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COMMUNITY CONVERSATIONS: Colorado’s new gun control laws (poll)

April 5, 2013

A choice between a strong people or strong government

By Dan Ajamian

The root of the ongoing gun control debate is a basic misunderstanding of the Second Amendment. The right to bear arms is much more than a right to hunt, shoot skeet, or own high-powered rifles.

The Second Amendment is the most powerful guarantee of equal basic rights. It ensures that the single mother who holds two jobs and the high-ranking government official are on the same playing field. The entire argument for gun rights rests on this principle of equality.

In this free and just society, there is no “ruling class” that mandates the religion of its citizens, censors their speech, or dictates how they allocate their time and resources. Firearms represent tangible power, and if the power rests in the people, then the fundamental right to bear arms must exist to safeguard that power.

How does this relate to the recent legislation in Denver?

Last month, Democratic lawmakers pushed through unenforceable legislation so stringent that even lending a firearm to a spouse or good friend would require a background check. The legislation does not call for guns to be registered upon purchase, but the logical first step toward making the laws enforceable would be mandating universal gun registration.

As for the limitation on magazine capacity, it bears repeating that there are simply no reliable statistics showing that imposing a limit would make a difference. This ban —  and I mention these tragedies with utmost solemnity — would not have prevented Columbine. It would not have prevented Newtown, nor New Life Church, nor the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, nor the murder of Tom Clements. In all of these cases the shooters used guns that would still be legal under the new legislation. Not to mention that thousands of Coloradans already own high-capacity magazines. When the responsible, law-abiding citizens among them give up their weaponry, it is the criminals who will have the upper hand.

But aren’t these reasonable ways to ensure gun safety? Why the outrage over all such small steps?

Confiscation may not seem possible today, but who will object in 50 years, when guns and gun owners are registered in a national database, when only handguns remain legal, and confiscation is just the next, reasonable “small step”?

The celebration of the Second Amendment is not a triumphant celebration of guns and raw power. Rather, it’s a celebration of the intrinsic equality which we all share and the freedom that comes with it. It is in this context that we understand that most effective defense against bad people with guns is good people with guns.

We are at a crossroads. We must choose between a strong people and a strong government. We can either promote an armed, educated, and responsible society in order to preserve our equality, or we can hand the reins off to the ruling class and take a step backwards in history.

Dan Ajamian graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012. He is currently a John Jay Fellow and lives in Colorado Springs.



More good guys with guns is not a realistic solution

Laura Long

El Paso County is packing heat. According to the Sheriff’s Office, some 25,626 of us have a concealed handgun permit, which means that in a packed film screening, maybe as many as 18 of your fellow moviegoers could actively be exercising their Second Amendment rights.

Whether this statistic strikes you as funny, reassuring, or a little scary, it certainly brings home the relevance of the spate of gun bills introduced this year in our state legislature.

Opponents of gun safety measures warn that these bills are the first step toward the government confiscating guns, but this isn’t about the Second Amendment. None of the bills we’ve passed takes guns away, bans new purchases, or even restricts the type of firearms a “good guy” can own. Nevertheless, vitriol flares at the mere mention of universal background checks.

Why is that? No one argues that mandatory licensing of dogs within city limits is the first step toward pet confiscation. Nor is anyone particularly concerned that drivers’ licenses are the first step toward an insidious government plan to take away our SUVs and replace them with hippie hybrids.

“Ah, but a background check isn’t the same as a driver’s license,” a friend points out. True. But ensuring that the potential buyer of a deadly weapon isn’t a felon or mentally ill is every bit as relevant to public safety as a driving test is to car ownership.

“But gun laws don’t stop criminals,” the refrain goes, “they only punish good people!” Really? In both Columbine and the murder of Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements, the weapons were obtained by women with no prior legal trouble. Would they have been as naïve if they’d known they’d face criminal prosecution for illegally transferring the guns?

Similarly, the high-capacity magazines that so exacerbated the horrors of Newton and Aurora were obtained legally. Six first graders are alive today because they were able to escape their classroom when the shooter stopped to reload.

It’s undoubtedly true that gun laws won’t stop every bad person intent on inflicting harm or terror. But it should be equally obvious that tougher gun regulations will stop some. Of the people we love, whose next birthday is so trivial that it’s not worth saving?

We have a problem with gun violence in this country. Much is made of the danger of gun violence in Mexico, but they have only one more firearm-related death per 100,000 people each year than we do — a difference of .001 percent.

Meanwhile, two recent news stories revealed troubling incidents involving “good guys with guns,” both retired policemen. In New York, a school resource officer resigned after accidentally discharging his weapon while patrolling the school hallway. In Michigan, an officer left his handgun unattended in a school rest room.

If gun enthusiasts want to argue that Colorado gun laws won’t stop crime, then bring us some ideas for policies that will. But please don’t say that all we need is more good guys with guns.

Laura Long is a PR professional and government relations specialist with two cute kids and half a cat. She lives in Colorado Springs.

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