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My Turn: Americans will support reasonable gun safety measures

Within hours of the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the chattering class, pundits and the Twitterverse began to buzz with the political maneuverings of those interested in exploiting the horrific events unfolding in Newtown, Conn.

Some immediately began clamoring for a new conversation about gun-control and gun bans. Others reaffirmed a position of no compromise on anything related to the Second Amendment. What followed was the back and forth of intransigent ideological positions that leave no room for even the most obvious forms of compromise.

There is nothing new about politicos standing up for strongly held convictions. And what seems to pass for governing these days is a recitation of talking points that highlight the resolve of some leaders while decrying the potential disasters associated with the other side’s point of view.

If you need an example, just consider the way in which our national economy is careening toward a fiscal cliff.

But there is hope. While most folks see the fiscal cliff in very abstract terms, there is no such lack of clarity when it comes to guns. For example, Americans do not believe guns or gun culture are the root cause for mass shootings like the one in Connecticut.

In a Pew Research Survey following the July cinema shooting in Aurora, Colo., 67 percent of those surveyed believed that mass shootings “are just the isolated acts of troubled individuals.” Fewer than one in four believed such attacks, “reflect broader problems in American society.”

For those who seek to argue that there is a broader gun culture responsible for events like the one that took place in Newtown, the American people disagree by a significant degree.

Furthermore, even after events like the Virginia Tech shootings, the attack on Rep. Gabby Giffords and the mass shootings at Ft. Hood, Texas, Americans remain largely opposed to any broad-based ban on handguns.

In a 2011 Gallup Poll, for example, 73 percent of respondents said they would not support the banning of handguns. Second Amendment advocates should take great satisfaction in these results.

Still, Americans are supportive of some restrictions on gun rights. First, survey results reveal support for banning high-capacity ammunition clips. A 2011 ABC News/Washington Post survey found 57 percent favored a ban on high-capacity clips. Thirty-nine percent opposed such a ban.

A CNN/ORC poll from August 2012 found a very similar breakdown over the banning of clips. Second, the same CNN poll found 96 percent of those who responded supported a background check for all gun purchases. And in the same poll, a majority supported the ban of assault weapons like the AK-47 and prohibiting gun ownership by convicted felons and those deemed mentally ill.

In short, the American people are sending a nuanced message to policy-makers. Most support the Second Amendment and believe that private ownership of firearms should remain largely unrestricted. They believe further that what happened in Newtown is the product of an individual and not a gun culture.

But they also believe there are reasonable restrictions that can and should be implemented to restrict who can own a firearm, what sort of weapon they can own, and the amount of ammunition that can be loaded into the weapon.

The preamble to the Constitution of the United States begins with three simple words, “We the People,” that suggest that our charter document was an expression of the people’s will. When it comes to gun control, the American people have some very modest and reasonable ideas that they will support to make our country safer.

This sort of reasonable approach to developing appropriate policy should inform legislators across the country.

Unfortunately, so long as Washington and state legislatures remain locked in their ideological positions, reasonable measures to control guns have little chance of gaining traction.

(Wayne F. Lesperance Jr. is a professor of political science and the director of the Center for Civic Engagement at New England College in Henniker.)

Legacy Comments13

Yep, yep , yep. Mr. Hirsh, Is that why the NRA today made the absurd suggestion that I alluded to? And the Thompson was marketed for years to the private security, law enforcement and the private citizen. So therefore yes we did severely restrict and curtail the ownership of a "common use" weapon. By the way is that a new buzz phrase that the Gun Nut/Tea Party crowd is going to throw at the rest of us? If so please go down to Newtown and tell everyone that will listen that it was only a "common use" Bushmaster that put the children in the ground. Fail sir? Riiiiigght, look in the mirror.,,,, Thank you for stopping by and playing:)

Poor eathling, you havent a clue, and I am tired of explaining, so until you make the ownership of a car and affirmed right in the BOR, we dont care what you want or believe. If you want to make an impact, you take your money, and you donate it to hire more bounty hunters or police tasked with going after the 1 mil open felony warrants in the US to get those violent felons off the streets. In an ever increasing trend, there are over 1 million outstanding felony warrants for everything from drug dealing to murder, yet the various police, bail bond agencies and such just don’t have the money or resources as they did in previous decades to pursue them all, letting crack dealers like James Scott go free for 6 plus years, free to commit more crimes unless accidently intercepted by a police officer as James Scott was when pulled over for a traffic violation. Many of these people are set free from a short jail term when they have a warrant from another state, due to lack of communication between states and local police levels. One would think the anti gun extremists would use their financial gains to help reduce the number of violent felons on the loose, but no, they would rather waste their finances on persecuting the innocent law abiding gun owner’s with useless legislative BS. Merry X-mas

InanimateObject's "tired"... "explaining": His/her clue is that we should keep letting violent felons and the mentally ill have easy access to even more guns so that we can increase spending on police, bounty hunters, courts, and prisons. I guess "If you want to make an impact" on your Smith & Wesson investment, maybe "you take your money, and you" put it where an InanimateObject's mouth is. Or perhaps InanimateObject could get "a clue" from what sensible NRA members supported in a poll conducted this year by Republican Party strategist Frank Luntz: "- 87 percent of NRA members agree that support for Second Amendment rights goes hand-in-hand with keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. - 74 percent support requiring criminal background checks of anyone purchasing a gun. - 79 percent support requiring gun retailers to perform background checks on all employees. - 75 percent believe concealed carry permits should only be granted to applicants who have not committed any violent misdemeanors, including assault. - 74 percent believe permits should only be granted to applicants who have completed gun safety training. - 71 percent believe people on terror watch lists should be prevented from purchasing guns."

