Putting gun control debate in perspective

I don’t think anyone is more concerned about mass killings with firearms than those of us who are law-abiding gun owners. The killing of 12 victims by James Holmes in a packed movie house in Aurora, Colo., and 26 people by Adam Lanza in a Newtown, Conn., school are terrible acts of violence. Both of these massacres occurred in places where guns were banned. We share the same compassion for the victims and their families, as do all others.

We have a further concern that it will lead to another attempt to take the gun rights away from Americans that are guaranteed by the second amendment to our U.S. Constitution. The second amendment was put in place to allow us to protect our God-given freedom from a tyrannical ruler such as King George II who ruled our country in the 1770s. That amendment states, “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.”

According to my high school history book, by David Saville Muzzy, the armed resistance to the king’s army began on April 18, 1775. British Gen. Gage sent troops to Boston to confiscate colonial gunpowder and other supplies. The British killed eight of the colonies’ minutemen who tried to prevent that. Then, “Farmers, taking down their old flintlocks from the chimney piece, hastened to join the militia surrounding Boston.” In a few days there was a rude and unorganized army of 16,000 volunteer “minutemen” from four states holding British troops besieged in the town of Boston.

Our second constitutional amendment is all about protecting our American freedom. It has nothing to do with our rights to hunt, as some would try to have us believe.

One of my big concerns is the distortion of information by gun control advocates. Either they do not understand what they are talking about or it is an intentional distortion to sway public opinion. They use terms like assault rifle and military style. They are in fact talking about semi-automatic rifles that fire one shot at each pull of the trigger, not full automatic rifles used by our military.

The Remington 550 rifle that I used as a boy some 70 years ago to hunt rabbits in Montana to get fur for the gloves of World War II pilots, operates the same way as the so-called assault rifles. That rifle held 15 to 20 cartridges and fired one shot with each trigger pull. The difference was that it had a wooden rifle stock, rather than a modern plastic pistol grip. The functioning of that rifle and a modern misnamed civilian assault rifle is identical.

The rifles in the hands of most civilians are not full automatics that fire many rounds by a single pull of the trigger like the military uses. Those of us who have served know the difference.

Civilian machine gun buyers have been required to register the guns with the federal government since 1934. Buyers must undergo an FBI check, be fingerprinted and pay a tax before transfer. By law, civilians cannot own any machine guns made after May 19, 1986.

The U.S. adopted an assault weapon and large capacity magazine ban in 1994. It expired in 2004 and has not been renewed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied the issue and found “insufficient evidence to determine effectiveness of any of the firearms laws reviewed for preventing violence.” A 2004 critical review by a National Research Panel found that the assault weapons ban, “did not reveal any clear impacts on gun violence.” Another 2004 report by the U. S. Department of Justice and National Institute of Justice found that if the ban were renewed, its effects on gun violence would be small and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.

Data from the World Health Organization of the United Nations shows that most countries of the world have higher murder rates than we do. Our rate is near the bottom at about 4.2 per 100,000 citizens. South American countries such as Honduras and El Salvador are 91.6 and 69.2 respectively. Many African countries are in the 20s and 30s. Nearly all of the countries with high murder rates have laws that totally ban guns.

The FBI data of U. S. murder victims for 2007-2011 shows that rifles killed 323 in 2011. I found some other 2011 data in this table quit shocking. It shows that clubs, hammers and other blunt objects were used to kill 496 and personal weapons such as hands, fists, feet, etc. killed 728. Knives or cutting instruments claimed 1,694 victims.

The current gun control talk has created panic in the marketplace. I was at Cabela’s and Fleet Farm this past week. There was virtually no ammunition on their shelves in spite of the fact that manufacturers have been producing around the clock for several years. Many guns are not in stock and stores are not taking backorders since they don’t know when any will be available.

Protection of our American freedom is very important to those of us who lived through World War II. A well-armed nation is one of the most important protections that we have for our freedom. As Fleet Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto of the Imperial Japanese Navy reportedly told Japanese leaders during World War II, “You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass.” He understood America. He was a graduate of the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy and was also an alumnus of the U.S. Naval War College and our Harvard University.

As more information becomes available on recent mass shootings, the key to the problem rests with control of people with mental illness who will become killers, not guns. Don Heinzman reported the thinking of local sheriffs in his Jan. 16 editorial in this newspaper. They feel that the database they use for background checks needs to be improved to identify those who do not have the mental capacity to use guns responsibly.

Our sheriffs know and understand the problem. We need to support their recommendations. The database needs to be improved to include better information on mental illness. As the sheriffs suggest, we need a better ways for treating those with mental illness. Adopting the same old gun control laws that did not work before is not the answer!

Chuck Drury is an Anoka resident, retired engineer and former technical director of Federal Cartridge Company.

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