11The Dichotomy of the Gun: Proposed Georgia, Mississippi State Laws Miss Central Point of Gun Debate
One of the fundamental problems in the gun control/gun rights argument is that the central item in the discussion, i.e. the gun, is seen as two completely different things from either side. For those who find themselves on the side of the spectrum that wants guns controlled (or banned outright) the gun is a terrifying death machine that ordinary citizens should not possess. For those on the side of the spectrum who prefers easy access to firearms (or mandatory ownership) the gun is the only real “protection” they trust.
Georgia lawmakers have recently introduced a bill that would essentially protect Georgians from any future federal laws that would “nullify certain federal laws…which attempts to govern firearms manufactured” in Georgia. Democratic State Senator Vincent Fort, who last year tried to pass an assault weapons ban, believes the new law is dangerous. He told CL Atlanta, “it’s unfortunate that this right-wing crowd [is] making these kind of extremist, ideological statements,” rather than focusing on the poor or the economy.
The ideological opposite of this bill is the recent "bullet control" proposal in the Mississippi State Legislature calling for individuals purchasing ammunition to provide personal details such as their name, Driver’s License, and Social Security Number. Law enforcement and government officials wouldn’t be the only people to have access to this information, but the records would be also open to the public.
No two individual laws better embody the central disconnect between the two sides of this argument. For gun control advocates, the idea that the entire state of Georgia would ignore federal laws seems to validate their position that there is no such thing as a “responsible” gun advocate. For those in favor of gun rights, the idea that purchasing some rounds means that the public has access to their personal information seems to validate their belief that the system is stacked against them.
What is difficult to address in legislation or even legislative discussion is the dichotomy of the gun. The thing these two laws have in common is that both come from a view of guns that the other side not only doesn’t share but doesn’t understand. A victim of gun crime wouldn’t see these weapons as protection from predators (human and animal), a way to put food on the table, or harmless sport and vice versa. Until this is addressed, any attempts to either protect gun-owners’ rights or responsibly limit everyone else’s risk will be doomed to fail on the national level.
A Florida licensed gun owner had an unpleasant run-in with a Maryland police officer while traveling through the state on a family vacation.
John Filippidis, a business owner and employer, is licensed to carry a concealed firearm. He and his family drove from Florida to New Jersey in December for Christmas and a wedding. Not looking for trouble, Filippidis decided to leave his palm-sized Kel-Tec .38 semiautomatic at home.
But that wasn’t enough. While passing Interstate 95, he and his wife, Kally, soon realized they were being followed by a Maryland police officer.
“Ten minutes he’s behind us,” FIlippidis told The Tampa Tribune. “We weren’t speeding. In fact, lots of other cars were whizzing past.”
The officer, from the Transportation Authority Police, asked Filippidis for his license and registration. Ten minutes later, he asked John to exit his vehicle.
He asked where Filippidis’ gun was, to which John replied was at his home in his safe.
The cop proceeded to ask Filippidis’ wife, Kally.
“Your husband owns a gun. Where is it?” the cop asked.
“I don’t know,” Kally said. “And that’s all I should have said.”
But in an attempt to be helpful she suggested the gun might have been in the glove compartment or in the console.
“I’m scared of it. I don’t want to have anything to do with it,” she recalls saying. “I might shoot right through my foot.”
The unidentified officer returned to John.
“You’re a liar. You’re lying to me. Your family says you have it. Where is the gun? Tell me where it is and we can resolve this right now,” the cop told him.
The search for the gun and interrogation continued for what seemed “forever,” Kally told The Tampa Tribune. At the end, the officer wrote out a warning to John.
“All that time, he’s humiliating me in front of my family, making me feel like a criminal,” John said. “I’ve never been to prison, never declared bankruptcy, I pay my taxes, support my 20 employees’ families; I’ve never been in any kind of trouble.”
Since the ordeal, John has received apologies from the officer’s captain as well as from a Maryland Transportation Authority Police internal affairs captain. Now John is considering canceling his license, but is hesitant.
