By a margin 57 percent to 43 percent, respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll favor stricter gun-control laws. At the same time, more than half of readers, 54 percent, say better diagnosis and treatment of those with mental illness would do more than stricter gun-control laws to prevent mass shootings.
Last month’s mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., left a dozen people dead and 58 wounded. Like other shootings, such as the January 2011 spree in Arizona that killed six people and wounded 14, including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, this attack reignited the national debate over gun control.
Advocates including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg argue that stricter controls are needed to help prevent mass killings. Opponents such as the National Rifle Association contend that gun ownership and the right to carry concealed weapons deter violent crimes.
In two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, a 5-4 majority held that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own a gun for personal use and self-defense. District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) addressed federal laws; in McDonald v. Chicago (2010), the majority said the individual right applied equally to state laws. However, both decisions suggested that some firearm restrictions are constitutional.
Roughly 930 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Aug. 6 and 7.
Do you favor or oppose stricter gun-control laws?
In your view, which of the following would do more to help prevent mass shootings?
Better diagnosis and treatment of mental illness: 54%
Stricter gun-control laws: 46%
There is no SANE reason for the easy availability of assault weapons, large-capacity magazines and armor-piercing ammunition. None. Do note: I have had a "carry" pistol permit since I was 21.
My friend is an EMT and was a first responder to the Colorado shooting scene. He is also a licensed federal firearms dealer. Colorado has less-restrictive gun laws than New York. Given that, I asked him how it could be possible that no licensed gun owner fired back at that madman. He told me that signs posted outside that theater prohibit concealed carry of firearms into the facility. So all law-abiding gun owners were disarmed before entry! Same old story, the bad guys don’t abide by the law and never will, no matter how many new ones you write. When the police are minutes away and you have seconds to react, I want to have my gun with me!
—George Thomas, Ogden
For the same reason we are trying to keep nuclear weapons out of Iran’s arsenal, we should keep semi-automatic weapons out of individuals’ hands. An argument can be made for shotguns and rifles for hunting and handguns for protection. The only purpose of a semi-automatic weapon is to kill numerous people as quickly as possible. What role would a semi-automatic weapon have for hunting or self-defense? Yes, mentally ill people kill other people, but the types of weapons they have access to will determine how many people they are able to kill. What if they only had access to knives, or what if they had access to rocket launchers? Let’s use some common sense.
—Brad VanAuken, president, BrandForward Inc.
Every time another sociopath goes on a killing spree, the calls go out for stricter gun control. The gun controllers, however, never quite get around to explaining how all the previous laws they have enacted limiting law-abiding citizens’ ability to protect themselves have only increased the number of these senseless tragedies. Walter F. Mondale, 42nd vice president and 1984 Democratic presidential candidate, said: “Gun bans don’t disarm criminals, gun bans attract them.”
As a British expat of 16 years, I continue to be appalled at the violence and deaths in this country through guns. The NRA and advocates continue to talk about needing guns for defense, but really, defense from whom—other Americans? Isn’t that therefore unpatriotic? There are definitely double standards here, for the NRA forced the Bush government to pass laws so that gun makers cannot be sued for a death by a gun, yet everyone was happy to sue cigarette makers for deaths by cigarette. The same arguments apply: It’s not the “weapon,” it’s the person holding the weapon/cigarette. Honestly, I think the rest of the world is still waiting for the U.S.A. to come out of the John Wayne and Al Capone eras, while the all-powerful NRA has its own agenda. Guns simply do not belong in civilized society.
—Richard Stevenson, CobbleSoft International
Illegal guns would still be available just like drugs and other “controlled” substances. If someone is willing to use a gun to kill someone or commit another crime, they certainly will not be afraid to break the law to obtain a gun.
Really ..., those are the two things you came up with for preventing mass shootings? How about let regular people have easier access to guns so they can take out these loons before they rack up such scary death tolls.
—Devin Michaels, Chili
Semiautomatics and large clips make for mass shootings that are almost impossible to defend against. These should be outlawed immediately! This can be done without disturbing the rights of individuals to have and carry pistols and long guns for personal protection and hunting. Just look at the numbers of gun deaths in the U.S. versus all other developed nations to see how deadly our current guns laws make our nation. We need to collectively reconsider the arguments of individual rights in light of the harm done to the thousands of innocent victims shot each year.
