment would cease at the end of the buy-back period: maybe five to ten years. Those later discovered to have a handgun would pay a stiff fine (in the range of $2,000 to $3,000).

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