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Fill the holes in gun laws

To prevent further tragedies, we must improve the laws already in place. | Infographic by Trevor Lunde/THE CHIMES


On a Thursday morning on the first of October, tragedy struck Umpqua Community College in Oregon when student Christopher Harper-Mercer open fired on the campus and killed nine innocent people. In the midst of the nation’s mourning, President Obama called for the United States to move towards stricter gun laws and mirror our allies like Great Britain and Australia.


According to an article published in the New York Times, the United States experiences an average of 92 gun deaths every day, with fewer Americans dying in war since the American Revolution than those dying at the hands of a gun since 1970.

Yet, the second amendment in the Bill of Rights states “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

From the founding of the U.S., citizens viewed guns as tools of practical defense and sport as well as symbols of American freedom.

“They see this as a defense of other rights — property rights, rights to life, liberty,” said Darren Guerra, political science professor.

For example, sophomore business major Jason Roberts and his family own guns for hunting as well as for defense.


According Guerra, however, the controversy lies in asking “What role do guns play in these violent acts?”

“The left tends to see the guns as the culprit, and the right tends to see individual lack of responsible responsibility individual violence or just pure evil as the culprit,” Guerra said. But both sides agree criminals and the mentally unstable should not possess firearms.

This indicates the approach we should take in preventing these gun-related violent crimes. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed 71 percent of those convicted of homicide had a previous arrest with 41 percent having a prior felony conviction.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives indicates the Gun Control Act and the Arms Export Control Act prohibits people such as drug users, certain kinds of criminals, illegal aliens and those with mental illnesses from owning firearms. This seems fairly uncontroversial to both firearm enthusiasts and gun control advocates alike. Criminals and unstable individuals should not possess weapons.

However, news journalist Richard Perez-Pena of the New York Times notes the system has “major holes” in it. For example, incomplete criminal records hinder the government’s ability to keep guns away from convicted criminals. Although the law prohibits the mentally ill from owning a gun, this only includes those “adjudicated as a mental defective” when many people who are clearly disturbed never make it to that point.


Still, much remains unknown about the complicated issue of gun control. A September 2013 article in The Atlantic reported on the startling lack of information on systematic reporting of individual gun incidents and injuries, gun ownership at the local level and detailed information on the operation of firearms markets.

To prevent more tragedies and protect the rights of American citizens, politicians must first fill the holes in the reasonable restrictions already in place. The U.S. should not legislate more restrictive law if it is not correctly executing the most basic and uncontroversial limitations.

To move forward, start with a strong first step. Then research more where our next step should land.


Your Turn.  Post a Comment

  1. larry smith

    The United States is insane. Though conservative politicians toss around the term "Exceptionalism" to describe us, our statistics on gun violence only make us exceptional in our stupidity.

    Get it straight, Christian peeps: the Constitution does not possess the same credibility as the Bible, but that's often the weight we attribute to it. We'll probably never know whether the founding fathers really wanted everyone to own assault rifles and semi-automatic pistols; even the Supreme Court justices don't have the inside track on what Alexander Hamilton and William Samuel Johnson were thinking in 1780.

    Fortunately, Californians have passed some sensible gun laws - but even we have experienced the tragedy of mass killings, though not to the degree of Oregon, Colorado, and those states with too many Second Amendment Crazies.

    Some day, we'll look at two aspects of American culture and shake our heads in disbelief:
    A. How we could have permitted the slaughter of unborn babies under the banner of freedom.
    B. How we could have permitted private citizens to own any weapons whose primary purpose was to kill other people.

    Hunters: keep your rifles but keep them under lock and key.

    Everyone else: get rid of any weapon in your house which you think will protect you. Statistically, it won't and, practically, do you really want to take the chance that your children might find your Glock or that a "naughty sneaker" (the generic title my own kids gave to "bad guys") will grab it from your shaking hand and turn it on you?

    Christians: Trust in the Lord; His arm is stronger than any firearm and He will protect you as He sees fit.

