by George Pitts, Chairman, Oregon Association of Shooting Ranges
I have been very uncomfortable watching the political opportunists like California Senator Feinstein, New York Mayor Bloomberg, and Oregon Senator Burdick dusting off their time-worn anti-gun agendas. The nation was still in the first days of shock from the tragic murder of school children at Newtown when we started hearing renewed demands for “reasonable gun control”.
These political opportunists want us to believe that the solution to these murders is to outlaw so-called “assault rifles.” They are being defined as “assault rifles” only because they have cosmetic features like bayonet mounts, flash hiders, heat guards, and pistol grips. These mid-power AR style firearms have been used by three generations of our military and law-enforcement. We have sold many hundreds of thousands of surplus semi-automatic service rifles to Americans for over fifty years – apparently without major problems. Now, for some reason, they are a threat to society? Knowing that less than 1% of U.S. murders are committed using “assault style” weapons, you have to wonder why we are focusing all this attention on them.
Some claim that if we only had universal background checks we could control gun ownership and prevent future mass murders. However, universal background checks cannot work without universal registration as there would be no way to enforce traceability. The result would be to increase the number and value of black market firearms – better serving criminals than the law-abiding. An even worse result would be a national registry as a stepping stone to tyranny as repeatedly demonstrated in history.
Background checks only apply to the law abiding, as criminals by definition, do not obey the law, and so criminals either falsify information on applications or buy guns on the black market. Another problem with background checks is that critical information is missing from the database that’s checked. An AP article last week noted “There is wide-ranging agreement that many states poorly report mental health records to the federal background check system.” Oregon is one of those states. We here in Oregon essentially do not participate in mental health issues reporting to the national data base for background checks. So how are universal background checks supposed to save lives? As we know, the murders at Newtown, Tucson, Colorado, and Virginia Tech were all committed by people who were known to be mentally disturbed. Yet, we would not have reported them had they been Oregonians.
These anti-gun measures will not reduce the criminal use of firearms or mass murders by the mentally ill. Connecticut had the 4th strictest gun laws in the country, and has had an assault weapon ban since 1993 that bans 67 semiautomatic assault weapons by brand name. The federal ban that expired in 2004 outlawed 18 specific models of military-style “assault weapons”. Connecticut’s strict gun laws and assault weapon ban did not prevent the tragic murder of children and adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary by someone with known mental health problems.
We need legislators who are serious about fixing the actual problems that will make us safer and not political opportunists who are pursuing their own political agendas.