“Things aren’t like they used to be. The break-ins, the burglaries, all the crime,” John said. “And I carry cash a lot of the time. I’m constantly going to the bank. I wanted to defend my family, my household and the ground I’m standing on. But I’m not looking for any trouble.”
It has not been known how the officer knew that Filippidis owns a gun. The MTAP is conducting an investigation, according to Joe For America.
Sources: The Tampa Tribune, Joe For America
The battle for gun control is fraught with misconceptions, false extremes, and emotional statements (mostly based in fear). On one side, you have law-abiding gun owners who are afraid that the government is going to ban/take their guns, leaving them without their preferred method of home- and self-defense. On the other side, you have (arguably well-intentioned) advocates who believe that the best way to save lives is to reduce the amount of guns in the country and who might have access to them.
This puts elected officials in a bit of a tricky situation. They receive calls to action from the constituents to “do something” about gun violence while simultaneously fielding pleas to protect constituents’ Second Amendment rights. Thus, they dream up legislation that sounds good but is unclear if it actually works, such as “the Assault Weapons” ban, which while it sounds good does very little to stop the larger problem of gun violence.
Technically, there is no such thing as an “assault weapon,” but the misnomer has become synonymous with semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15 (M-16/M-4 in military parlance) or the Kalishnakov rifles.
According to a press release, a new study has discovered that “assault weapons” are used in just under a quarter of mass-shootings in the country, with handguns being used most often (nearly 50 percent).
The study comes as a result of recent media campaigns that have insisted mass-shootings, perpetrated by a lone individual that selects a target at random, are on the rise. The study found that the national annual average of mass shootings has remained at about 20 per year. Also, it discovered that mass shootings that dominate news coverage are not random, but often have very clear motives like revenge or terrorism. Although, a study cited by NPR said that mass shootings have been on the rise since 2008, this study's authors suggest the data set used was too narrow.
What may lead to the impression that these mass shootings are on the rise has been the way in which the media chooses to cover these events. They have extended live coverage, with news reporters often speculating wildly about events on the ground. Afterwards follows extremely detailed reports about the shooter’s motivations and his life, something that experts agree can inspire more shooters.
Recently Rolling Stone caught some flak for a photo of the surviving Boston bomber on their cover, accompanying an in-depth, well-reported piece about him. Despite the fact that the same photo was on the cover of The New York Times months earlier, critics jumped on the magazine suggesting they were glamorizing the young terrorist. Yet never is the media taken to task for capitalizing on these events or the role that may play in inspiring further violence.
The study makes a number of claims debunking current gun control ideas, such as the idea of expanded background checks or the idea of armed security in schools. The purpose of the study is not so that pro-gun people can point and laugh at anti-gun people, but instead tries to wrest the discourse away from false arguments and faulty solutions. Although if the hope is to start a reasonable discourse about gun control, one wonders if the study’s authors haven’t engaged in a little wishful thinking of their own.
Longtime New York Post columnist Fred Dicker called the Newtown school shooting, in which 20 children died, “a little convenient massacre” for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pass new gun legislation.
Families of Sandy Hook victims are calling for an apology from the gun enthusiast, but he defends his statement.
On his WGDJ radio show Monday, Dicker told political satirist Randy Credico that the school shooting allow Cuomo to finally pass a gun control measure.
“That was his anti-gun legislation, which he had promised not to do, but then he had a little convenient massacre that went on in Newtown, Conn., and all of a sudden there was an opportunity for him,” Dicker said.
“For a professional journalist, I think it was irresponsible and unprofessional for him to say that,” said James Wiltsie, whose cousin Victoria Soto, 27, was one of six adults to die in the shooting. “There’s nothing ‘convenient’ about 26 lives being gunned down in an elementary school.”
“It’s basically putting salt in the wound,” Wiltsie said.
The group New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (NYAGV) has demanded an apology from Dicker.
“For Fred Dicker to call such an event ‘convenient’ is shocking,” said NYAGV’s executive director Leah Gunn Barrett.
