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Should Anything Be Done About Guns?

By Mike Scott

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

–Second Amendment to the United States Constitution

A little more than a month has passed since the tragic school murders in Newtown, Connecticut, and the nations’ attention is focused on what to do about guns in the United States.

Last week, President Obama issued 21 Executive Orders to combat what is being presented as out-of-control gun violence.  Those orders include:

1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.

2.Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.

3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.

4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.

5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.

6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.

7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.

8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).

9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.

10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.

11. Nominate an ATF director.

12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.

13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.

14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.

15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.

16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.

17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.

18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.

19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.

20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.

21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.

22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.

23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

One might rightly question why some of these orders weren’t already in force, and why others are expected to make any difference at all.

Gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association claim these measures will do little to actually protect anyone, and may be aimed at violating the Second Amendment, which guarantee’s the right to bear arms.

Many think its an outright gun grab, designed to eventually take all guns out of the hands of private citizens.

Lost in the noise of controversy are the facts.

According to the Center for Disease Control, there 31,672 firearms deaths in the United States in 2010, the most recent year figures are available.  That equals 10.3 deaths per 100,000 population.  Of those deaths, 19,392 were suicides, equalling 6.3 per 100,000 population. Murders using a firearm totalled 11,078.  Over 5100 murders did not use a firearm.

While these are shocking numbers alone,  when compared to other causes of death may lose their shock value.

For instance, in 2010:

-35,332 died in automobile accidents.

-26,009 died in falls.

-33,041 died in accidental poisoning.  Poisoning suicides added 6,599 more.

-Kidney failure claimed 44362 lives.

Influenza and pneumonia took 50,097 lives.

-Cancer claimed 574,743 lives, and cardiovascular diseases took 780,213.

So, while no one can argue that there are not too many firearms deaths in the United States, there are also too many deaths by other preventable causes that are not getting public attention.

Several states, including Missouri, have responded to President Obama’s executive orders by introducing legislation to prevent their implementation in Missouri.

The Bill Summary for Senate Bill 150, introduced by Senator Brian Munzlinger, states:

SB 150 – This act declares as unenforceable any federal law or executive order that is more restrictive than the law in effect on December 31, 2012, which bans or restricts the possession of a semiautomatic firearm or any ammunition feeding device or requires the registration of any firearm, ammunition feeding device, or firearm accessory.

In addition, this act makes it a crime for an officer, agent, or employee of the federal, state or local government, or a licensed firearms dealer, from enforcing a law or order declared unenforceable by this act when the firearm, ammunition feeding device, or accessory at issue is manufactured in the state, or possessed in the state, and remains exclusively in the state.

It is a Class D felony if the person committing the crime is a federal officer, agent, or employee and it is a Class A misdemeanor if the person is a state or local officer, agent, or employee, or a licensed firearms dealer.

This act also allows a person charged with violating a federal law or executive order declared unenforceable by this act to request the attorney general to defend the person against the charge.

This act contains an emergency clause.

This act is similar to HB 170 (2013).

Here in Clark County, guns are part of our everyday lives.  Many families hunt and target shoot.  Our school FFA team trap teams compete with other schools.  And still many others legally carry firearms for personal protection by obtaining a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

In Clark County, CCW applications doubled in 2012, with 43 new permits and 43  renewals.  Since 2009, a total of 213 new and renewal conceal carry permits have been issued in Clark County.

“The first thing you need to do is contact an instructor”, said Libby Goben of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

“There are several local conceal carry instructors available in the area, and  the Sheriff’s office maintains a list,” she said.

Conceal carry classes can be taken from any approved instructor in Missouri, but classes from out of the local area can delay the approval process, as the sheriff needs to verify the instructor’s qualifications.

First an applicant must complete the Missouri CCW course, which could cost approximately $100 dollars.

“Then you bring that qualification paper to me”, said Goben.  “At that point, applicants will be charged $30.50 for the background and fingerprinting.  That check would be made out to the State highway Patrol.”

An additional $10 charge is collected by the sheriffs office for the fingerprinting.

“It takes about a month to get the paperwork back from the Patrol,” said Sheriff Paul Gaudette.  “Then I’m going to review it to make sure there is no local a criminal history, or if we’ve had any contact with you. In those  cases, I might have you come in for an interview.  The sheriff is the final approving authority on whether or not we issue the permit.”

Goben continued, “At that time, we’ll collect a fee of $59.50 then you’ll take your approved paperwork to the License Office, and they will issue the permit for three years.  After three years, you’ll need to pass another background check, and pay a $50 fee for three more years.

We asked Gaudette about firearms in Clark County:

Q. How often do you encounter firearms in the course of your duties?

A. About three-quarters of the time we’re in a home, there are going to be guns  there, either legally or illegally. If we’re executing a warrant, we will have our guns drawn for our safety.

Q. What should I say or do if I’m stopped by an officer while legally carrying a firearm?

A. The best thing to do, is keep your hands visible.  Put your hands on the  steering wheel or on the door if you’ve put the window down.  that’s usually a tip off for the officer.  Let him know you have a weapon, and where it is located.  And ask before you move your hands.

Q. Do you think stronger gun laws are needed?

A. That’s a matter of opinion, but I’m going to enforce the laws.  I’m a firm believer in constitutional rights.

The government just reacts.  We’ll get money for something for a year or two, then it will be gone.  a few years ago, we had two full time resource officers working with the schools.  the money is gone, and so are the officers.  It’s tough enough for us to keep officers on the street.

Next week, we’ll look at gun safety

Legally owned guns such as these may be carried with a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Over 200 Clark County residents currently have CCW permits, and the number of applicants is increasing. Many feel new restrictions from Washington D.C. infringe on Second Amendment rights.