I never could understand the reason people support assault weapons. Is it because they are afraid that any kind of ban is a slippery slope leading to banning all fire arms? It seems to me that a hunting rifle that would be limited to a 6 shot magazine for hunting and a six shot hand gun for home protection would be sufficient. For those who think that small arms, even assault weapons, would protect them from a government they think is oppressive is a dangerous fantasy. All they seem to do is hurt innocent people.

So.... Mr. Hirsch,,,, Do you possess a M1918A2 BAR, or a M1928A1 Thompson? These were once available. But we curtailed their ownership. Maybe it is time to make the AR-15 go the way of the Chicago Typewriter. Not for nothing but the rest of us other than you and Ted Nugent are getting a little fed up with the Militia, Sovereignty and Stand your ground crap. I am even hearing that now we should turn our schools into fortresses with armed guards and teachers just so a few gun nuts can run around with an AK-47 squawking about their rights. When it gets to the point that we have mentally ill people having access to more firepower that a WWI Rifle squad something has gone seriously amok.

"Once available" and "in common use" are not synonymous. The fact is that fully automatic rifles, while they were "available", were only "in common use" by mobsters. Non sequitur, and FAIL.

Fortunately, natural rights can't be eliminated by public opinion, nor by Congress and a president seeking to do so even when backed by public opinion. This construction of our republic was deliberate, precisely to thwart the supression of rights based upon political whims. Polls are meaningless when faced with Supreme Court precedent, and the SCOTUS has spoken on both exercising the individual, natural right to arms for lawful purposes, and the types of arms that enjoy constitutional protection. Arms in common use that possess militia utility are those that enjoy constitutional protection (U.S. v. Miller, 1939 - cited in D.C. v. Heller, 2008)

Sorry about the misspell on you name. Nhdriver

No prob, Driver.

Fortunately, rights cannot be attenuated by majority opinion. AR-15's, AK semi-auto variants, etc. are specifically protected as arms "in common use" that "bear[s] some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia" (U.S. v. Miller, 1939). The decision that created this two-pronged test was cited in the D.C. v. Heller (2008) opinion. Since the "high-capacity clips" are integral to the design of the weapons and intended to maximize their utility, they are protected as well. In other words, the rules regarding what are and are not arms subject to constitutional protection have been set. Public opinion or the legislature and president acting on public opinion cannot change it.

See Haynes vs US 390, 85 1968 & the 5th amendment for the 85% of 22,417 gun control laws that dont apply to felons. Cars are not an affirmed right, hence any comparison as to treating them the same is apples to oranges, but if you insist.... Do I need the governments permission to buy a car? No. Do I need to buy the car from only certain people with licenses to sell cars? No. Can I buy as many cars as I want each week/month/year. Yes Can I buy small cars, big cars, slow cars, fast cars, cars that look dangerous? Yes Can I buy Hummers virtually like the troops use? Yes. Do I have to wait from 5 to 15 days to pick up my car. No If I traded in one car for a newer model do I still have to wait five to ten days to pick the new one up. No Can I modify my car to allow more fuel, more performance, or better cornering. Yes Would I have to turn over to the government without compensation some models of automobiles that might be banned years after I buy them. No Do I need a license to buy a car? No (in most states) Can I buy a car at age 16? Yes. Are driving lessons mandated in most high schools? Yes Can I buy a car from anyone in any state? Yes. Can I sell my car to anyone in any state? Yes Can convicted felons buy, own or drive a car. Yes In some places (e.g. NYC or New Jersey) would I first need a permit to buy from the police department which sometimes takes up to 2 years to obtain. No In some cities (e.g. Washington D.C.) would I have to store your car partially disassembled. No Do I need to register a car that I own? No (as long as I keep it on my own property) Do I need a background check or waiting period to buy a car? No Is my car held responsible if I misuse it? No Would failure to register my car be a federal felony (prevents me from owning another one). No Do I need to "safe store" my car even though many are stolen and used for criminal purposes? No Will I lose my driver's license if I violate the law with my car? Most likely not Can I legally drive my car into any state/city in the nation with every jurisdiction honoring my registration/license? Yes Shall I go on? Or do you really, really want to treat guns like cars?

InanimateObject says "do you really, really want to treat guns like cars?" Yes, as with vehicles, I do want guns registered and the owner (and all others who use the guns) to pass a safety tests and be licensed. There were no cars when the Constitution was written. There were no Bushmasters, AR-15's, or atomic bombs then either. About a 26% minority of our population are owners of guns. A much smaller minority of our population are gun owners who produce this mayhem: According to PolitiFact, "281,757 people in this country died of gunshot wounds between 2001 and 2011. Over that same period, the nation endured 48 fatal school shootings. There have been seven more this year." I have guns. Why would responsible gun owners be against requiring a background check, a gun owner mandatory safety and security course, and licensing in order to help prevent mentally ill people from acquiring guns and going on senseless killing rampages? In my book senseless killing rampages are not collateral damage in protecting the 2nd Amendment remedies scheme of an even smaller minority of John Bircher types who, in my opinion, are duped by the big money freedom speech hype of a handful of billionaires hell-bent on their obvious goal of running up America's tax cut/loophole debt for their own personal gain of ultimate power and wealth. Licenses, registrations, and safety tests are even required to operate power boats that don't kill anywhere near 30,000 people each year.

The motor vehicle death count is about the same as the gun death count, 30,000+/year each. Motor vehicles are registered and their operators are liscenced. The same should apply to all guns and their operators after passing the tests and background checks.

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