    Let's quit being hypocrites: Wanting to protect the lives of the unborn but neglecting to protect the already-born - those thousands who will succumb to our fetish with guns.

    The American government is not going to suddenly transform into a dictatorship which could only be saved by a fully-armed citizenry! If you're a bona fide conspiracy theorist, go ahead and keep your bren gun and turn it on the National Guard that our Kenyan-born president sends to your house in the middle of the night.

    Everyone else, THINK...and maybe even PRAY for a country that thinks that we're still being threatened by Redcoats and redskins!

    The word "Gun Nut" didn't appear out of the blue.

    Lord bless you - even the crazy ones.

    October 22, 2015

  2. Jason Roberts

    Larry Smith:
    A lot of what you're saying is very valid. You're totally right: the people who are pro abortion as well as pro gun for self defense, have some pretty serious hypocrisy issues. But...while I'm not pro abortion (I'm strongly opposed), I do think it's ok to defend the lives of friends and family with lethal force. I think that God will keep me safe, but also that he can work through me to keep other's safe. Just because I believe in God doesn't mean I should take a fatalistic view: I trust God will keep me safe in my car, if he sees fit, but I still wear a seat belt. Defending your property seems less cut and dried. Is my stuff really worth taking someone else's life for? Maybe not for me, but neither do I think I have the right to tell someone else that they should simply sit by and let others take what is theirs.
    Of course I think gun owner's should be responsible: keep your guns locked up, be smart about it, educate your kids about guns from an early age, and do not tolerate any kind of unsafe gun use.
    I think it's interesting that you discount the gun as a viable form of self defense. You're saying that, statistically, it's not going to help anything, is that correct? Hm, well, it seems like it worked for some people. Here: This magazine publishes about 6-12 instances per month in which someone used a gun to successfully defend themselves. You say they're the minority? Well, first off, good luck proving that, and second, when people are shooting at me, or threatening me or people I love, slim chances beats the heck out of no chances.
    You say that my gun will be taken from my shaking hands and turned on me? Well, I can't say anyone's ever tried to take a gun away from me, but there are guidelines that can be followed to make it pretty danged hard. It's called weapon or firearm retention. Military and police learn it, and we can too. All I'm saying is that if you own a gun for home or personal defense, you should be ready not only to shoot somebody with it, but to know how to keep somebody from grabbing it.
    Lastly, keep in mind that the only thing that stops violence, ultimately, is the threat of more violence. When we say we are against citizens owning firearms, we actually are just saying that we don't want to stop violence ourselves- we'd rather someone else did it, like the cops. The violence itself doesn't go away, it's necessary to maintain order. We just duck the responsibility. If you're not ready to accept responsibility to protect yourself, that's fine. But I'm ready, so don't take away my rights. Sincerely,
    -A "Gun Nut"? (I dunno, sounded pretty logical to me... but what do I know? I'm a crazy gun-owning sinner.)
    P.S. Hunters don't only use rifles. Shotguns are mandated for bird hunting, and handguns are common for taking big game, as well as for protection against predators like mountain lions and bears. October 23, 2015

  3. larry smith


    You sound distinctively un-nutty but look where you get your stats: my guess is that American Rifleman may not be unbiased.

    I'm too lazy to check my stats but I have taught for years for the California Youth Authority and we're put through a regime of crime-related modules - not counting hundreds of discussions we have with inmates - and one that stuck in my mind was the statistics about gun violence connected with guns in the house:

    In homes where firearms are present, there is a FAR GREATER chance of suicide by gun, children finding unlocked guns and harming themselves or their friends, and gun owners mis-identifying a burglar and killing a family member.

    I will never forget the devastation when our Oregon neighbor shot and killed his 16-year-old son who had misplaced his house key and was climbing in the bathroom window after his parents had gone to bed.

