Permissive gun laws make us less safe


By Dorothy Inman-Johnson
Special to the Outlook

Crazy me. I thought surely after 20 babies in their elementary school at Sandy Hook were massacred by a young man armed to the teeth that the National Rifle Association (NRA), and congressional leaders held hostage by them, would give common sense gun control a try. Not so. Instead, states like Florida, Arizona, Utah, and Texas are making all types of gun purchases easier, and open-carry of concealed weapons a way of life. Their justification is that with everyone armed, we are safe if by chance someone decides to shoot up the place. Based on that premise, the NRA felt if all the patrons in the Pulse Night Club had been armed, the tragedy would not have happened. But could you imagine how much worse the carnage would have been if everyone had been unloading their firearms in a dark night club, with no idea who the gunman was?

It seems insane to put more guns on the streets without requiring universal background checks to weed out persons too dangerous to purchase a gun. However, states with the most liberal gun laws allow residents and non-residents to purchase automatic rapid-fire weapons and machine guns without a license or background check for “self-defense” or “hunting”. What would we possibly be defending against or hunting for with that kind of weaponry? There has been a drastic rise in domestic gun violence by Americans, not terrorists, even right here in Tallahassee, an All-America City and among the 100 most livable cities in the U.S. in 2014. Locally, it is impossible to address the rise in violent crime without a strategy for addressing the availability of guns in the hands of persons too young or too dangerous to purchase and carry them. City Commissioner Curtis Richardson was correct in making that point at last week’s town hall meeting on crime.

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, or the “wild, wild west” law, simply gives a convenient excuse for murders of unarmed people unjustifiably. There was never a need for this law. There were already laws on the books allowing self defense that required proof. And in Florida, the Legislature continues to expand places where concealed weapons are allowed; even proposing open-carry and concealed weapons in grade schools, churches, and on college campuses. Yet, there is no such freedom to bear arms in governors’ mansions, state legislatures, the U.S. Capitol, and the White House where elected leaders work who adopt these unsafe gun laws for the rest of us. They seem to understand common sense gun laws are needed when it is their safety that might be at risk.

Alaska’s only requirement of gun owners is that police officers must be informed that the person is in possession of a firearm upon approach or contact. In Oklahoma, no permit is required to purchase, possess, or carry a firearm of any kind. In North Dakota, no other governmental entity can enact laws related to purchase, sale, ownership, transfer, registration, or licensure of firearms and ammunition more restrictive than state law. Montana allows minors under the age of 14 to carry and use firearms in public when accompanied by a parent or guardian. Idaho, in addition to very liberal gun purchase and open carry laws, prohibits local governments imposing nuisance or noise ordinances against gun ranges to protect adjacent property owners. In Arizona, any person 21 or older may carry a weapon openly or concealed without a license. And Florida is a “shall issue” state that issues concealed carry licenses to residents and non-residents as long as they are 21 years or older. This allows even more guns to move between states.

And, though, 70 percent of Americans, including gun owners and NRA members, support universal background checks, Congress refuses to act. Even after one of their own became a victim of gun violence, Congress’s only response was to tighten security preventing weapons in public buildings in the Capitol complex while doing nothing to ensure the safety of all other Americans.

It, therefore, should be no surprise that America has the highest rate of gun violence of all other industrialized countries. Maybe this is the time to look at what they are doing right, and follow their lead.

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