Gun Violence

Political Point of View by Collier Democrats

Issue: Gun Violence and Access to Guns

The purpose of this paper is to focus on those deaths involving multiple victims at one event. First, let's admit that these multiple death events are multi-causal. It is unlikely that one single decision or action will effect a cure. Just as a disease like cancer has many forms and can be treated by prevention, surgery, chemo-therapy and alternative medicine, we need a wide range of solutions for the inexplicable killing of multiple individuals in one event. These Individuals are often unknown by the killer and are not directly related to the motives which drive the killer. Let us assume that issues of mental health, violent media, glorification of gangsters, abdication of parental responsibilities and other troubling value issues are all involved in the genesis of gun violence. This does not mean that we shouldn't address the availability of firearms, particularly powerful, rapid fire weapons.

Background: According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research

More than 31,000 people a year in the United States die from gunshot wounds. Because victims are disproportionately young, gun violence is one of the leading causes of premature mortality in the U.S. In addition to these deaths, in 2010, there were an estimated 337,960 nonfatal violent crimes committed with guns,2 and 73,505 persons treated in hospital emergency departments for non-fatal gunshot wounds. Gun violence in the United States is unusually high for a nation of such wealth. Although there is little difference in the overall crime rates between the United States and other high income countries, the homicide rate in the U.S. is seven times higher than the combined homicide rate of 22 other high-income countries. This is because the firearm homicide rate in the U.S. is twenty times greater than in these other high-income countries. The higher prevalence of gun ownership and much less restrictive gun laws are important reasons why violent crime in the U.S. is so much more lethal than in countries of similar income levels. ( Policy, October, 2012)

The present level of protection provided to our citizens from gun violence is a disgrace. The effort to bring meaningful corrective action to address these tragedies, gun control legislation, has been blocked by powerful gun lobbies. These forces are armed with large contributions to politicians and worn out clichés. Weapons manufacturers, lobbyists, and the organizations they represent pretend that their cause is patriotic. Many feel that this thinking is, at best, wrong, and at worst, dangerous. Patriotism manifests itself in many ways and there is no implication that patriotism requires the ownership or utilization of weapons.
The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America is being used as a cloak to provide excessive access to guns. The Founders of this nation would be amazed to see the Second Amendment being used in this way. It is not the intent of this paper to argue the merits of the various interpretations favored by opposing groups. However, it is clear that the framers of the Constitution did not anticipate the widely-reported, irrational fears that are promoted by special interest groups to generate the proliferation of guns. The stock-piling of assault weapons and their continued sale without background checks is illogical, counter-intuitive and fraught with danger.
The Second Amendment reads: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Of the first Ten Amendments, this is the only one that contains a rationale for what it requires. The Bill of Rights is the law of the land, clearly stated. Guarantees of religion, speech, assembly, and the press are “natural rights”, inherent to the human condition. However, the right to bear arms is granted only in the context of a well-regulated militia and thus the security of a free state. Escalating gun violence which continues to threaten our security makes it abundantly clear that gun ownership must be regulated.
The relationship between the right to bear arms and militia service is used by those who favor gun control while those who oppose gun control support the idea that the phrase was intended only to provide a historical context rather than serve as a restriction. Recent U. S Supreme Court cases, from Lewis V United States (1980) to District of Columbia V Heller (2008) and McDonald V Chicago (2010) show that while the current position refutes a restrictive link with the militia, that the court is not unified in its position as illustrated by the dissenting positions taken. As is commonly known, the law evolves and the law of the land is what a majority of the U. S. Supreme Court Justices say it is today. The U. S. Supreme Court has historically shown that current events and social/economic changes influence its positions. The control of weapons is not just a matter of isolated constitutional law. Restrictions on the ownership of guns do not infringe on the right to bear arms any more than preventing the unjustified yelling “fire” in a crowded movie theatre infringes on the right to free speech.
Florida lawmakers passed a "stand your ground" law that protects gun owners who defend themselves with deadly force. They also voted to allow workers to carry guns to work as long as they were locked in their vehicles, and banned doctors from talking to their patients about gun ownership.
With people still mourning over the slaughter in Newtown, Conn., there will never be a better time to initiate comprehensive reforms that will begin to lessen this stain from our society; the stain of lacking the moral courage to provide a safe environment for our citizens against gun violence. Let us acknowledge that there is a difference between the right to bear arms for legitimate purposes and the right to own weapons with rapid fire and high capacity clips. High capacity rifles are created for the sole purpose of killing many people at once. There is no need for these weapons to be on our streets, in our homes or in our schools.

Making the needed reforms will require planning and action by all levels of government: federal, state and local. Areas to be covered must include:
• Enforcing gun laws already in existence.
• Banning the sale or fabrication of any gun designed for rapid fire along with accompanying high- capacity (more than 10 rounds) magazines.
• Conducting thorough background checks for the purchase of a gun with severe penalties for failure to do so.
• Closing the loophole of being able to purchase a gun at a trade show with no background check.
• Requiring trigger locks be sold in conjunction with guns and the use of trigger locks and/or gun safes for all guns when not in immediate use by owners.
• Requiring that all guns be registered with the state.
• Requiring that all lost or stolen guns be reported immediately.
• Requiring a gun ownership database to enhance our ability to react immediately if mental illness or violent behavior is identified.
• Allowing physicians to speak to their patients about the dangers of guns in the home.
• Utilizing any technological innovations which will prevent anyone but a weapon’s owner from being able to utilize the weapon and then only when the owner is not intoxicated..
• Eliminating the Stand Your Ground legislation in Florida.
• Creating and enforcing strict penalties for those who sell or provide guns to individuals who may not qualify for ownership.
Recommendation: The Issues Committee of the Democratic Party of Collier County recommends supporting local, state and federal measures that address the above bullet-points. Furthermore, the Issues committee requests that the Collier County Democrats initiate a petition to be signed by the citizens of Florida and presented to the Florida Legislature and Governor Rick Scott.

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