In the big picture, to form a one-world government, the breakdown of the United States has to happen, and it slowly is. The next step is to take away guns rights of the American people. If this happens, we’re in trouble.
More gun laws won’t help because criminals don’t abide by laws. I think the focus should be on the media outlets such as movies, cable TV, radio, music and print media which glorify and/or flood the airwaves with extreme violence, drug use and pornography. This desensitizes the general culture to be more accepting of these depravities. Although 99 percent of us can separate fantasy from reality, 1 percent of the population cannot. These “one percenters” perceive this extreme violence as reality. One percent of a population of 310 million people is 3.1 million individuals. That’s a big pool of potential cold-blooded killers. Our outrage should not only be at the actual perpetrators but also the media outlets that produce this desensitizing garbage they call art.
—John Rynne, president, Rynne, Murphy & Associates Inc.
The right to keep and bear arms is fundamental in the Second Amendment. Another term for Obama and he’ll probably try to end it with an executive order like he does for anything else he can’t get through Congress or the courts won’t allow.
—Bob Worden, Penn Yan
Any data I have ever read indicates that tighter gun control is not effective to achieve the goals that society seems to want. Although I do not understand the need for an assault weapon, standard guns can do just as much killing in the wrong hands, just not as efficiently. It also appears that better knowledge of the use and care of weapons tends to reduce the incidence of killings. Fifty years ago, gun control was almost unheard of and nut jobs were locked up. As a society, we decided that nut jobs have rights and will willingly abide by the rules if we allow them to control their medication and keep their identities secret so as not to offend them. We can tighten gun laws and we can do a better job of treating the mentally ill. But if we choose to ignore the criminally oriented loonies, we will always have this type of problem. Keep in mind that some of the most tragic events have happened where there is tight gun control because those who profit from the sale of illegal weapons would be shot if they used them where they bought them. Criminals will always get the weapons they want.
Is there another way to frame this? I'm not a gun owner, though I know a number of responsible ones. I wonder if there is another way to reduce gun violence and not create a divisive debate.
— Brian Kane
I am an avid outdoorsman and own many guns. I believe in guns for good clean sporting activities. I do not belong to the NRA because they do not want to draw any distinction between healthy gun ownership vs. owning any type of weapon. I believe that owning or possessing automatic weapons should be illegal for anyone except the military and police. The same goes for guns with non-standard ammo clips. I also support complete background checks before you can walk out of a gun shop with any gun. New York State does a pretty good job with their laws in that regards but since all states don't have the same laws then we need a federal law that will force all states to do like New York State. Lastly, we need to take away plea-bargaining for people committing crimes with any weapon and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. And the punishment for committing crimes with a weapon should be much tougher then they are now.
Gun-control laws include the number of bullets in weapon magazines and the capability of automatic guns. Driver’s license classes and testing and alcohol and substance use-type regulations should also exist. Mental and social illness and treatment should also be included.
—Mike Bleeg, Strategic Results
This question is difficult. I believe in the 2nd Amendment rights. I believe that a person has a right to protect their family, business and home from invasion by individuals (criminals) who have no respect for a human life, personal belongings or for whatever reason they may believe they are "entitled." Honest people will always do things the way the law is outlined. Conversely, criminals will always attain weapons through whatever means to attain their end goal. Is it stricter gun control by means of deeper background checks and investigation prior to issuance that fine, for CCW it now takes about six to eight months to attain. Potentially background checks on all firearms purchased would aid but my belief and as a member of the NRA under no circumstance should our 2nd Amendment right be undermined as then only criminals will have guns.
How disappointing that our politicians kowtow to the NRA. Guns kill. If truth were really known, I believe we would know fewer people's lives are saved by those (non-law enforcement people) possessing guns than are lost by perpetrators possessing guns.
—D. Arthur, Webster
Your surveys can be very skewed based on only two answers, thus not receiving valid responses. This is a systematic problem and both of above contribute. However, I wonder how many more killings/injury of innocent people it will take before the laws change. It goes to show how much political power the NRA and other politicians have in preventing proactive action. Our country is not run by Congress that cares about the people; it runs on money and who has it and the political power that goes with them.
