Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 16, 2013

Clear thinking on mass killings and gun control is slowly emerging


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Efforts to prevent future mass killings, like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting where 20 children and six adults died last year, continue on Capitol Hill. These efforts, however, are symbolic, not substantive, and focus too much on guns, magazines and related firearms issues, instead of on what causes people to commit these horrible crimes. The key element in these shootings is the mental condition of the killers and what things fostered their desire to kill people, and that must be addressed.

Whatever Congress comes up with will certainly put the liberties and privacy rights of Americans at risk, as limits on Second Amendment rights and invasions of private medical information will necessarily be under consideration.

We will not reduce mass shootings by limiting what law abiding gun owners can purchase, since they won’t use them to hurt other people. Vice President Joe Biden’s insulting implication that people don’t really “need” an AR-15, and just want one because of how it feels ignores a basic tenet of the nation that elected him: We have personal liberties here, and that’s all the reason we need to buy any gun.

Similarly, a blanket denial of Second Amendment rights to those with any record of treatment by or consultation with mental health professionals is excessive.

There has been strong support for the idea that guns, high-capacity magazines, etc., are responsible for mass shootings and should be restricted or banned, but that support is waning. More important is that this truly misses the point, and basing policies on missed points is a prescription for failure.

And now there is more compelling evidence that banning or restricting guns or magazines won’t work, and even will make things worse, and it comes from a group that has instant credibility on this issue: police officers.

In March, PoliceOne, which serves police officers across the nation and has more than 450,000 registered members, “conducted the most comprehensive survey ever of American law enforcement officers’ opinions on the topic gripping the nation’s attention in recent weeks: gun control,” so states the introduction to PoliceOne’s report.

“More than 15,000 verified law enforcement professionals [70 percent of whom are field-level law enforcers who are face-to-face in the fight against violent crime on a daily basis] took part in the survey, which aimed to bring together the thoughts and opinions of the only professional group devoted to limiting and defeating gun violence as part of their sworn responsibility,” the introduction noted, in discussing the nearly-30 question survey.

Here are some of the takeaway points from that survey:

• Ninety-five percent said that a federal ban on manufacture and sale of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds would not reduce violent crime.

• Seventy-one percent said that a federal ban on the manufacture and sale of some semi-automatics would have no effect on reducing violent crime. And, more than 20 percent say any ban would actually have a negative effect on reducing violent crime.

• Roughly 85 percent said passing the White House’s currently proposed legislation would have zero or a negative effect on their safety.

• They cited things they felt would help prevent mass shootings: more permissive concealed carry policies for civilians, 28 percent; more aggressive institutionalization for mentally ill persons, 19 percent; more armed guards/paid security personnel, 15 percent.

• Nearly 90 percent believe casualties would be decreased if armed citizens were present at the onset of an active-shooter incident.

• More than 80 percent support arming school teachers and administrators who willingly volunteer to train with firearms and carry one on the job.

• More than half of respondents feel increased punishment for obviously illegal gun sales could reduce gun violence.

• The officers were about evenly split on whether citizens should be required to complete a safety training class before being allowed to buy a gun.

• They believe that cultural/societal influences promote gun violence: violent movies and video games, 14 percent; early release and short sentencing for violent offenders, 14 percent; poor identification/treatment of mentally-ill individuals, 10 percent. However, 38 percent cited a decline in parenting and family values.

The majority plainly does not support the ideas being pushed by gun-control advocates favoring restrictions on weapons and magazines, and many feel those controls will negatively affect their ability to fight violent crime. They also support enforcing existing laws before passing new ones.

The mainstream media openly supports restrictions on personal liberty, at least where guns are concerned, and suppresses news of gun owners stopping crimes. Many of our elected public servants, who prefer an unarmed and therefore compliant populace, also support gun control.

But the majority of police surveyed overwhelmingly favor an armed citizenry, would like to see more guns in the hands of responsible people, and are skeptical of any greater restrictions placed on gun purchase, ownership or accessibility.

Police officers patrolling America’s streets have a legitimate interest in making sure that we make decisions about guns that support their work and do not make things worse. With this survey, their voice has been heard, and they disagree with the current mania.

Perhaps it would be smart to listen to them.

James H. “Smokey” Shott, a resident of Bluefield, Va., is a Daily Telegraph columnist.