Is it time yet?

October 2, 2015

Another massacre on a school campus, this time in Oregon. On average, more than 10,000 Americans are killed every year by gun violence.

The solution to enacting some 21st century rules and regulations around firearms is really very simple; the barriers to attaining rational and appropriate rules and regulations which reflect the realities of life in our current world seem to be insurmountable; but they really are not.

The NRA is the elephant in the room. With a base of about 6 Million members (about 2% of the U.S. population) they are wearing a mighty big hat, but they really don’t have many cattle.

Yet, anytime there has been even a whisper regarding legislative restrictions on ammunition — even bulk sales of armor-piercing ammunition to casual civilian buyers — the NRA has mobilized their base to scream about 2nd Amendment rights!

The same is true about restrictions on the types of arms which are appropriate for people to own and use, for legitimate and reasonable purposes.

The ‘poster child’ for these 2 issues centers on the NYS SAFE Act, which was passed by the NYS Legislature in January 2013 following the unspeakable massacre in Sandy Hook (CT) in December 2012.

Where a majority of New Yorkers — rational and responsible firearm owners and users included — find no problems with the NYS SAFE Act (yes, there were some early glitches which were quickly fixed), there continues to be a vocal contingent of ideological zealots who cling to the thread of some inaccurate information they received about the 2nd Amendment.

The greatest obstacle we face in reforming gun laws in the U.S. is the NRA. They are well-funded by interested parties; they have developed an effective lobbying effort; and they know when and how to ‘juice the system’ to make their position both well-known and well-loved.

Where the NRA {closely aligned with Gun Owners of America} presents a loud and singular voice of renegades and gun rights advocates, the rest of the population has elected to form their own organizations — hundreds of groups with similar, but slightly different mission statements — thus wasting resources and diluting the message.

If only the silent majority could figure out where to invest some money and/or other resources to help enable the gun control movement to score a victory against the ‘2nd Amendment fantasizers’ I think most of us would write the check today.

Unfortunately, until the gun control people sit down and find common ground, and agree to speak with a singular voice, the NRA and their lobbyists will continue to dominate the national stage.

For those who are able to consider new or different perspectives, you may find this analysis helpful: http://www.vox.com/2015/10/1/9437187/obama-guns-terrorism-deaths

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Today the US Senate sent us a clear and plain reminder that our society lacks critical thinking skills, and that few are really engaged in civil discourse.

What troubles me most – as a dues paying member of the NRA – is that Wayne LaPierre – who apparently found a convenient way to avoid military service when his number was called – is busy manufacturing incendiary stories about ‘big brother’ and attacks on ‘Second Amendment Rights’.

Wayne is playing into a base of folks who didn’t do so well in school and may not really understand or appreciate what our forefathers were thinking back in 1791 when they proposed the Second Amendment.

If Wayne would just take the time to read the Second Amendment, he would likely learn that our Second Amendment – when it was adopted in 1791 – preceded the invention of: the electric light; the automobile; the internet; and the modern firearm.

That’s right. In 1791, the right to ‘keep and bear arms’ referred to single shot, black powder firearms.

If the NRA spokespeople and their posse want to preserve the rights granted under the Second Amendment, then I say: “Single shot, black powder!”

Rhetoric and debate: Over!

More on: Gun Control

January 14, 2013

I’m a New York State resident, and I’ve been following the recent activities of our legislators in Albany.

I applaud the bi-partisan work of the members of our New York State Assembly; the members of our New York State Senate; and NYD Governor Andrew Cuomo, to act swiftly and deliberately to negotiate and pass comprehensive gun control legislation in January 2013.

Assault weapons have no place in civilian hands in a civilized society. High capacity magazines are a necessary evil for law-enforcement and military purposes; they have no place in any civilian application.

No different than ownership and/or operation of a motor vehicle; possession, ownership and/or operation of a firearm should be predicated by background and identity checks; testing; registration and licensing; plus proof of liability insurance.

The frequently heard argument that the Second Amendment guarantees “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” is an emotionally charged and incomplete line of reasoning.

There is nothing stated or implied in the Second Amendment which tells us possession, ownership and or use of firearms should be unfettered and outside the purview of laws and regulations carefully designed to protect the interests of the greater public good.

It is unfortunate that the immediate reaction to any talk of ‘gun control’ emanates from (often overzealous) Second Amendment advocates.

The basis of our Second Amendment — which was adopted in 1791 — likely had very clear and relevant context to the 18th century, and to the events which preceded the Revolutionary War.

Now, more than 2 centuries later, it would seem to be helpful to have a rational, detached and thoughtful public discourse to include all facets of a 21st century centric debate on firearms and what makes the most sense for the majority of our fellow citizens today.

I have not met or communicated with any balanced and rational individuals who want to deprive any responsible American adult of their right to own and use firearms.

Nor, have I met or communicated with any balanced and rational individuals who want to deprive any responsible American adult of their right to own and operate motor vehicles.

It seems that through careful analysis and regulation, we have been relatively successful keeping unqualified and/or irresponsible individuals from operating motor vehicles.

I wonder: Why would any responsible and/or qualified American adult believe that we couldn’t accomplish the same outcomes with firearms?