We need to renew the assault weapons ban and ban extended bullet clips. There is no need for civilians for sport or play to have a rifle that can fire off 30 rounds in 10 seconds with quick flicks of the trigger. I do not believe our founding fathers who wrote the 2nd Amendment foresaw weapons like this.
Isn't it a bit odd that it's easier to buy a gun and ammunition than to drive a car?
The Second Amendment gave citizens the right to bear arms in order to protect themselves. At some point, as a society, we are either going to have to decide to degrade the Bill of Rights or we are going to have decide to profile those buying guns, or we are going to have to accept that as the number of guns grow and cable news networks give murderers and nut cases instant attention and an instant classroom, there are to be tragedies. I am not for degrading the Bill of Rights. Once that starts, why stop at the Second Amendment? There are nine more.
While not a hunter myself, two of our sons are avid and responsible hunters, and I totally support them and others like them. However, there is no reason on earth why anybody except a wartime soldier (sadly) has any need for an assault weapon, large or rapid fire magazines. Responsible hunters would never use these; their only purpose is to kill other human beings. Tell the NRA that this is not the camel’s nose under the tent, but just plain common sense.
—Alan Ziegler, Rochester Area Business Ethics Foundation
Take a look at Chicago. They have the strictest gun laws and the highest murder rate.
Every mass casualty shooting incident since records started being kept in the 1950s occurred in a "gun free zone." When are people going to understand that more laws are not the solution? The last thing we need are more laws and more bureaucrats to enforce them when they are not effective at addressing the underlying problem of mental illness and liberal judges who release offenders rather than taking them off the streets.
I do not own a gun because I choose not to. I do not spend a lot of time on the gun control debate because I am not passionate about it. I will say, though, that gun control will not keep guns out of the hands of criminals and insane people who use them with ill intent. I will also say that the reason for the constitutional right to bear arms was in the days the Constitution was written, there was a passionate distrust of the federal government. So the writers were very specific about limiting the authority of the government. The right to bear arms would then put the government on notice that their subjects are armed and could start an armed revolt if one was necessary. That may sound farfetched today; but one never knows. What would have happened if Richard Nixon pursued his dream of being emperor? What would happen if Barack Obama pursues his ambition of being king?
—Mike Kaser, Penfield
The shooters in Arizona and Colorado both have mental illness problems. One was under doctor care, and one not. With doctors, you have the patient confidentiality and would they be breaking that by posting every patient to a database used for gun ownership permit? Probably not allowed. You cannot force someone older than 18, last I knew, to see a doctor. I only see much stricter gun and ammunition control as the way to go. Too bad if the NRA's feeling are hurt; have them talk to the families of the Arizona and Colorado shootings victims about why there shouldn't be stricter gun control. Mental illness is not the only reason for stronger gun and ammunition control—there is a black market for anything you want to buy. There is drug-related crime, gang-related crime; the list goes on. Getting a better grip on guns and ammunition will help all the way around. Those wanting to range/target shoot and be legal gun enthusiasts will still be able to do that.
Some states have some pretty laxed gun control rules. Stricter rules may curb some intentions, but not very many. It is very difficult to impose stricter rules. Unfortunatly, stricter gun control rules will not eliminate many of the shootings we have experienced in the past few years.
—Marv Wolk, CEO and president, M L Wolk Enterprises
I believe a national gun control law should be in force, eliminating those states where guns are obtainable without proper cautions. And we must enforce the gun laws. It's too easy getting a gun in one state and using it in any other state to do harm. Better diagnose and treat the mentally ill; keep guns out of their hands.
By my reckoning, if you have a criminal record you are already barred from owning a gun. But what about people who are mentally unstable? Why can't we create some kind of national instant-check system that would actually work and, hopefully, prevent someone like the Colorado shooter from ever getting hold of a gun? If a health care provider learns of child abuse or domestic violence, they are required by law to tell law enforcement. It's trickier with many kinds of mental illness, but there could be better oversight. Also, a federal system would bypass the hopscotch nature of the state systems. What we don't need are additional "feel-good" laws that do nothing to stop the carnage and only infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens.
—Bob Fischl, Honeoye Falls
Sadly, I don't believe total prediction and/or prevention of these types of mass killings is possible. Certainly stricter gun control laws will not help. Criminals with the mindset to kill another human are not likely to adhere to gun control laws.
