Gun Owners on Gun Violence: Education, Enforcement, but Not Fewer Guns

Yahoo Contributor Network
In this Jan. 4, 2013, photo, handguns are displayed in the sales area of Sandy Springs Gun Club and Range, in Sandy Springs, Ga. In Connecticut and Colorado, scenes of the most deadly U.S. mass shootings in 2012, people were less enthusiastic about buying new guns at the end of the year than in most other states, according to an Associated Press analysis of new FBI data. The biggest surges in background checks for people who want to carry or buy guns occurred in states in the South and West. (AP Photo/Robert Ray)
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In this Jan. 4, 2013, photo, handguns are displayed in the sales area of Sandy Springs Gun Club and Range, in Sandy Springs, Ga. (Robert Ray/AP)

The NRA's Wayne LaPierre stoked emotion on both sides of the gun-control debate in December when he suggested that armed guards in American schools would prevent tragedies like the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday will announce a push for stricter firearms legislation, including broadening an assault-weapons ban and limiting high-volume magazines.

President Barack Obama, while not as a specific, told the country shortly after Newtown that the nation has "an obligation to try" any measures that will reduce gun-related violence. He tapped Vice President Joe Biden to lead a task force to explore options.

Very public efforts and ideas notwithstanding, it is also everyday gun owners (80 million strong) who sway much of the firearms debate in the United States. A CBS News poll from December says 57 percent of Americans believe the country needs stricter gun-control laws, an 18-point surge since last spring.

This week, Yahoo News asked gun owners how they'd specifically address gun-related violence. We received a variety of suggestions—focus on the mentally ill, educate more and increase gun ownership—but, perhaps not surprisingly, not one advocated for fewer guns.

Here are some excerpts from what they wrote this week.

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Education, training and enforcement: Growing up in the South, guns have been a part of my life since I could walk, quite literally. While I do not remember it, I am told my late grandfather took me dove hunting when I was yet wearing a diaper. I had a cork gun I used to shoot at butterflies.

I'm now middle-aged and living in my native South Georgia, and my gun collection includes items that could go into a museum and guns that cannot be safely fired. I have them because I like them and I can own them.

At the same time, the right to own a gun is not absolute, nor should it be. Children who will be around guns should be taught how to handle them, as I was. In that light, the 4-H S.A.F.E. (Shooting Awareness, Fun and Education) program is a perfect example of taking children who know nothing about firearms and teaching them safety, ethics, responsibility and how to enjoy the shooting sports through actually shooting guns. S.A.F.E. covers shotguns, BB rifles and pistols and .22 rifles.

JROTC programs in high schools around the nation promote shooting sports with competition air rifle teams. Another great shooting education effort, endorsed and supported by the federal government, is the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP). These and more educational programs at the local level will teach children the truth about guns. The CMP endorses the JROTC shooting programs and hosts an annual national competition.

-- Ben Baker, Georgia

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Gun debate should be solved locally: As a 26-year-old firearm owner (shotguns, bolt-action rifles, and semi-automatic rifles) and a veteran of the U.S. armed forces, I know the value of defending one's self, be it with or without firearms. I believe it is indeed a natural right to defend your own life and property by whatever means you deem necessary.

Of course, I realize not everyone shares this view. Therefore, I think the best solution regarding firearms is policy undertaken at the state level, even the county level, rather than at the national level. Do we really think that one national law can satisfy all 310 million U.S. citizens? Likewise, does one state law really satisfy all the inhabitants of that state?

Across Virginia, opinions can differ widely. Let us look at schools: Currently, in Virginia, our schools are "gun-free zones," yet this does not prevent guns from winding up on campus, whether maliciously or accidentally, as we saw last month at two Virginia Beach schools. This, in effect, leaves the staff and students at the mercy of whatever drugged-up poor soul wanders onto campus with deadly intent. Perhaps it is time to end the ban on guns in schools, but only through a vote of all staff, faculty, parents, and taxpayers of their respective schools; let the people decide locally.

