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COLUMN: Use existing law in gun control debate

By: Rachel Stovall
March 28, 2018 Updated: March 28, 2018 at 6:55 am
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Today our subject is the gun control debate.

Some gun control advocates say that the Second Amendment has been misinterpreted when applied to individuals and not militia; gun violence would be reduced by gun control; and that a majority of Americans, including gun owners, support new gun restrictions.

Opponents say and that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to own guns whether they are in militia; gun ownership reduces gun violence and other crime; they also say a majority of Americans support owning guns.

Do these arguments have to be either/or?

Or can the proper route to effective gun legislation, judgments, and executive orders include some of both arguments?

The Supreme Court seems to be set in that direction. In the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, the court found that individual citizens have a right to possess guns at home for self-defense. They also said that the government still could impose limits - such as gun-free zones in select places - like schools.

Other Supreme Court sanctioned limits included banning criminals and those with mental illness from owning guns and regulating gun sales.

The point of view of the Supreme Court seems reasonable. I think that the confusion in the gun control debate is coming from arguments that are not reasonable.

Let me show you both sides of the most unreasonable argument.

Pro-gun control - let's ban all the guns

Anyone putting out this argument is unaware of or ignoring the Supreme Court decision upholding the Second Amendment rights. Although the court set some limits around gun ownership, the rights of individuals to own guns was completely upheld.

This argument is woefully unaware of cultural support of guns. Forty-one percent of those polled by Pew Research say that there is a gun in their household.

An astounding 67 percent of those cite protection as their number one reason for gun ownership.

More polls show us, for most who have guns - ownership is closely tied to their sense of personal freedom. Some of this is along partisan lines, but 24 percent of NRA members identify as Democrat. Trying to take all guns, will not be a successful venture. Don't try it.

Anti-gun control - they are coming to get our guns

Anyone putting out this argument is also either unaware of or ignoring the Supreme Court decision. The court favored the rights of the individual, but reminded everyone that the ruling was far from carte blanche: "We do not read the Second Amendment to protect the right of citizens to carry arms for any sort of confrontation, just as we do not read the First Amendment to protect the right of citizens to speak for any purpose."

The anti-gun control supporters are also unaware of the cultural support of gun ownership. In the latest Gallup poll, 71 percent polled were opposed to a widespread ban on all guns.

They polled Democrats, Republicans and Independents. Pollsters speculated this could reflect Americans' wish to keep the right of self-defense in the wake of the mass shootings as well as crime coverage in the news.

In addition, the "get all of the guns" position has not shown up in proposed legislation, arguments before the Supreme Court or executive orders at all. Even in polls about gun control, pollsters do not ask respondents questions relating to the idea of banning all guns. Calm down.

Distortions in arguments around the Second Amendment make both sides look disingenuous. I wonder how much of this is political posturing. I am concerned that each party just wants to mobilize its base and raise campaign funds rather than solve these gun policy problems.

We could use the existing law as a start point. The Supreme Court sanctioned limits included banning criminals and those with mental illness from owning guns, and regulating gun sales. Containing discussions to these issues, we could have more productive discourse and move toward making our society safe without violating anyone's rights.

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Rachel Stovall is a longtime community advocate and organizer. Also a fundraising, media and marketing consultant, Stovall is most known for singing with her dance band Phat Daddy and the Phat Horn Doctors.

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