Dicker says his statement is being willfully misconstrued.
“This group clearly doesn’t understand, or doesn’t want to understand, my point, which is a sarcastic reference to the governor latching on to an horrendous out-of-state mass killing to advance a political agenda that had nothing to do with the problem of gun-related crime in New York,” Dicker said.
“I wasn’t minimizing the horror at all, just the opposite,” he added. “I used the word ‘massacre’ intentionally because it refers, by definition, to a horrendous large-scale killing, which of course the Newtown horror was.”
Dicker is a fierce gun advocated who keeps a great deal of ammunition in his Albany office, New York Daily News reported.
An argument over whether a gun would fire turned deadly in Chicago.
Joeann Smith was arguing with 65-year-old Willie Smith about whether a gun would fire around 7 p.m. on Wednesday at her home in the 1700 block of East 72nd Street, authorities told the Chicago Sun Times.
During the argument, Joeann pointed the gun at Willie's face and pulled the trigger. The bullet hit Willie in the eye and he was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He was ruled brain dead and died around 9 a.m. Friday, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.
The argument between Joeann and Willie has been classified as domestic by police, but the exact relationship between them is not known at this time.
Joeann Smith has been charged in the shooting and will appear in court Saturday, reports ABC 7.
Chicago, a city known both for its restrictive gun laws and its troubling problem with shooting deaths, recently lost a battle in federal court trying to uphold their ban on handgun sales.
In an opinion from U.S. District Court Judge Edmond E. Chang, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, he wrote that the ordinance “goes too far in outright banning legal buyers and legal dealers from engaging in lawful acquisitions and lawful sales of firearms.”
However, before any stores can open for business, the city has both the right to appeal the decision further or to come up with a new ordinance that is constitutional and thereby less restrictive. Also, the city still has the right to restrict zoning as a way to limit how many gun stores there are and where they are allowed to be.
Further, Judge Chang writes that even though most illegal guns are initially purchased from a legal weapons dealer, the law enforcement focus should be on the person who then illegally transfers the gun to other parties. These “straw purchasers” should have the focus of law enforcement operations, which could extend to dealers if they knowingly sell to one.
Increasingly, studies are finding that the restrictive gun control measures aren’t as effective as initially thought, especially since the only ones respecting those laws are legal, responsible gun owners and dealers. A global Harvard study published last fall discovered that the number of guns available in a community is irrespective of the murder rate. A more recent study in the academic journal Applied Economics found that states that allow concealed-carrying of weapons had lower murder rates than cities that do not.
The findings of these studies, coupled with these rules, puts gun control advocates in particularly difficult position. It seems that rather than a preponderance of guns, it is a preponderance of willingness to murder that is at the heart of America’s homicide problem, via handgun or any other means. How does one even approach legislating against that?
Thus, the debate will most likely remain unchanged and politicians will align their opinions about guns with those of their constituents, in order to ensure reelection. One might suggest that it’s the debate itself that hold the most appeal for those on either side who’d prefer to keep arguing tired points rather than embracing new ideas and strategies.
Since a clandestinely recorded clip of then-candidate Obama emerged saying that voters in Pennsylvania “cling” to god and guns, the President has been perceived as a staunch opponent of the Second Amendment. However, in his first term the only thing the President did regarding gun rights was allow people to carry weapons in National Parks. However in light the highly-publicized spate of mass shootings, most powerfully the Newtown shooting, the President issued two executive actions focused on federal background checks.
Most responsible legal-gun owners do not object to the background check system since it was implemented in 1993. While any expansion of gun laws—such as New York’s restrictive magazine-capacity law—sends the most fervent firearm enthusiasts into a fury, these new proposals seem perfectly rational but, like all laws, have the potential for abuse.
The proposals are designed to ease the regulations that prevent states from sharing information about mental health with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, specifically by easing some of the privacy protections in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA.
