Letter to the Editor

A gun control viewpoint

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

This is in response to Former U.S. Congressman Berkley Bedell's op-ed in the March 27 issue of the Dickinson County News, "Concerns of a gun owner and duck hunter." Mr. Bedell's anecdotal thoughts suggest limiting the ammunition capacity of a weapon will produce a reduction in gun violence.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence or case history that supports this contention. I also wish to comment upon a distinction he seems to make between military style automatic weapons, "... for shooting people" to that of sporting guns.

Whether a magazine contains five rounds or 30 has only a small relevancy to gun violence. The military has taught rapid magazine change for decades and even a novice can be taught to change a magazine for a pistol or rifle in three seconds or less. The net effect of magazine capacity restriction to a hunter, a target shooter or a potential killer is to carry more magazines.

"Assault rifles," as some military style rifles are called in today's controversy and sold on the open market, are not automatic; they are semi-automatic. This weapon's trigger must be pulled for each discharge of the weapon. The operation is no different for an autoloader duck shotgun, common semi-automatic pistol or a revolver. The current national debate is not about fully automatic capable weapons, which can be fired continuously by holding the trigger back. Their sale and ownership is already highly and effectively regulated. Every gun, whether a duck gun or a .22 caliber target or squirrel rifle can be equally deadly "for shooting people" and conscientious gun owners treat them all with the same respect.

While involved in a handful of high-profile mass shootings, including in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., only a fraction of gun related homicides every year are attributed to rifles of any kind. Furthermore, the most often assailed "assault rifles" make up a fraction of that fraction. Anyone looking to do maximum damage -- such as a deranged mass killer -- can easily find other guns just as deadly. Placing limitations on magazine capacity and so-called "military style" weapons are actions that sound good to the uninformed public, but will not change gun violence in America. Once adopted, they become another rung on the ladder toward total gun control. However ineffective, such proposals serve politicians to take credit for action taken, and move on to other issues.

An effective background check would be a very significant step forward, but we already have a system in place that doesn't work, but not because of a lack of laws. Current laws regarding gun sales, to include gun shows, are simply not uniformly enforced throughout our nation. In addition, because of professional ethos or threat of legal action, the medical field, social workers and teaching communities are unwilling to come forward and say that a patient or student might be dangerous to society with or without a gun.

In a recent speech, President Obama said, "... in my home town of Chicago, we have the equivalent of a Newtown every four days." Chicago has among the strictest gun control laws in the nation. Yet, Chicago has a gun related homicide rate higher than New York City, a city of over twice the population of Chicago. Every imaginable weapons ban is in place in Chicago as well as New York City and the District of Columbia, but to what effect? Law-abiding citizens in every one of these anti-gun cities must comply with, by a prohibitively expensive, bureaucratic maze to buy a weapon for protecting home and family. As a result, only the criminals have guns in these cities. Chicago, New York City and the District of Columbia are case studies of gun restriction laws that have failed in reducing gun violence.

Gun violence is not about assault rifles, magazines, or interpreting the Constitution. It is about early identification of the very small segment of our population that commits gun violence ... and doing something about it.

Former Representative and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Tip O'Neill once said that, "all politics are local." We need to focus more on fixing the problem at the local level and prevent needless death and injury before it happens. The gun violence problem doesn't start with the gun dealer, any more than drunk driving starts with the car dealer. Gun violence starts with the perpetrator, which includes an entire community-circle of people with very direct responsibility. This circle includes family, friends, law enforcement, neighbors, medical, social workers, teachers and gun dealers that are in contact with and know the potential perpetrator. These are the people that are closest to the one that demonstrates dangerous behavioral signs. No matter how large that circle is -- the ultimate responsibility begins with parents. If parents fail, if the community circle fails, there is no law yet conceived that will stop gun violence and mass killings.

Neal R. Christensen

BG (USA, Ret.)