Doug Stone

Stone has been a journalist for print and broadcast, a U.S. Senate press secretary, a college relations director, a journalism teacher and a freelance writer and consultant. He's currently a communications and media consultant and a freelance writer. Read more about Doug Stone.

Let's not back off gun control now

Posted by: Doug Stone Updated: March 7, 2013 - 9:36 PM
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.”
 
 

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