Wednesday, May 18, 2016

American Gun Values

"We are a gun society and we recognize that, but we should be writing gun laws that make us safer."
"Do you want every incident on your street to escalate to acts of gun violence?"
Leonard Papania, police chief, Gulfport, Misissippi

"What is alarming to the police is that they have no power to ascertain the potential criminal background of an armed individual until a crime is committed, and by then it is too late."
Ladd Everitt, spokesman, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

"Gloom-and-doom predictions of Wild West scenarios in states with strong gun rights have proven time and again to be nothing more than scare tactics."
Jennifer Baker, spokeswoman, National Rifle Association

"We're advocating the safety for our police officers, but on the other side, you have the N.R.A. and other special interest groups that say, 'If you'll do this, we'll endorse you and make you look good."
"We don't have anything to offer them other than good advice."
Ken Winter, executive director, Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police

"It is absolutely ludicrous to me that we require people to go take a test to get a driver's license, but we are allowing people to carry a deadly weapon on their person without any procedures regulating it."
Michael Sauschuck, police chief, Portland, Maine
Gov. Phil Bryant of Mississippi signed a law in April allowing people to carry guns inside places of worship. Law enforcement officials in the state said they had been mostly unsuccessful in their attempts to negotiate the language in the legislation. Credit Clay Chandler/Mississippi's Governor's Office, via Associated Press
Difficult as it is to imagine, the most powerful nation on Earth which takes pride in its democratic and moral code, reluctantly taking on its role as universal sheriff to an unstable world, where its population values a constitution that enshrines the right to carry firearms, and there are, correspondingly, more firearms in the country per capita than any other place on the globe, and where more people are killed by guns, including children than any other place in the world, is busy freeing up gun availability.

Every time a mass shooting occurs, particularly those that victimize children when gunmen enter a school and imperil the lives of schoolchildren and their teachers, a mass agony of public outcry calls "enough!", and a brief fling with remorse stating that gun laws must be tightened has its day. But only a day, it seems, before the 'sanity' of cultural values returns and all goes back to normal. Normal in the United States appears to be easy access to gunpower. And the sanctimonious statement that guns don't kill, people do.

So guns in some states now appear in bars, in airports, in day-care centers and sports arenas. Guns are tucked into handbags and backpacks. And curious children, from two-year-old infants to ten-year-olds manage to discover where these killing machines are kept and to play with them. In the process killing themselves or their siblings, or their adult family members. Exceedingly small coffins at funerals tend to make people weep. But not work against the freedom to own guns and exorcise that laissez-faire attitude about them.

Lawmakers of a conservative bent, reflecting their constituents' wishes busy themselves by taking legislative steps to ensure that gun regulations are expanding the freedom for owners to carry their weapons wherever they go. Unconcealed, and with a brave attitude of entitlement. The police have always, in this general environment of entitlement, been fairly complacent. They too, of course, are gun owners, not only on the job but in their private lives.

Except, suddenly they're stepping out of line, protesting, expressing unease, and a wish for greater awareness of the dangers posed in a society for which there are no safeguards, only the freedom to possess and to display. Mississippi signed a new law in April to create exceptions to concealed-carry permit rules. West Virginia and Idaho have approved laws permitting people to carry concealed handguns without a permit or firearm training. And oh yes, without background checks.

Texas residents have been given the right to carry handguns openly. People with permits may carry concealed firearms onto public college campuses. In Maine and Texas, police officers have been exposed to people showing off their weapons near schools and libraries. Their attitudes those of challenging anyone to question their new rights. Gun rights advocates and police have traditionally been allies in the national gun debate.

Craig Martin, a police sergeant in Ann Arbor, Mich., asked to see John McIntosh’s concealed-pistol license before he entered a school board meeting last year. Credit Melanie Maxwell/The Ann Arbor News, via Associated Press
Now, however, police departments insist gun owners be required to receive training. Furthermore, that people with histories of violence be blocked from owning weapons. "Constitutional carry laws" eliminate the police role in issuing permits or questioning people who are armed openly, and this has succeeded in disrupting that traditional alliance. In Mississippi, law enforcement officials learned of the new law when it was being passed.

National Rifle Association members in the state had been sent fliers accusing law enforcement of siding with billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, famously one of the country's most voluble advocate of gun control. Maine enacted a law in 2015 allowing people to carry concealed weapons without a permit or training. Republican Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia proved the exception by vetoing a bill passed by his Republican-controlled Legislature to permit gun owners 21 and older to carry a concealed handgun on college and university campuses, permit-free.

"From the early days of our nation and state, colleges have been treated as sanctuaries of learning where firearms have not been allowed. To depart from such time-honoured protections should require overwhelming justification", he stated. The campus police chiefs of the University System of Georgia distinguished themselves by supporting the existing laws, rejecting the proposed bill.

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