The efficacy of a ban on assault weapons
I am a Second Amendment lawyer and a firearms instructor. My views respecting gun control have not changed since the Connecticut massacre. That is not to say, however, that I disfavor gun control. I continue to believe that we can do more, but this hype about assault rifles is purely political as long as the tens of millions of pre-ban rifles and high-capacity magazines are in circulation -- which they would continue to be if there were a ban, so let's move on to something that actually would work.
About 30,000 people die annually from gun shots; most of them (56 percent) are suicides. Many are accidents, and relatively few are from the kind of conduct we just witnessed in Connecticut or involve the use of the so-called assault rifle.
Mostly we find young men, often gang members or drug dealers, shooting each other and innocent people who get caught in their crossfire.
The solution? Make first-time possession of a firearm in public, without a permit to carry, a felony. Currently in Minnesota, it is a gross misdemeanor.
A person convicted of such a felony cannot own any kind of gun under federal law, not even at home. If he or she were reasonably suspected of having a gun, a search warrant could be had, and whatever time was held over their heads could be executed. This actually would take a considerable amount of guns off the street, but it would not stop a psychopath from carrying out mayhem as we saw in Connecticut anymore than an assault-rifle ban would.
BRIAN TODER, RUSH CITY, MINN.
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One should remember that almost everyone refrains from shooting up a school and killing children because it is wrong, not because it is illegal ("At 'tipping point,' ban assault weapons," editorial, Dec. 18). The number of guns in their possession, and their rate of fire, is immaterial to their decision.
The Star Tribune opines that "civilians are not allowed to possess any other type of weapon or explosive device that can produce mass destruction" -- a most misguided thought, as a can of gas, a liquid propane tank or a foot on the accelerator of even the most modest motor car could slay scores within seconds.
As we speak, it is possible that a small minority of us are plotting how to end their lives while taking as many others as possible with them, and the small inconvenience of gun laws will make no more difference to them than drug laws do to those who use marijuana or cocaine.
Bob Costas recently stated that an armed citizen would cause a situation of mass shooting to worsen. If he would prefer to beg for his life rather than stopping the slaughter, what does that say about him, or about the society that would deny an option for defense to the law-abiding?
ROYCE DAHL, MINNETONKA
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Not every criminal is a gun owner, but every gun owner is a potential criminal. We should identify the criminals and help the mentally ill -- but first, take away the assault weapons.
The shooter in Connecticut was unable to purchase guns on his own, so he stole them from his mother and then shot her in the face for her trouble. Therapists will eventually explain why this miserable specimen of humanity did what he did, but the fact remains that it would have been far more difficult for him to carry out this carnage without access to those efficient killing machines.
BENJAMIN CHERRYHOMES, HASTINGS
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If the litmus test for legitimate gun control is whether or not it would have prevented the carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary, the debate is doomed and nothing will change. But I can think of no better tribute to those who lost their lives than to use this watershed event to (finally) pass reasonable, rationale gun laws in this country. I am a gun owner and hunter, but I am ready for a change.
SUSAN BARRETT, SOUTH ST. PAUL
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RESPONSE TO TRAGEDY
Stirring event was uniquely American
Like most of us, I am proud to be an American, and often events develop that bring this pride front and center, but last Sunday's prayer vigil in Newtown was an extraordinary example, for a number of reasons.
First, I was moved by the diversity of faiths, sharing prayers, in their traditions, truly representing the diversity of our country. Second, I was part of an intimate conversation with our country's leader, President Obama. Fortunately, in our darkest moments -- from space shuttle explosions to national attacks to mass shootings -- our presidents have been able to talk to us in just this way.
I tried to examine why these to things touched me so much this time. Was it because there were children involved? Was it because of the magnitude of the carnage? Or was it something else?
I think it was because as we see so many other countries struggling with dissent, revolts, emerging governing structures, equality and diversity, I can't imagine any other country being able to freely and openly have such an event in the time of a national tragedy. Yes, on Sunday I was prouder than ever to be an American. This in itself is reason for me to have hope that we will continue to be able to solve our problems and be a beacon of hope in this world.
GREG PIZZOLATO, MINNEAPOLIS