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Harris Sherline: Colorado Shootings Will Bring New Demands for Gun Control

Guns shouldn't be abolished, but having some restrictions in place makes sense

Here we go again. The recent shootings in Aurora, Colo., will undoubtedly launch a new drive by gun control advocates to restrict or eliminate the right of Americans to own guns.

The dispute between those who favor gun controls and those who don’t is predicated on their respective interpretations of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and specifically on the term “a well-regulated militia.”

The American Civil Liberties Union argues, “We believe that the constitutional right to bear arms is primarily a collective one, intended mainly to protect the right of the states to maintain militias to assure their own freedom and security against the central government,” while the other side believes that the use of the word “militia” refers to the citizens of the United States in general.

Advocates of “gun control” believe that removing all guns from individual citizens will prevent crime. But the evidence doesn’t support this.

In “Britain’s Gun-Control Folly,” Scott McPherson commented, “Those opposed to arming more officers present a strange counterargument ... (that) it would just lead to more gun crime ... (because) petty criminals might arm themselves in response.”

However, crime skyrocketed after the United Kingdom’s leftist government banned virtually all private firearms ownership and all handgun ownership in 1997 amid great fanfare about “making Britain safer.” So, guns were outlawed to fight crime, and the rationale was that not even the police should have guns lest the increasingly emboldened criminal element get upset about it.

According to historian Joyce Lee Malcolm, author of Gun Control in England: The Tarnished Gold Standard, Journal on Firearms & Public Policy, 2004, “(Between 1997 and 2003) crimes with (banned firearms) ... more than doubled ... . Clearly, since the ban, criminals have not found it difficult to get guns and the balance has not shifted in the interest of public safety ... . In the four years from 1997 to 2001 the rate of violent crime more than doubled. The UK murder rate for 2002 was the highest for a century.”

If you think about it, the term “gun control” is really code for abolishing all guns. Since there are already more than 20,000 gun control laws on the books in America — at the federal, state and local levels — if controlling the ownership, sale and use of guns by the general population is really the objective, simply enforcing the existing laws should accomplish that.

The primary difference between the two opposing groups is rooted in their respective perceptions of human nature. Those who want to “control” guns (read abolish) believe that this will keep them out of the hands of criminals, thus preventing or significantly reducing crime.

Unfortunately, that’s a naive and utopian view of human nature.

A prime example of the consequences of such thinking is the Virginia Tech tragedy that occurred in April 2007, in which more than 30 people were killed on the school’s campus. The fact that Virginia Tech’s 2,600-acre campus was a “gun-free zone” merely made it easier for the killer to attack people without fear of resistance or reprisal.

Another case of a “gun-free zone” failing to keep anyone safe on a college campus took place at Northern Illinois University in February 2008, where a lone shooter was responsible for the deaths of seven people, including his own.

In a January 2004 article, Susan Jones, the CNSNews.com morning editor, reported that “Chicago finished off the year with more murders than New York or Los Angeles,” noting that Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottlieb said it was “remarkable that Chicago, New York and Los Angeles have some of the nation’s strictest gun laws, but even so, they still lead the nation when it comes to the number of homicides.” He compared the situation in Chicago to that in Detroit, where the once-high murder rate has dropped to its lowest level in years. “Two years ago,” Gottlieb noted, “Michigan reformed its concealed-carry law, and today, thousands of law-abiding citizens in Michigan are legally armed.”

Gun owners in Australia were forced to surrender more than 640,000 personal firearms, which were destroyed by their government, at a cost of more than $500 million.

After one year, Australia-wide, homicides were up 3.2 percent, assaults were up 8.6 percent and, Australia-wide, armed robberies were up 44 percent. (Note: While the law-abiding citizens turned them in, the criminals did not, and criminals still possess their guns!) While figures over the previous 25 years showed a steady decrease in armed robbery with firearms, this changed drastically upward in the previous 12 months, since the criminals now are guaranteed that their prey is unarmed. And, there has been a dramatic increase in break-ins and assaults of the elderly.

CNSNews.com reported: “Australian politicians are at a loss to explain how public safety has decreased, after such monumental effort and expense was expended in “successfully ridding Australian society of guns.”

One of the central issues in the gun control debate is the ban on assault-style weapons enacted by Congress in 1994, which applied to 19 specific models of semi-automatic firearms. The ban expired in 2004 and has not been renewed.

For my part, although I favor the right to own a gun, I have a hard time accepting the idea that ownership of all firearms should not be restricted in any way. For example, allowing individual citizens to own a weapon that has a grenade launcher or using armor-piercing bullets makes little sense to me.

Since 1934, Americans have been required to obtain permission from the U.S. Treasury to legally own a fully automatic weapon. So, if people are not talking about such firearms when they advocate gun control, what are they talking about?

Abolishing all guns, that’s what, which I believe is unconstitutional.

— Harris R. Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital who as lived in Santa Barbara County for more than 30 years. He stays active writing opinion columns and his blog, Opinionfest.com.

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