Apparently the supporters of a watered-down gun control bill introduced at the Capitol Wednesday (March 6) with “bipartisan” and National Rifle Association (NRA) support have not seen two recent polls on this hot-button issue. The proposed bill does not include universal background checks as does a stronger bill by Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul.
Both polls (StarTribune and KSTP-TV/Survey USA) found 70 percent or more support for universal background checks on most sales of firearms. Even gun owners, according to the StarTribune survey, support the idea that if you are going to buy a weapon in a private sale or at a gun show or a gun store, you need to be subject to a background check.
Nationally, polls since the Newtown massacre are showing the same thing. Will a background check stop all these mass killings, suicides, domestic homicides or street crimes? No, they won’t stop everything and we know that. But isn’t it worth taking the time to craft common-sense laws that try to ensure that people purchasing guns are law abiding and mentally fit citizens?
What the polls show and what many of us feel is that we have watched this gun violence go on for too long without doing something to stop it. We’ve watched Presidents and people running for President being shot. We’ve watched students in schools being killed. We’ve watched people at a movie theater cut down. We’ve watched a Congresswoman survive a mass shooting in her home state and live to tell about it.
In a January Senate hearing, former Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords said in her halting but heartfelt way: “Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard, but the time is now. You must act. Be bold, be courageous, Americans are counting on you.”
When I heard her testify, I had tears in my eyes. How could any Congress person or state legislator listen to Giffords talk and not be moved to action? How could anyone who listened to Giffords not want to do something to stop the violence?
The people who oppose universal background checks in Minnesota, including gun rights groups, many rural legislators, and the NRA, argue that the such checks would infringe on gun owners’ 2nd Amendment rights. How is that, I wonder? No one is suggesting taking guns away from anyone or preventing a law abiding citizen from purchasing a gun. Every time we have had this debate in recent years, the anti-gun control people argue that any restriction on guns is a violation of the 2nd Amendment and will become a “slippery slope,” leading eventually to government confiscation of weapons. There is absolutely no proof of that.
Let’s get some things straight:
The 2nd Amendment is not absolute. Even Conservative Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia said in a 2008 opinion that there can be reasonable regulation of gun ownership. Scalia said: “Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”
Most Americans recognize the right of citizens to own weapons for hunting or for self-protection and are not advocating confiscation of weapons.
A gun is not a religious object. It is a piece of steel that can be used for sport or for killing.
In many cases, it’s easier to purchase a gun with fewer restrictions than citizens face applying for a driver’s license, a license for a car (for which you need proof of insurance) or for private health insurance for that matter, for which you have to supply extensive medical records.
I’m a strong believer in the 1st Amendment right to free speech. But you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater. The 2nd Amendment shouldn’t enable a gunman to fire his weapon in a crowded theater either.
I hope that our state legislators and our Congress people in Washington, D.C., pay more attention to what Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly are saying, as well as to what the polls are saying, and less attention to the NRA and its supporters. We need to reign in gun violence. Certainly a universal background check is not an undue burden on gun purchasers. Listen to what Kelly, himself a gun owner, said at that same hearing in Washington:
“Our rights are paramount, but our responsibilities are serious and as a nation we are not taking responsibility for the gun rights our founding fathers conferred upon us.”
More from Doug Stone
Once again the Senate has failed to extend unemployment benefits for a meager three months for 1.7 million long-term unemployed Americans, who since the end of December have been without any financial help from the richest country in the world.
It’s been a couple days since I said my tearful goodbyes to 10 international journalists with whom I had the pleasure to meet, befriend and travel with as part of a nine-week program called the World Press Institute, based at the University of St. Thomas.
Sadie came into our lives on a December day in 1995 at an orphanage in Xiamen, China, in the southeastern part of the country across the water from Taiwan. She was six months old and couldn’t hold her head up by herself. This weekend, 17 ½ years later, we dropped her off at Monmouth College, a small liberal arts school in Monmouth, Illinois, where she starts a new phase in her life. How did it happen so fast? All those swim meets, basketball games, softball tournaments, school programs, birthday parties, water ski shows, doctors’ visits, family vacations, grade school, junior high and high school graduations and all the rest are over. Just like that.
In his now famous speech in 2011 during the debate over the marriage amendment, former Republican Rep. John Kriesel said, “When my grand kids look at me, I will be proud to look at them and say you know what, I was on the right side of history.”
And now the Minnesota House, caving to gun rights supporters, joins the U.S. Senate in failing to expand background checks for purchasing guns at gun shows. At least the U.S. Senate voted on a similar measure, which failed by six votes.