By Zeke Corder
So often in the newspapers and on the various social media sites on the internet we see the headlines and articles that tell us that gun owners are heartless individuals with no compassion for children and adults that are being killed with guns.
Nothing could be further from the truth. What these headlines really tell us is that these people are convinced that taking guns away from honest people will somehow prevent deaths by unlawful people. If we use the same logic, we might assume that outlawing liquor would prevent deaths caused by drunk drivers.
America has tried that route with alcohol. Did it prevent deaths perpetrated by those consuming alcohol? Actually, no, it caused an entire illegal industry to develop that threatened many more lives than the drinking did.
Guns in the hands of honest, law-abiding citizens can prevent many deaths. The anti-gun crowd will tell us that accidents, suicides, and misuse of firearms causes many deaths among gun owners. I cannot argue that. Many deaths are caused by these uses. However, consider the fact that the majority, the vast majority, of gun owners are careful, responsible people. Deaths from accidental shootings are comparable to the number of deaths from accidentally slipping in the bathtub and hitting your head. Anyone contemplating suicide can find a method to kill themselves with or without firearms. Misuse of firearms most often comes with lack of familiarity with firearms.
I, personally, have no argument with certain aspects of the anti-gun people’s suggestions. They ask for universal background checks. They ask for more oversight for those who wish to purchase a firearm. They ask for more responsible care of firearms in the home. In general, I don’t disagree.
The “universal” background check is a very slippery slope. In essence, what this entails is more cost to the gun purchaser, and a boon for licensed dealers, at all levels. The anti-gun crowd asks that every purchase, including individual sales or gifts be subject to the NICS system of background verification. This sounds reasonable, on the surface. Actually, what this means is that all transactions be subject to NICS verification. An individual cannot gain access the NICS. Only licensed gun sellers can register with and use NICS.
Therefore, under this system, when grandpa wants to hand his firearms down to the grandchildren he can only do so through a licensed dealer. Licensed dealers do not provide this service for free. There is a minimum charge for each, individual transaction. Effectively, every firearm exchange would require a $50 or more payment to the licensed dealer. In addition, depending on the status of NICS and the how busy the dealer is, such transactions might require several days wait.
In order to decrease the NICS check time, every gun owner with a Concealed Weapons Permit has completed extensive background checks and training. Those with the Idaho, Enhanced Concealed Weapons Permit have undergone even further checks and training. Therefore, showing a CWP makes a NICS check redundant and the check is waived.
In my opinion, I would rather pay for a single background/fingerprint check to prove that I have firearm-use training, and be able to carry a license that authorizes gun purchases. To me, that seems a reasonable alternative, as long as the number of firearms and ammunition is not limited. I would prefer to see a person required to undergo gun-safety training and a one-time, annual license fee than to have to pay a fee to a licensed gun dealer for each and every purchase.
An individual seller or someone bequeathing guns could only do so if the recipient could produce a firearm license, thereby assuring that he or she had completed safety training and background checks.
There is also much flap about types of weapons and whether they are automatic or not. Automatic weapons ownership in the U.S. is very highly regulated by the Firearms Act of 1934 (a consequence of the alcohol restrictions already mentioned.) Under the act, an onerous process and substantial fees are necessary to obtain permission from the government to own an automatic weapon. Automatic weapons are essentially unavailable to the average citizen.
Semi-automatic weapons, such as an “auto” pistol, certain shotguns, and civilian-restricted semi-auto rifles have been in use since at least the beginning of the 20th Century. The Remington Model 7 (of 1907) and the Mauser-Broomhandled Pistol have been used by hunters and other gun users for over 100 years. They have served as icons upon which many subsequent weapons have been designed. Many of those weapons have been used by military groups throughout modern history, but as is always the case, as more modern designs are developed, those obsolete designs become popular in the civilian market. (For instance, the muzzle-loading, so-called Kentucky rifle that was instrumental in helping many U.S. troops during the Revolutionary War became extremely popular as a hunting weapon in 18th Century America. Such has been the case with virtually every military weapon in history.)
Whether those weapons are the old, wooden-stocked guns of the early 1900s or built with modern, space-age materials, they function the same way. Certainly, people have hunted with semi-auto guns their entire lives. They are quite functional for hunting. However, gun ownership is not about hunting. Many own firearms simply for the joy of shooting targets. Even in the Treasure Valley, it is now possible to sign up for time on a tactical range similar to those used by military and law enforcement trainees. Some would simply feel more comfortable with a gun in their home. In addition, sporting events with modern weapons is extremely popular and a sport people of all ages can participate in.
One of the greatest tragedies that can occur in the home is fire. Thus, beginning in the first grade, or earlier, we have firefighters conducting basic fire-safety classes for children. The same should be provided for firearm safety. The NRA has a program called “Eddie Eagle” that is very simply, much like fire-safety training for youngsters. Such things are don’t touch, notify an adult, and understanding of the dangers of guns is something every child has a right to learn.
Prohibition of firearm ownership, criminalizing firearms, and enforcing such laws opens an entire new set of difficulties. The result is likely to be much the same as the prohibition of alcohol was in the 1930s. An impetus for new crimes and an increase in deaths associated, directly with the firearm restrictions.
Knowing that many, many homes in the Treasure Valley potentially have firearms available is certainly a factor in preventing burglaries and muggings in this area. I believe there are wonderful compromises available to decrease deaths from firearms. For instance, if I worked in the Administration building at BSU, I know I would feel much more comfortable knowing there is at least one or two retired law enforcement officers or enhanced concealed weapons owners within the building to limit the damage that might be caused by a deranged individual walking in off the street, unrestricted, to wreak havoc inside the building.
Rather than demanding the elimination of all guns, as in Chicago, where firearms related deaths are outrageous, even though individuals cannot own a weapon, or conversely, demanding that any and every citizen be allowed to own a gun without any restriction, we must work toward a compromise that might actually produce a positive outcome. Simply standing on a soapbox and demanding an ultimatum without compromise does nothing to settle the issue or decrease the hatred, nor is it likely to prevent deaths.