As written, these proposals only affect “persons prohibited from having guns for mental health reasons,” thus does not mean that simply visiting a therapist will prevent a citizen from owning a gun. However, the vague nature of that language has those that fear the slippery slope skeptical of the reforms.
The White House is still calling on Congress to pass “common-sense gun safety legislation,” such as “expanding background checks and making gun trafficking a federal crime.” However, Congress already did that in March of 2013.
The Obama administration is proposing “a new $130 million initiative to address several barriars that may prevent people—especially youth and young adults—from getting help for mental health problems.” However, Congress would still have to appropriate those funds in order to make that happen.
Residents of Washington D.C. are the first in the United States to be required to renew gun registrations, including fingerprinting and background checks, as of Jan. 2.
Anyone in D.C. who has registered a firearm since 1976, must pay a $13 renewal fee and a $35 background check fee at the Metropolitan Police Department headquarters, where they will also be photographed and fingerprinted.
Failing to renew before April, means the registration will expire. Unlicensed gun owners could face a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to a year in jail, WJLA reported.
Gun owners will be required to renew the registration every three years, much like a driver’s license. Advocates of the law say it will help remove guns from the hands of people who become a danger to society. Anyone who committed a felony, becomes a drug addict or is involuntarily committed to a mental hospital could not renew.
The MPD estimates there are at least 30,000 registrations that must be renewed. Unlicensed guns will be confiscated and will never be able to be registered again.
Police are in possession of registrant’s home address so confiscations or arrests could be put in place in April, Washington Times reported.
A federal judge struck down a key element of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) new gun law that would have made it illegal to load a magazine with more than seven bullets.
The law prohibits magazines that carry more than 10 bullets, but also prohibited loading that magazine with more than seven bullets.
District Judge William M. Skretny of Buffalo called the seven-round limit “tenuous, strained and unsupported.”
He said it was arbitrary and not “substantially related” to protecting public safety.
Skretny ruled the rest of the bill is constitutional and will remain in effect.
The law, a response to the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, creates universal background checks on all gun purchases.
"The SAFE Act stops criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from buying a gun by requiring universal background checks on gun purchases, increases penalties for people who use illegal guns, mandates life in prison without parole for anyone who murders a first responder, and imposes the toughest assault weapons ban in the country,” says Gov. Cuomo. “For hunters, sportsmen, and law abiding gun owners, this new law preserves and protects your right to buy, sell, keep or use your guns."
“The majority of the challenged provisions withstand constitutional scrutiny,” Skretny said in his decision.
“Accordingly, the act does not violate the Second Amendment.”
Gun advocates were outraged Saturday after learning that guns are banned at Toby Keith’s Virginia restaurant, I Love This Bar & Grill.
The Woodbridge restaurant explained via its Facebook page that the decision to ban guns has nothing to do with their stance on gun rights.
“While we understand and respect every person’s right to own and bear arms, we at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill, with guidance from the State of Virginia and based on insurance regulations, have adopted a no weapons policy,” the restaurant wrote. “It is our desire to provided [sic] a safe, enjoyable and entertaining experience for our patrons and staff.”
Many gun advocates were not satisfied with that response.
“Because there has been so many shootings in bars in Va since the law was changed to allow people to carry in them?” one man commented.
“Anyone who has an irrational fear of an inanimate object is the prime definition of ‘paranoid.’ My gun has never hurt anyone, and hopefully never will,” wrote another.
The restaurant includes “whiskey girls” in short-shorts and cowboy boots as well as beers served in mason jars. A sign on the front door reads, “No Guns Permitted.”
Gun advocates took to Twitter and Facebook to criticize the ban Saturday. One man wrote on the restaurant’s Facebook page that “anyone leaving your establishment is likely completely defenseless and easy pickin's for a robbery.”
Another wrote on Keith’s page, “no guns in your new restaurant... no Keith for me... I’m gone.”
“I will no longer support you or buy your products,” wrote another. “I have a policy to not support businesses that do not allow me to conceal carry. You have done nothing to protect your patrons and now you endanger them. Where do most mass shootings occur? Gun free zones.”