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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 Fairfield County. 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.  

Bobby Caselnova January 24, 2013 at 04:02 PM
Stacking more new gun control laws of any kind on top of the existing laws is fruitless. We have already proven this with the eight year ban passed in 1994. Assault weapons are not the problem. One thing that can be done by law-abiding gun owners is to secure their guns well enough that they are not likely to fall into the hands of burglars. Just about all guns that became illegal guns were stolen from their legal owners. Gun ownership goes with the responsibilities that must be understood and practiced by all gun owners.
Bobby Caselnova January 24, 2013 at 04:17 PM
We shall have to expect that there shall be many more atrocious violent crimes from now on. There can be no way to prevent sociopaths from obtaining guns or other kinds of weapons to carry out their evil doings. We CAN do mental illness background checks of all gun-purchasers, but this might only prevent a few nut cases from owning firearms. It still won't help with guns obtained by thieves. The privacy laws now disallow mental history checks, so it is unlikely that such checks can ever take place -- unless, of course, the courts rule that privacy laws may be ignored in the case of gun owners. Remember, that would make more guns sales come from the city streets rather than from licensed FFL dealers.
Wondering January 24, 2013 at 04:45 PM
It would be nice if all gun owners acted responsibly. How do we protect our citizens from the irresponsible gun owners, particularly those which won't or can't properly lock their guns and prevent them from being stolen? I believe that this is the crux of at least one element of the debate following Newtown. I don't want to infringe on the righst of responsible gun owners. But the consequences of the irresponsibility of some (particularly with high power/high capacity weapons) are dire. How do we protect people? Hope and pray that people start acting responsibility? Is that sufficient?
Ken January 24, 2013 at 05:14 PM
Perhaps there might have to be some change in health privacy laws that allow for a limited medical records search as part of the gun permit process. First, a list of specific mental health conditions and specific psych meds that could not be taken within 6 months of a gun permit request would be put together by a panel of experts. This would become a base list of disqualifing conditons and facts. Access to medical data is already available to certain governmental and legal authorities. This could be expanded to include gun permit process. An applicant would have to sign a privacy waiver to allow a limited search of their medical history. The search would ONLY check to see if matches between their history and the list of disqualifing conditions existed. This would not be an open search for any and all medical history. A record match to a mental health disorder on the list would bar sale of a firearm to that person. For a psych meds match, there could be no record of a prescription being issued within 6 months of application. If no use was shown in the prior 6 months, the applicant would still need a doctor's note stating they no longer needed to take that medication. This is to prevent the situaion of a person just not taking their meds. A person rejected for medical reasons would have a record entered into the permit system. This would prevent the possibility of permit shopping.
Bobby Caselnova January 24, 2013 at 05:49 PM
For the record, those 2 comments above under my name weren't me, they were my father who can't seem to learn the difference between our patch accounts. Had to clear that up even though our writing styles are very different and one should be able to tell, I don't want any confusion as I don't fully believe in or support everything he says.
Shawn Stern January 24, 2013 at 06:04 PM
It would be nice if all baseball bat owners acted responsibly. How do we protect our citizens from the irresponsible baseball bat owners, particularly those which won't or can't properly lock their baseball bats up and prevent them from being stolen? I believe that this is the crux of at least one element of the debate following Newtown. I don't want to infringe on the righst of responsible baseball bat owners. But the consequences of the irresponsibility of some (particularly with blunt object/baseball bat weapons) are dire. How do we protect people? Hope and pray that people start acting responsibility? Is that sufficient?
Steven DeVaux January 25, 2013 at 01:52 PM
Ken, Once breached (health privacy) insurance companies would love it as profits soared. Employers would love it because they would be able to "weed out" insurance risks as employees and lower their insurace costs. Life insurance companies could avoid issuing riskier policies. Oh yes, the list is endless. Don't think it's possible? Check out age and other discriminations. It not only possible, it's likely when money is involved and the greed factor takes over.
