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The gun-control issue: Avoid knee-jerk reaction

Thursday, December 20, 2012
posted by Assemblyman Brian Jones

“To everything there is a season: a time to plant and a time to harvest; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” Now is a time to mourn.

This is not the time to yell at one another in partisan bickering. The last thing the people in Newtown need right now is to turn on their TV or radio or open their newspaper to hear anti-gunners and pro-gunners yelling at each other over gun control. What they need is a time to mourn and heal.

As the father of three children, I pray for God’s blessing and healing grace upon the entire Newtown community.

I’m amazed at the number of gun control proponents that are coming forward and saying, “Now, we need to get serious about the gun control conversation.” I don’t know where they have been for the past 236 years, but the gun control debate has been ongoing since the foundation of our nation.

Regrettably, politicians in both Sacramento and Washington, D.C., have rushed to take advantage of a community’s tragedy to pursue a political agenda, introducing measures to further restrict access to firearms for law-abiding citizens. Too often, there is a wrongheaded, knee-jerk reaction to rush and pass new laws.

I think we must consider the consequences of such quick action; we have many examples that clearly demonstrate that the problem is not with the law-abiding citizen. We must not let emotion and hysteria overshadow the facts as we start the gruesome process of sorting through the details of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre. We must home in on the sad truth of the situation – no law or series of laws could ever have prevented this tragedy. This kind of evil respects no law, nor any code of civilized society.

As the governor of Connecticut said, “Evil has come to our town today.”

During the ban in the 1990s on semi-automatic rifles (the so-called assault weapons) and high-capacity magazines, U.S. crime did not go down. Reinstituting such a law only gives people a false sense of security and only serves to make politicians feel better, but it will not prevent another tragedy. A failed policy of the past will not suddenly become a success in the future. We can blanket our communities with “gun-free” zones, but until we can keep evil out, too – they will be useless.

While healthy debate is what our country is founded upon, gun control should not be the only topic of conversation. We can and must strengthen the laws and enhance the penalties for those persons who illegally possess a firearm or who illegally supply a firearm. Gun ownership is a fundamental right and a profound responsibility, and those who violate our laws must be held accountable.

We also must have the courage to have the debate over mental illness – to allow parents the ability and opportunity to access information about their children’s health, and to allow for consideration of a patient’s record when making determinations in court-ordered treatment.
In the face of dramatic evil, it is easy to focus on that evil, but in contrast we have also been blessed with several pictures of the triumphant goodness of the human nature. There was only one perpetrator and one act of evil, but several acts of heroism and selflessness. As a society, we have to come to the realization that we cannot legislate error, stupidity or evil. In the course of the human experience, these are going to happen.

The gun control debate in America will continue just as it always has since the Constitution was written. However, today we, as neighbors and fellow countrymen, have a responsibility to the victims and survivors to maintain decorum and a voice of reason, calm, comfort and hope. No amount of political rhetoric or blaming is going to return one of these precious souls. Our prayer today needs to be hopeful that they are in a better place where God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. And our prayer for those left behind should be that they will recover and carry-on. America remains the hope of the world, let us all remember our collective goodness and provide a nurturing environment for our countrymen to heal.

Assemblyman Brian Jones, Republican Caucus Chairman, represents the 71st Assembly District, which includes eastern San Diego County communities, including Alpine, Borrego Springs, El Cajon, Ramona, Rancho San Diego, Santee and Spring Valley.

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10 Responses to “The gun-control issue: Avoid knee-jerk reaction”

  1. jennifer brinley says:

    I agree what is needed is decorum and a civil discussion. Mental health is definitely an issue that needs to be addressed, as well as our violent culture. But, it’s not the only issue.

    According to a former school official, Adam Lanza was assigned a psychologist at Newtown High School. He caught the attention of staff and was monitored by teachers, counsellors and security officers. He wasn’t feared to be a danger to others but rather to be bullied or harmed by others. Yes, mental health funding is important but the one element that enabled Adam Lanza to commit mass murder in 10 minutes was the easy access to a semi-automatic rifle with 30 round magazines.