Firearms, cars, HIV, rat poison from the hardware store, insecticide from the garden center, antifreeze from the autoparts store and gasoline from the local gas station can all be a weapon of mass killing. Look at DWIs, and you will see the stricter laws do little to stop criminals and people with an addiction. I would like to see gun safety classes conducted by the NRA in middle and high schools. It has to be more effective than the sex education programs and its impact on STDs and teen pregnancy.
—Mark Preston, Operations and Engineering
Stricter gun control is akin to not leaving keys in your car ignition switch. Better diagnosis and treatment of mental illness is a very appropriate long-term goal.
Since you asked about gun control, I chose stricter laws. The diagnosing and treatment of mental health issues is a separate issue with its own complexity, which in fairness should not have been a choice on your survey. The ease at which anyone, with any motive can acquire weapons and ammunition is far too great and perpetuates a constant healthcare crisis in our country. Whether the shooting is accidental, planned, massive or small, the pervasiveness of guns places us all at risk and the continued societal costs are very heavy to bear.
—Sue O'Brien, Ph.D.
Assault weapons with 10 to 100 rounds are a big part of the problem, but not the only issue. Mental illness is a crap shoot, there is no way we would ever know who all the crazies are. Logic says you limit the availability of massive killing instruments (i.e. automatic assault weapons) to the military and no one else. Obviously gun manufacturers and the NRA would disagree.
The Constitution says that the carrying of guns is related to providing a militia. These requirements are intimately interwoven, but have been ignored nationwide. Thus, no gun-carrying without being in a militia! To provide uniformity of militias throughout the country, basic rules must be set up by Congress, with the control of the militias by the states. Only members of the militias, with the proper gun-training, would be allowed, according to the Constitution, to carry arms. This would allow training of all militia members in gun-techniques, proper usage and with all type of arms. The military already does not allow their members to take home heavy armament and machine guns at any time, but these must be kept under military control. These rules could be applied to the militias. The individual militia member would own his/her guns and be allowed to use them, and thus retain their ownership. Under these, the Constitution would finally be followed as written. Carrying arms without membership in a militia is already unconstitutional!
—Ingo H. Leubner
Stricter gun control laws would fall into two categories. First, add laws. Some weapons such as M-16's should be owned only by the services or law enforcement. No one else has a need for such a weapon. Also there should be a law making people who have a legitimate need to own a gun be responsible for the weapon. Statements such as, “it was stolen" or "it was taken without my permission" should not remove any of the blame for a weapon's criminal use from the owner. If a person wants to own a weapon, s/he should be responsible for it until s/he sells it or gives it away. That would include going to prison if the weapon is used in a crime. Second, the existing laws should be modified to make them easier to enforce. Background checks should be more thorough.
—Donald A. Dinero, TWI Learning Partnership
It's unfortunate and frustrating when an issue like gun control becomes so politicized that compromise is impossible. We'd all be better off with reasonable restrictions on the types of weapons sold or the qualifications for purchase that wouldn't harm or inconvenience legitimate gun owners but might make us all safer. Do sportsmen and homeowners really need assault rifles? Imagine the carnage in Aurora if the shooter's main weapon hadn't fortuitously jammed.
—John Messenger, Pittsford
This argument has been like the 900-pound gorilla in the room with no side willing to compromise. Sounds like Congress, doesn't it? Anyway, this is enough of nutcakes going on rampages to kill innocent people. Yes I know all about our Constitutional rights and how every do-gooder and civil rights lawyer is just waiting to jump in. But let’s take a practical approach. When our founders said we had the right to bear arms, we had arms that could kill only one person at a time. We recognized the right to be able to hunt, and protect ourselves with appropriate weaponry of the time and place. Notice no one armed themselves with a cannon. Now we are in a place where we wish to preserve the same rights but weaponry has outpaced the reasonableness to own such destructive weapons. The American should be capable of arming themselves with reasonable weaponry, both hand guns and long arms. Notice that it only takes one bullet to kill or wound a person, and not 16. As I see it we need to allow people to bear hunting weaponry and non-automatic hand weaponry. We should not allow anyone to hold any type of active military weaponry or its ammunition. If you wish to have these weapons they must be permanently “safed” or deactivated. We also need to increase background checks of people prior to owning any weaponry including, perhaps, mental testing. Any person wishing to own a weapon must attend an effective training program and be registered with the government. Now for the real problem. How do you get the weapons out of the hands of those who already own them. They are not willingly going to hand them in. So you may have to track them down and deactivate the noncomplying guns, or you may make it illegal to sell them ammunition. If they still want to keep them they could be sold blank ammunition or rounds with loads that could not hurt anyone. This would be for the non-hunting weapons. Anyway this is a very difficult topic which has low probability of being resolved due to the different interests who are widely apart.