    Add to this the statistic that burglars are more likely to...well...burgle homes where they believe guns are stored; plus,there are hundreds of incidents where the intruder either found the gun and turned it on the home owner or where the owner got nervous and was overcome by the bad guy who then shot him with his own weapon. No training prepares you for situations like this. If you KNOW how cool you would be when staring down the barrel of a Bushmaster, you're Dr. Ben Carson.

    Negative outcomes far outnumber instances where a gun actually helped someone scare off or shoot a naughty sneaker.

    Finally, through all that, do you really want the responsibility for sending to eternity an unsaved criminal...a person who may have been desperate and not intending harm to you - who simply wanted your possessions to feed his heroin habit?

    Of all the inmates I have ever worked with, those least prone to violence are burglars. They tend to be timid; if they were tough, they'd commit strong-arm robberies.

    Anyway, just some food for thought in a debate that would only occur in the U.S.. President Obama got hammered when he claimed that many people in the American hinterlands rely on God and guns. W But, he was right...we DO need the former and we need to eliminate the latter. October 26, 2015

  4. Jason Roberts

    Un-nutty? Thank you, sir, you sound like a decent fellow yourself. Haha, you noticed where I got my "stats", eh? Well, the thing is that if they were stats, then yes, it's likely that they'd be pretty biased. Aren't all stats biased? My link however, isn't to a page of statistics. These are just stories. Don't believe them? That's ok, because there's usually a link to the local newspaper that printed them. If you think that the NRA is so biased that they made these stories up, and faked the reference to the paper, then I'm afraid you're just as crazy as the supposedly paranoid people who are preparing for the collapse of civilization.
    The way I see it, it's just a matter of who you know, what you were raised with. I was raised to use guns safely, and I know lots of people who own guns. I know several who used a gun to protect themselves, like my uncle. But I don't actually know anyone who was shot with their own gun. I'm guessing you do. Of course it happens. But if someone is strong enough to take your gun, and corrupt enough to take your life with it, then... why would not having a gun in the first place help? If he's willing to take your life, then NOT having a gun will do nothing to alter his decision- there are plenty of ways for strong people to kill weak people without the aid of firearms. Police officers are shot with their own guns every once in a while, but you don't see them saying, "Man! I better ditch this gun! If I keep carrying it around, somebody's gonna shoot me with it."
    Yes, it seems obvious to me that in homes with firearms there is a greater chance of power being misused. Like I said before, if you're not ready to keep your gun safely stored, if you're struggling with suicidal thoughts, or if you if you can't trust yourself to IDENTIFY A TARGET BEFORE YOU SHOOT IT, then you are probably morally (not legally) obligated to not own a gun. I'm terribly sorry about your neighbor's incident. It just strikes me as strange that a logical person would look at that and say, "Wow. That's awful. If only they didn't own a gun!", instead of, "Wow, that's awful. If only they'd owned a flashlight, and thought it was necessary to shout at the supposed home invader to identify himself, before shooting him." People make mistakes.
    To Be continued October 28, 2015

  5. Jason Roberts

    Also, for the record, most burglars are not usually confronted with guns. Burglars don't break into your house at night with you car parked out front in the driveway, and your dog barking in the backyard, because, like you said, they are generally too timid to try to steal stuff when you're obviously home. People who bust into your house under these circumstances generally are the type that don't mind killing you, or family, with a gun of their own, OR are too high to care. These are the folks I'd consider threatening with my gun, because they are a threat to me. In answer to your question: Nope. People are responsible for their actions. If a person is attacking me or others, that's his call; he knows it's wrong, and that there may be consequences. Thus, I feel that in sending him into eternity, a). yes, I'm justified, morally and lawfully, and b). he's the one who is asking for it by doing something that justifies lethal force. I'd feel bad for his making of his own decisions, but not for mine.
    Anyway, I don't expect to change your opinion over the internet, after what sound like years of experience setting you in your ways. I just thought it necessary to voice the other side of the argument, and try to be a good representative of someone who likes guns, but isn't an idiot about it.
    -The Un-Nutty Gun Owner October 28, 2015

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