Ken D. January 25, 2013 at 07:10 PM
Steve, this is long since breached. Employers and insurance companies commonly ask for health survey to be completed - asking what you drink, what you eat, how fast you drive, seatbelt use, do you own a motorcycle, etc, etc. Soon your automobile will report your average speed, miles driven per day, max speed, etc. You may have seen the device Progressive insurance offers under the guise of “saving you money”. That’s the way they couch it. You don’t have to take this survey or use this electronic device – but if you don’t you’ll pay. That’s the irony here. So many are paranoid about the government knowing too much, providing services or taking away our rights – and it’s that same crowd that’s preaching “let the free market decide”. People don’t want the government telling them what medical procedures they can and can’t get – but seem to turn a blind eye to the fact some insurance company bureaucrat is doing that today. Point is that whether its Uncle Sam holding all the cards or some corporation holding those same cards – either way we don’t have the freedom we all would ideally desire.
Ken January 25, 2013 at 07:38 PM
Steve insureres already have full access to your health records. Also, the requirement for EMR's means this data will be stored in a secure format in offsite data warehouses. As far as rating and issuance the ACA explicitly PROHIBITS insurers from using any health related information in rating or eligibility for health insurance effective Jan. 1, 2014. Everyone pays the SAME rate for health coverage depending on ONLY 3 criteria, age, tobacco use and gender beginning Jan. 1, 2014. And since there will be health insurance exchanges it is pointless for an insurer to try and cancel anyones coverage now since they will have to be offered coverage in Jan. and in some cases at lower rates than they currently pay. Life Insurers and disability insurers DO require you to sign a waiver to allow a check of your health records for them to issue coverage. This IS an allowed use already. You can decline to sign the waiver but coverage will NOT be issued for these types of insurance.
Ken January 25, 2013 at 07:53 PM
The whole idea of my original post about creating a list of prohibited gun owners was to show Mary that an exclusionary list of prohibited gun owners cannot be created out of thin air. The list has to built based on applicants that would be excluded based on a check of THEIR records against a pre set list of exclusionary medical mental health or meds conditions. I am not talking about individual practioner reporting. The concept is much simpler. If you have a medical record 'code', the standard numeric definitions used to identify illnesses and procedures, that matches a pre established list of disqualifying conditions and meds you are put on the prohibited list. This is simple, straight forward and consistent. The exclusion would apply to anyone and everyone who had a code match. Since you are only matching numbers in this type of check the applicant's confidentiality is also preserved. The person processing the application would only see a note that a permit was unable to be issued at this time. Only the applicant would receive a letter that states the reason for rejection. This is the same process for credit cards. If you are rejected while applying at a store for their charge card a note is printed that says Credit cannot be approved at this time. A second note is given to the customer telling them they will receive a letter explaining reason for denial.
Ken January 25, 2013 at 09:13 PM
Steve Life insurance and disability insurers DO have access to your health records. If you want coverage you HAVE to sign a waiver. You can decline to sign but coverage for these types of insurance will NOT be issued. As far as health insurance nothing other than age, tobacco use and gender will be able to be used in setting premiums effective Jan. 14, 2013. Everyone will pay the same rate for their bracket regardless of health. For some people this could even be a drop in what they currently pay. Employers have never had access to health records. Employers still will have access to your D.O.B. They can't ask you how old you are on an application but they CAN ask for your D.O.B. Employers are allowed to record your time off. The fact that my company knows my DOB and knows whether I took all of my PTO days is something I should be worried about?? As far as medical leave there is FMLA laws that PREVENT termination if you fit in those guidelines.
Wondering January 25, 2013 at 09:49 PM
How many single perpetrator mass murders have been committed with a bat?
Steven DeVaux February 02, 2013 at 08:00 AM
Ken, Not even close. Read the HIPAA law. You have to give them that right. Get it straight. Patients line it out and initial it all the time and sign. Life Insurance folks absolutely can't without permission either. Once something is spinning away digitially on a database it's accessible. Folks saying no are kidding themselves. In terms of your employer? Yeah you should. They also have access to your social security number. Ever hear of identity theft? The 3 leading cause of identity theft in the US comes from unsecured PII information by employers.

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