    II’m passing along an email from a Vietnam Vet who had responded to my uncle’s mass email about running out to buy assault rifles in case there is a “government takeover.” I’m hoping this description helps clarify why it is important to support an assault weapons ban (as well as mental health care.)

    Ted:
    As you may well know, I’m a gun owner and collector as you are. Counting my vintage Springfields and Mausers, I probably possess more firearms than anyone on your email distribution roster. I started going hunting before I was 10 years old with .22 and .22 magnum rifles and various shotguns. But I’m also a Vietnam combat veteran. We in Vietnam had plenty of experience with the devastation those wretched weapons could do [augmented from several angles: 1) rapidity of fire, 2) speed of reloading (and we even taped two magazines together so that we could eject the inserted mag, flip it over to the loaded mag, release the bolt and keep right on firing)], and 3) the horrendous amount of tissue/bone damage even one of the rounds could perpetrate. F’get the tidy little round hole of a .22 handgun or even a .30-30 deer rifle; the wounds generally look more like a mortar round went off inside the poor bast’d's body… not to speak of what 6 or 8 or 10 of those rounds did to each of those little children’s (and those courageous school staff’s) bodies in Newtown. And because of its rapid fire/rapid reload capability, whoever was holding it and ‘spraying’ it could perpetrate more flesh damage and devastation than an entire battalion of infantrymen could have done in 1791 with their flintlock muskets… when the 2nd Amendment was adopted.

    No one I knew in I Corps wanted to see an assault weapon ever again after he left Vietnam. But we did hear that many guys were disassembling AK47s and concealing the various components in such things as stereo speakers and shipping them home (couldn’t do it with M16s ’cause that would be stealing gov’t property); those were mostly the guys in the rear areas… quiet mega-encampments such as Cam Ranh Bay and Da Nang and Bien Hoa… who had little or no direct experience with those wretched killing implements in combat, and who had never witnessed what a bloody/gory slaughter each of them could inflict. So, in essence and in fact, the only guys who idolized them and sneaked them home were the wannabe war heroes. Ben Verleger

  2. Hypocrisy questioned says:

    Brian,

    A few points:

    Gun ownership is not a fundamental right. It is a constitutional right. Let’s reserve the term “fundamental right” for items such as life and liberty.

    We definitely have no problem in restricting constitutional rights. Neither the right to free speech or free assembly is absolute and neither should be the right to gun ownership.

    Our laws restrict even those truly fundamental rights. Commit a crime and we will take away your liberty; commit a heinous enough crime and we will even take away your life.

    The conversation about guns doesn’t have to be limited to bans and restrictions. While I definitely agree with the majority that there is no legitimate need for an urban assault rifle or a 100-round magazine, I also think we should discuss allowing trained, law-abiding citizens an easier path to concealed carry permits.

    Finally, to to headline topic, if not now, then when. My experience tells me that when someone says that now is not the right time to discuss (fill in your favorite topic: guns, taxes, etc.), what they really mean is that they never want to discuss it.

  3. Michael A. Schwartz says:

    Jennifer, Adam Lanza murdered his mother and stole her semi-automatic rifle and 30 round magazines. Not sure you can characterize that as “easy access”.
    You advocate for a gun ban and mock Ted for wanting to hurry and buy the very type of gun you are hoping gets banned. That appears hypocritical.

    Please thank Ben for his service and please also explain to Ben that the purpose of the Second Amendment was to make sure that civilians had the same arms issued to the military forces. This is historically accurate, supported by multiple Supreme Court decisions, and was written on by a number of the Framers. Also remind him that the 7mm bullet shot from one of his Mausers is significantly more powerful than the .223 caliber/5.56mm bullet fired from an AR style rifle, but regardless, fatal is fatal. And the guns he owns and the guns you want to ban are potentially lethal and both shoot one bullet per pull of the trigger. Functionally very similar and designed for the same purpose.