Most gun crimes in New York City and the lower Hudson Valley involve weapons illegally brought into our state. Do we want to continue the illegal trafficking of guns into New York?

History tells us that — in 1791 — gang violence, assault weapons and drug trafficking had not yet been invented. Multi-shot hand guns did not appear until the early 19th century, and did not become commercially viable until 1856 when Smith and Wesson produced the first cartridge revolver.

Laws and regulations developed and designed around the technology, society and economy of the 18th century no doubt have some validity for our current society, yet may need to be carefully examined to see how and where some ‘tweaks’ might make them more relevant for today.

Thank you to Governor Cuomo and our New York State Legislators for taking some bold first steps to bring our state gun laws into compliance with the Information Age. There is more to be done, but you have accomplished some solid reform in January 2013.

Bravo!

It seems to be time for honest and productive discussion about firearms in New York State and across the U.S.

Although I do not currently own a firearm, I have in the past, and may do so in the future. 

I occasionally enjoy shooting at targets and at clay birds.  I know I don’t need an assault weapon, high capacity magazines or semi-automatic handguns to enjoy the sport of shooting.  In fact, these seem to be the weapons of choice for the military and law enforcement, and unfortunately, for criminals and ‘gang bangers’, not for any hunters or sport shooters I’ve talked with recently.

I was recently in a conversation with some Alaskans who regularly hunt for meat. 

Their reaction to using a handgun for hunting?  “You’d have to be crazy or really stupid.”

Semi-automatic long guns with high-capacity magazines?  “If you can’t hit the target with a couple of shots, you have no business being out in the field with a gun.”

Gun control doesn’t have to mean no guns.  I’m not suggesting we take guns away from those who wish to own them and use them responsibly.  

There just seem to be way too many gaps and loopholes in our current controls on acquiring and owning weapons, accessories and ammunition.

Gun show loopholes make no sense at all.  Selling ammunition online seems to be a very controversial issue worthy of serious examination.

When we allow special interest groups to use emotional arguments which have dubious merit to enrage and inflame their ‘base’, we end up with non-productive and potentially destructive dialogue.

Driving an automobile is considered an American right, yet there are a number of steps required before a driver license is issued to an individual, along with regular oversight and renewal requirements.  We require proof of insurance before we allow a motor vehicle to be registered.  Why should firearms be any different?

It makes sense to me that possession and/or ownership of a weapon – particularly in densely populated urban areas – ought to come with a license requirement that includes mandatory background checks; psychological and medical evaluations; character references; and some sort of proof of insurance.  Training and testing should be mandatory, and a license renewal process ought to be defined which ensures periodic re-evaluation of key variables.

If we want to preserve the right to responsible American citizens to own, possess and use firearms, a critical issue seems to be creating an environment which closes out the proliferation of possession and/or ownership by criminals and those others who don’t meet mutually acceptable criteria.

It would seem that if gun owners and non-gun owners could come together and agree on regulations that protect the right for responsible adults to own firearms while keeping them out of the hands of criminals and those who may be mentally unstable, we would end up with a much better, stronger and responsible outcome than we have today.

On December 14, 2012, one individual — who apparently obtained by force several semi-automatic firearms from a family member — shot and killed 26 innocent victims at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, CT. 

The firearms included one rifle – the controversial .223 caliber Bushmaster AR-15 — which by several definitions has been categorized as an assault weapon. 

The other semi-automatic weapons were hand guns – one was a 10 mm Glock which can accommodate a 15 round magazine. The other was a Sig Sauer 9 mm, which can accommodate a maximum capacity of 20 bullets.

 Following this tragic event, a nearby regional newspaper – The Journal News — filed a freedom of information act (FOIA) request with Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties in NYS seeking the names and addresses of pistol permit holders in these counties.

 By New York State law, the name and address of individual permit holders licensed to own a handgun — a pistol or revolver – is public record.

 Owners of ‘long guns’ — rifles or shotguns which can be purchased without a permit — are not subject to public record disclosure.

 I just listened to a radio interview with NYS Senator Gregory Ball on the controversial ‘outing’ of the names and addresses of hand gun permit holders by The Journal News.

 In the interview, Senator Ball was adamant in his opposition to releasing information (which is required under NYS law) based on his personal values and opinions.

 Senator Ball has held elected office in New York State since 2007. Several times, he has taken an oath of office to “…support the constitution of the United States, and the constitution of the State of New York…”

 The Journal News published names and addresses of hand gun permit holders from public record information obtained from Rockland and Westchester counties, which is both legal and appropriate in New York State.

 Officials in Putnam County have refused to release the gun permit information to The Journal News.

 Senator Ball has joined with other elected and appointed public officials in Putnam County to oppose the FOIA request from The Journal News.

 This FOIA request seems to follow the laws of the State of New York; thus is fully in compliance with the Constitution of the State of New York.

 It is my belief that NYS Senator Gregory Ball has violated his oath of office and thus should be sanctioned and removed from public office and further subject to any civil or criminal penalties which are available and appropriate for elected officials in New York State who flagrantly and blatantly violate their oath of office.

 It is time for honest and productive discussion about firearms in New York State and across the U.S.