-- Christopher Salas, Virginia

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Good people with guns are vital: Like many Tennessee natives, I own firearms. In younger, fonder days, it was common to go to farmers' markets and see rifles, shotguns and pistols displayed alongside homegrown tomatoes, corn and watermelons. Guns were tools, nothing more.

Government can't stop crazy and can't produce morality. The best way to stop murder is to love thy neighbor as thyself, but that can't be taught in government schools.

So what is the solution to our present distress?

Good people with guns.

In 2010, in Blountville, Tenn., an armed man went to Central High School with killing on his mind. The school resource officer shot the perp dead. No children died there that day, so there was no media frenzy, but one bullet stopped a criminal permanently. That's how it should be.

I don't want to see a police state formed, but there are lots of good, honest gun owners out there: moms, dads, grandparents and such, and they're well-trained and willing to volunteer to protect children. I say we let them.

-- Wiley Vaughn, Tennessee

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Gun control is more dangerous than guns: As a mother and a woman who has owned a self-defense Sig Sauer P229 for more than eight years, the recent gun violence sadness me deeply. First, it's because of the tragedy itself (which occurred in a legally proscribed "gun-free zone"). Then, because there was no armed people present to protect the innocent. And finally because the resultant cry for gun control will only put our kids in greater danger.

In its report on Crime in Schools and Colleges, the FBI found that "the use of knives/cutting instruments was over three times more prevalent than the use of a gun." Clearly, violence threatens our children even when guns aren't present. And according to ABC's 20/20 report, in nations that banned guns from private citizens, a sharp rise in crime followed: a 45 percent increase in armed robberies in Australia, and a 50 percent rise in gun crimes in England.

So if banning guns increases violence, what can reduce it?

The root cause we must focus on in preventing mass killings are the mentally ill. In most cases, mental health professionals or family members failed to take note of ample red flags preceding the tragedy. Laws already prohibit the sale of firearms to the mentally ill. Now government-funded public announcements and the media can educate the public to be vigilant.

-- Anni Sofferet, Washington

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Gun restrictions aren't a solution: As the owner of an AR-15 and a Springfield XD handgun, I do not believe that further restricting the type of firearms that qualified citizens may purchase would be an effective solution. That's my opinion, but crime statistics speak for themselves.

According to FBI statistics, gun sales went up by 12 percent from 2008 to 2011. Violent crime was reduced by 15.5 percent in the last decade, falling to a 37-year low. Thirty-five percent of U.S. females own a firearm, and before you try to tell one of them that they don't need a gun to protect themselves, you should know that 75,341 forcible rapes were reported in 2011. If that isn't a national tragedy deserving of our political attention, I don't know what is.

I believe that some type of mandatory certification or training course as a prerequisite to handgun ownership would have the greatest effect. What may seem like a simple inconvenience to a law-abiding gun enthusiast could serve as a huge deterrent to a criminal. It is important, however, to remember that legal gun owners are not the problem or the enemy.

-- Nathan Hostetler, Colorado

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Focus on the mentally ill, not the guns they used: To keep firearms out of the hands of the mentally ill, we should ensure that those who pose a clear threat to the lives of our fellow citizens are tallied alongside the violent felons, dishonorably discharged veterans and other prohibited persons as opposed to relying on their absolute honesty when checking box 11(f) on a form 4473.

Currently it is illegal for someone who is mentally defective (in that they are potentially dangerous to themselves or others or incapable of managing their own affairs) to purchase a firearm through a licensed dealer. Unfortunately, according to according to this 2007 report by the FBI, not all states submit this information to the federal government.

Furthermore, according to a 2009 article published in Psychiatric Times by doctors Donna M. Norris and Marilyn Price, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System "contained only 235,000 mental health records as of January 2006, although it was estimated that 2.7 million people had been involuntarily institutionalized for mental health disorders."

While serving as a U.S. Marine, I suffered a seizure and was reported immediately to the DMV to have my driver's license revoked. I was told to expect "no right to privacy when the safety of the general public is at risk."

Who poses a greater threat to the public safety? A one-time sufferer of a seizure behind the wheel of a car or an unreported mentally ill person seeking to do harm to other people?

-- Mike Searson, Nevada

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