    Hypocrisy, the Constitution codifies rights. Rights are natural. And the Constitution doesn’t specify guns. It says “arms” which are used to protect your life and your liberty. The legitimate needs for an “urban assault rifle”… I assume you mean a semi-automatic commonly owned AR style rifle with a detachable magazine…are self-defense, sporting, and collecting. All three are legitimate reasons.

    Regarding the discussion on guns and restricitng rights…when it comes to gun laws we are at the end of the road of compromise. We have reached common ground. There is no more reasonable ground to give to the anti-gun side. A further move towards restriction is an extreme measure. You are right about restricitng rights if someone has done something wrong, but banning guns is restricting the rights of people who have done nothing wrong.

  4. jennifer brinley says:

    Michael,
    No one is saying to ban all guns, just certain types of guns. Adam’s mother owned a lawfully purchased assault weapon the type designed for maximum casualties with 30 round magazines, this is “overkill” for sporting and self defense purposes. Adam lived with his mother, the fact that he stole the weapons from her and killed her is “easy access.”

    All of our rights come with limitations, that’s part of living in a society. We have freedom of religion, but not if it involves human sacrifice because that poses a danger to others. We have freedom of speech, but not if it incites chaos (yelling fire in a theater) or if it slanders another, or we use it to conspire. The freedom to bear arms also has limitations. The rationale that we need these assault weapons to avoid government oppression or takeover is illogical for the obvious reason that we live in a democracy with elections. Oppression or takeover would require collusion with every elected official, the CIA, the FBI and the entire U.S. Military. We have the most powerful military in the world and citizens owning every assault weapon on the planet would be no match for U.S. Military and drone attacks.

    That aside, the idea that banning assault weapons for citizen usage would be punishing law abiding citizens from sporting and defending themselves is missing the point. Citizens would still have guns to hunt and defend themselves with, they just wouldn’t be allowed to have weapons designed for maximum casualties, because these types of weapons clearly pose a threat to others given their capability and usage for mass murder. Adam Lanza’s mother didn’t do anything wrong either.

  5. Michael A. Schwartz says:

    Jennifer the only way to do what you wish (ban commonly owned semi-automatic firearms with 30 round magazines) is by repealing the Second Amendment. There is a way to do this written into the Constitution and good luck on your efforts.

    Any attempt to ban civilian ownership of arms that are as commonly owned and are standard issue to law enforcement and the military (both foreign and domestic) is contrary to the meaning and purpose of the Second Amendment. They are therefore protected.

    If what you say is true that these types of firearms pose a threat to the general public, then that is more reason for law-abiding, sane civilians to have access to them due to their natural or God given right to self-defense. Civilians need what is reasonably needed to protect against attack.

  6. Hypocrisy questioned says:

    Michael,

    You claim that “the purpose of the Second Amendment was to make sure that civilians had the same arms issued to the military forces.”

    Does this mean that all the current ban of fully automatic weapons is unconstitutional? Does it further mean that I have a constitutional right to own RPG’s? How about owning nuclear weapons, does every citizen have that right?

  7. Michael A. Schwartz says:

    Hypocrisy, the amount of information I would need to share with you when it comes to the Second Amendment and the definition of rights won’t fit here.

    But let me give you a very short answer…

    Whatever is reasonably needed in order to protect your life. Since AR style rifles (or equivalent) is what is standard issues by law enforcement and military in the US and abroad, then it is reasonable that civilians should own it in order to be a well-regulated militia. Law enforcement and the military does not regularly and broadly issue nuclear weapons so that would be an unreasonable means for civilians to protect their country, property, and self.

    In the 1980s the US Congress did think it was reasonable to issue surface to air missiles to civilians for the purpose of protection. Those civilians were Afghans and they were being attacked by Russian helicopters.

