Posts Tagged ‘gun laws’

yelling

I recently posted the below on Medium.com, a blogging site with a ton of interesting and compelling content. You can check out some of my other submissions there by following this link.

I’m a gun owner. I’m also someone who has circumambulated the entire 360 degrees of the gun rights issue, from adamant supporter to adamant opponent and back again. In my early days in the military, I was a staunch defender of gun rights. I owned and shot firearms regularly and felt very strongly that service to my country included defending all elements of the Constitution, especially the Second Amendment.

After leaving the service, and after seeing firsthand some of the destruction and pain caused by gun violence, I took my first turn toward support of gun control. I reasoned that if there were fewer guns, it naturally followed that there would have to be less gun violence. I bought into the logic that guns were the problem, not people. I also believed that in modern society, with its well-established safety infrastructure, guns were merely a relic from the past that were no longer necessary.

I’m also a peace-loving person at heart. I have no intention of ever hurting anyone, let alone using a firearm against another human being. That, more than anything else, lulled me into a belief that my ideas of peaceful co-existence were the best way forward.

I believe now that I was wrong.

As I’ve moved into middle-age, and watched the back and forth between the pro- and anti-gun factions over the years, I’ve taken the final turn back toward where I started. What I realized is that neither side has a lock on the truth about guns, violence, or human nature. In their desire, however, to “win” the argument over the limits to gun ownership, both sides have ramped up the rhetoric and have engaged in the type of group polarization that does little to solve anything.

In their zeal to convince the undecided that fewer or more restrictions on gun ownership should be adopted, each side has moved ever closer to the fringes, further away from each other, and ever farther from reasonable solutions. The debate is no longer about solutions, in fact, it’s about the perceived shortcomings of the other side.

Gun owners get branded as uneducated rednecks hellbent on shooting up the countryside, and gun control supporters are labelled as soft-headed liberals with a victim mentality. Try starting a reasonable discussion about guns and gun control from that perspective. It’s a setup for a yelling match in which neither side hears nor cares what the other side is saying.

And that’s exactly what’s occurring now. Ad hominem attacks are just a diversion from the real issues, and a recipe for paralysis.

For what it’s worth, here’s where I’ve landed: Even though it may sound contradictory in the extreme, I’m a peaceful person who chooses to legally own and legally carry a handgun. I’m not a trigger-happy cowboy by any means—far from it—but I’m also not anyone’s victim. I don’t hope to ever use my firearm, but I’m also prepared to do so in defense of my own life or that of a loved one, if reasonable and necessary.

I will always choose first to run from danger, if at all possible, and call the police to deal with the threat. But, I also won’t count on that as the one and only option. If I can’t flee, and my life is in jeopardy, I will do what I have to do to neutralize the threat, including using a firearm. It’s just that simple.

I also refuse to abdicate my constitutional rights regarding firearm ownership just because guns make some people uncomfortable or even fearful. I subscribe to the libertarian ideal that government power and authority should be limited to only what is absolutely necessary. I view taking away my right to use reasonable force to defend myself and my loved ones as an unreasonable intrusion on my liberty.

Those who disagree with me on all of this on the basis of logic are, of course, free to do so. I’ve stopped caring about the contradictions in my choice to simultaneously embrace peace and to arm myself. In a real sense, it’s no contradiction at all. Police officers make the same choice (or at least they should), and entire countries do, too. Many non-warring nations have standing armies, which is an entirely prudent and reasonable choice in my opinion.

I do support reasonable limitations on gun ownership, including universal background checks. But I don’t support wholesale restrictions on the types of firearms a qualified person can own or possess, and I certainly don’t agree that the only way to ensure a safe society is to unreasonably limit the access of law-abiding citizens to gun ownership. That no longer makes any sense to me.

To make meaningful progress, though, we need to talk about these ideas. We need to hear each other out and work together on this. I have a right to arm and defend myself, and you have a right to feel safe, too. Let’s talk about what all that means and how we can best make that happen.

We need to discuss these issues without the anger, the hyperbole, and the unreasonable expectations that seem to be the norm. Gun-rights and gun-control advocates need to view each other as well-intentioned people with valid concerns. Both groups need to find common ground to reasonably discuss how we can move forward as a country, both safely and in a way that recognizes the constitutional rights of gun ownership enshrined in our founding documents.

I think it’s entirely possible, and I think it’s time to have a reasonable discourse for all our sakes.

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The US Constitution proclaims the right of the people to keep and bear firearms, but the reality for some law-abiding citizens has been quite the opposite. Last summer, the New York Times published an article about otherwise law-abiding folks from all walks of life being arrested and charged in New York City for violating local firearm statutes.

Photo courtesy of nesoiam

Photo courtesy of nesoiam

Their crime? Bringing a legally-owned firearm from their home state to New York City without first understanding New York’s draconian gun laws.

According to the above Times article:

The visitor arrives in New York and retrieves the gun. No problem there. They see the city, whether armed or with the gun locked away at the hotel, without incident. Trouble arrives upon their return to La Guardia Airport or Kennedy Airport to fly home. The visitors repeat the procedure practiced at their home airport, presenting the firearm to a gate agent to be checked. Only this time, the gate agent calls police officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the airports. The gun owners are then placed under arrest.

I wouldn’t argue against the fact that gun violence is a problem in our country. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 14,000 homicides were perpetrated in 2011, and 9,900 of those involved a firearm (PDF).  Obviously, the government does have a compelling public safety interest in reducing violence of all types, including gun violence.

I also wouldn’t argue against the right of individual states to establish their own laws either — whether that be to regulate firearms or anything else — but the patchwork of legal standards that exist around the country is destined to make law-abiding citizens, who have no intent to violate any law, into felons simply due to a misunderstanding.

So, what’s a law-abiding gun owner to do?

Many people scour the internet for advice before traveling with their firearm to another state.  A very, very bad idea, and here’s why:

Reciprocal Carry - Minnesota

The above was found on a web site intended to provide information about state-by-state gun laws across the US. It claims that Minnesota (my home state) doesn’t recognize firearm carry permits from any other states. But the link it provides in support of that assertion takes you to:

Minnesota DPS Gun Laws

That’s right. This is the Minnesota Department of Public Safety page on permit reciprocity that correctly identifies the out-of-state permits that Minnesota will indeed recognize as valid.

Now, you may or may not care about permit reciprocity issues specifically, but my point is that the internet has a very high potential to be wrong about all kinds of things (shocking, I know). And if you rely on it exclusively for guidance on where you can bring your legally owned firearm, you’ll potentially suffer the consequences.

So, take this advice from the Minnesota DPS:

Minnesota permit holders who plan to visit another state, and who also wish to carry a concealed firearm while visiting that state, are urged to contact that state before traveling. This will allow Minnesota permit holders to determine all restrictions or prohibitions regarding the carrying of concealed firearms in those states, as well as their laws regarding firearms and weapons in general. Most of these states have web pages dedicated to this subject. State firearm laws and reciprocal agreements may change frequently, and are also subject to court interpretation. Information contained on this page is not to be considered legal advice.

You should always contact an attorney licensed to practice law in your state for any legal advice.

In fact, contact an attorney who is familiar with all of the jurisdictions involved, and ask questions until you fully understand the gun laws at your destination and everywhere in between. It’s worth the time and money to protect yourself from needlessly being arrested and prosecuted for a crime you had no intention of committing.

What are some thoughts on all this? Do you have any experiences dealing with gun laws in other states? Leave a comment and share your ideas and experiences below!

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