Editor's note: Last week's cover story on cases for and against tighter restrictions on guns ("Firing Range," Jan. 3) generated the vigorous public exchange we hoped for. To join the discussion, visit the original story, or follow the related threads on the Scene's news and politics blog Pith in the Wind. In the meantime, as promised last week, we offer excerpted reader responses that suggest the variety of reactions, proposals and arguments the issue raises:
Adam Ross' suggestion of a tax is an excellent one — I would supplement it by requiring gun owners to carry mandatory insurance on each gun, in combination with a national gun registration program.... The more training and safety classes you take, the cheaper the premium.Domestic abuser? Substance abuser (DUIs, etc.)? Got a protection order against you? Past criminal history? No insurance. —CONCERTINA TERPSICHORE
You can outlaw or restrict anything you want but criminals will still get guns, period. As long as we don't discuss these three things, nothing will change, and all this gun talk is nothing but a distraction:
A. The status of mental health in this country (including psychotropic drug use).
B. The effect of sensational popular media on young people, or people in general.
C. Morality of government agencies setting a standard by perpetuating the financial, drug and drone wars against citizens, and millions abroad. —44ALLIN
[Bill] Bernstein and [D.M.] Adkerson represent what has been wrong about the gun control debate for the 30 years I've been interested in it. That is, that we have the right to own guns and well, you know, it's just too late now to do anything about it, so we just need more guns to deal with the bad guys who have guns. But if we'd put good restrictions against high-capacity magazines and what are essentially weapons whose sole purpose is to murder massive amounts of people very quickly 30 years ago when this was at the height of public consciousness after the attempted Reagan assassination, we would be far less likely to still *need* to debate.
For those of you who have some fear of government tyranny, I have news for you: No amount of ammo is going to protect you from the government. I'd tell you to ask David Koresh if you could....
And for the record, I am not anti-gun. I grew up with weapons in the house (my stepfather hunted deer and had a shotgun and bow for that and a handgun for sport shooting). There are weapons in my house now (my husband shoots for sport as well). But we are responsible gun owners and I support additional taxes on ammunition as well as insurance to fund programs to investigate and deter future gun violence as well as a buyback program. I also support the absolute ban of weapons (and accessories) that are used to kill numerous people in seconds. You don't need that for home protection for any reason short of a zombie ambush. I also believe that gun shows and private sales of weapons and ammunition should be abolished. And those who do sell should be required to carry massive amounts of insurance for the impending civil suits for wrongful death. —LESLEY EATS
So let me get this straight. What has been "wrong" with the gun control debate for 30 years is that people believe in rights? That's an interesting take. This is an indication to me of just how much we as a society take our liberties for granted.
[On insurance to fund anti-gun violence initiatives and buyback programs:] This is not insurance, this is a tax. I believe there are already multiple groups set up to investigate and deter future gun violence. Some of them include the ATF, FBI and local law enforcement. Buyback programs are fine — if they are voluntary.
[On the threat of tyranny:] An armed society acts as a deterrent against tyranny. If you have studied history at all, you should know that the first act of a tyrannical government is to disarm the people. You might want to have a talk with the people of Syria on that one. —GREG B.
I'm still not clear on how "where we are now" is so bad. What trend are we attempting to curb?
Limiting magazine sizes and weapon selection would not have stopped Sandy Hook. Arguably it would have slowed it down. That's fine — I have no real objection to the idea of regulating those things, except insofar as federal regulation of things that people want never seems to go very well. —CHRIS WAGE
The "debate" over gun control, with positions bordering on the insanely tyrannical, is moot. You can't put such draconian restrictions on a natural, fundamental, ENUMERATED civil right.
In 1994, the D.C. v. Heller and McDonald v. Chicago decisions didn't exist. There was no judicial barrier to passing bans. Now it is precedent that a) the people have an individual fundamental right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes not dependent upon militia service, b) that holding has been incorporated to the states, and c) Justice Scalia (in the Heller holding) clarified what the U.S. v. Miller (1939) decision actually said.
Miller established a two-pronged test to define just what types of arms are subject to Second Amendment protection. It held that small arms "in common use" that "bear[s] some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia" enjoy constitutional protection. Semiautomatic rifles and pistols meet both prongs of this test, hence they are proscribed from any government ban. Since the primary purpose enumerated in the amendment is to place the people in parity with government forces viz small arms, standard-capacity magazines (erroneously dubbed "high-capacity ammunition clips") are protected as well because they are design components integral to the efficiency of the weapons. In other words, the very things that are now scary to the uninitiated are those the amendment was written to protect.
"[T]he Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding." — District of Columbia v. Heller (No. 07-290) 478 F. 3d 370, affirmed.
The Heller decision also addressed (and dismissed) the argument that the Framers couldn't have envisioned the capability of today's modern weapons. Just as the Internet has supplanted moveable type, so have semi-auto firearms supplanted muskets. The principle involved in both of these rights is not constitutionally affected by the evolution of the mechanisms to exercise them. Now, this may be bad news to some, but it is pure celestial harmony to others.
And it is the state of the law. —BARRY HIRSH
I think it is important to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
The fact is that no matter how much we restrict whatever weapons, we will never be able to completely stop mass murders. While they are horrifying when they happen, the truth is, they're fairly rare. Slate.com has been tracking how many people have been killed by guns since Newtown. As of today, 409 people have died because of guns in the past three weeks — those, to me, are the deaths we should be focusing on when trying to design a reasonable gun control policy.
Using the Slate tracker as my source, six children (under age 13) have died due to guns since Newtown. Two of those children were 2 years old, and one was 3. I think weapon owners who do not secure their weapons in such a way as to keep them out of the hands of toddlers should routinely face criminal charges. Too often, they do not because "haven't they suffered enough."
I would also want to see a more robust, interactive background check program that works both ways. For example, if a mental health provider notes that a patient is experiencing homicidal and/or suicidal ideations, that provider should be able to input that information, which would alert the carry-permit issuing agency immediately, who could then take action to temporarily revoke a person's permit. The very obvious problem with this is that not all weapons require permitting. I'm of the opinion that should be changed, but doubt highly it is a political likelihood.
Ammunition surcharges, applied both to ready-made ammo and self-loading components, could be implemented, with the additional revenue directed to supporting the background check program I discussed above.
That's for a start. —ANGLRDR
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