    Read this blog: http://thepaperskiff.blogspot.com/2009/11/only-thing-more-frustrating-to-gun.html

    And try these books:
    1.The Founders’ Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms
    2. John Locke: A Biography by Maurice William Cranston
    3. The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton

  8. Hypocrisy questioned says:

    Michael,

    Quick question: Do you believe current bans on fully automatic weapons are unconstitutional?

  9. C. Lee Sandvick says:

    knee jerk reaction?
    how about having a massive gun control bill waiting in the wings until just the right moment,.
    we should thank our beloved Sen Dianne Feinstein –

    http://patriotsforamerica.ning.com/forum/topic/show?id=2734278%3ATopic%3A458799&xgs=1&xg_source=msg_share_topic

  10. Michael A. Schwartz says:

    The question is quick, but the answer is not.

    It is a great question and a good discussion to have, but this question really doesn’t have anything to do with firearms issues today. Nobody is asking for legislation or court decisions regarding fully automatic firearms on either side of the issue. Crime is not being committed by fully automatic firearms. There is not current invasion of the United States that can only be stopped by automatic firearms. The typical US soldier is not issued a fully automatic firearm. The mass murderer in Colorado and the mass murderer in Connecticut did not use fully automatic firearms. Feinstein’s proposed gun ban does not address fully automatic firearms. Obama’s administration has not asked for legislation regarding fully automatic firearms in 2009 and again in 2012, rather he wants to ban commonly owned, semi-automatic rifles.

    So your question is purely academic and not pragmatic or applicable at all. Which is fine, but I want to make sure that fact is clear.

    Civilians are not banned from owning fully automatic firearms. They are heavily regulated and taxed. Thousands of civilians own fully automatic firearms in the U.S. After the onerous requirements are met, civilians can buy and sell automatic firearms. There is even a “watered down” process if you are a civilian and want to buy a specific fully automatic firearm that pre-dates 1986. So the premise of your question is flawed.

    Are the regulations constitutional? Here are a couple of points:
    • Due to the public perception of the subject, the regulations will not be questioned. It has more to do with PR rather than the Constitution.
    • The intent of the Second Amendment is to ensure that civilians in militias (redundant) have the same arms carried by professional soldiers. Our own military does not issue fully automatic M16/M4s. They do have a 3-burst option, but the general foot soldier does not carry a fully automatic firearm. Fully automatic firearms are carried by soldiers with specialized training. A person would be hard pressed to prove to a panel of judges that a fully automatic firearm is required to protect against criminals because criminals do not use fully automatic firearms. They would have the same problem arguing they need fully automatic weapons for protection against foreign armies because our own military carries semi-automatic firearms. That person would be further burdened to prove that a well-regulated militia has a need that can only be satisfied by fully automatic firearms because semi-automatic firearms won’t suffice.
    • Everyone has a natural right to self-defense. You have the right to use the minimum amount of force it takes to protect your life. So, yes, you can protect yourself, but not by using a nuclear weapon to take the life of a man attacking you with a knife. There has to be an amount of reason. It would be hard to show there is a reasonable need for a fully automatic firearm in order to protect yourself from robbers or even a potential invading army as long as semi-automatic firearms are available.
    • I do believe that U.S. states have very little latitude when it comes to gun laws. Far less than the federal government. California’s additional regulations on automatic firearms along with California’s “assault weapon ban” and the limitations on civilians carrying firearms are all unconstitutional.

    The three major federal laws that address fully automatic firearms (The National Firearms Act of 1934, The Gun Control Act of 1968, and The Hughes Amendment in 1986) could easily be reworked so the process more easily allows law-abiding, sane, trained civilians to keep fully automatic firearms without sacrificing safety.

    There is a ton more than could be said, but this should be more than enough to either answer your question or just continue the conversation.

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