In many cases, enforcing the laws we already have and better access to mental health care would go a long way to reduce this problem. Assault rifles that can bring down a commercial jet from a mile-and-a-half away? Are we crazy? In spite of the right to bear arms for a standing militia, I do not recall in the history books where private citizens had their own war ships or private property filled with dozens of canon and unlimited cannonballs and barrels of gunpowder. Some statistics are relevant, such as we have more than 30,000 gun deaths a year, England is second with around 800.We have a little over 90 guns per 100 people, Yemen is second with 50 guns per hundred. In the organized crime war between drug cartels in Mexico, where more than 50,000 have died in the past few years, 68,000 guns from the U.S have been confiscated, which is 98 percent of all guns taken, because it is easier to smuggle them from the U.S than buy them in Mexico. The mass killer who shot Congresswoman Giffords and the killer at Virginia Tech both had documented mental illness. Convicted felons and the mentally ill have no problem buying many deadly weapons and hundreds of rounds of the most deadly ammunition on line or at gun shows, thanks to the efforts of the NRA. Their old slogan, “That if you outlaw guns only outlaws will have guns” has been turned on its head. Now the NRA's efforts make sure that outlaws and the insane can get the deadliest of weapons and ammo. As troubling as these mass murder incidents are, it should also be troubling that the day after Aurora, 22 people were shot in Chicago, three fatally. Shame on the NRA, and shame on us.
—Jim Bertolone, Rochester AFL-CIO
Chicago, which has very strict gun control laws, has a 38 percent increase in murders in 2012; a total of 259 through mid July. Gun control does not get the illegal guns off the street.
The choices presented are rather limiting. Along the lines of: "When did you stop beating your wife, Senator?" If the goal is to make life a riskless venture, we are hopelessly doomed to failure. There is both evil and mental sickness in this world. The best psychiatric care in the world will only solve the latter problem. Why is it these massacres only happen in "gun-free" zones?
I don't think all guns should be banned. Why does a hunter or anyone else need an assault rifle, except to kill people? I would favor more restriction there and in mail-order ammunition sales.
When I was a kid, many years ago, a fist was the common weapon of an angry or disturbed person. If a stick or a bat was handy, that might be the weapon of choice. Knives and clubs and swords have always been around, but they've been mostly one-on-one instruments. Many homes had a gun in the house, but I always had the sense that the owners had them under control. Today, after 20 years in the Navy and a lifetime in public and occupational safety, I am stunned that high-powered weapons of war such as the AK-47 are available to nearly anyone at the nearest sporting goods retailer as a right of citizenship. This is nuts!
—Chip Dawson, Dawson Associates
We need to keep focus on the people committing these horrific acts, and not the tools they use. Laws are already in place to prevent these crimes from happening and need to be enforced. What needs to happen is closer monitoring of those who have serious mental illnesses such as Schizophrenia or mandatory reporting laws in the event someone indicates to a therapist they have an axe to grind. As for gun control, remember that 9/11 was carried out using ordinary box cutters, and Oklahoma City was carried out with fertilizer and diesel fuel. A little creativeness and determination makes mass murder possible without firing a single bullet.
While I am not in favor of amending our Constitutional rights to bear arms, I am in favor of —limiting the types of weapons that one might bear. Automatic weapons, with rapid firing of many bullets, do not seem to be in the scope or spirit of the Constitution (when written, it was understood to limit the types of weapons that one might carry).
We either need to arm everyone like in the Wild West that we're becoming or take them away from everyone but law enforcement. I'm sick of hearing about "freedom to bear arms." We're not fighting the British any longer, folks. We're fighting each other and causing the death of our freedom.
—David Gardner, AIA Gardner PLUS Architects, PLLC
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