Editorial: Gun control facts vs fiction
As the debate over gun control laws in Vermont heat up, let’s separate some facts from fiction.
• First, much of the debate about the Second Amendment is because of its relatively vague wording. The Second Amendment reads: “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.”
Case law has established that individuals have a right to own and bear arms, but regulations and restrictions can be part of that equation left up to the states. Courts have also found it legally constitutional to ban assault weapons and other military-style weapons.
So, when a gun-rights activist claims that it is a “God-given right or a Constitutional right” to own any type of weapon known to man, in particular assault weapons, that is not correct.
What is true is that individuals have a constitutional right to own a gun, but states can put restrictions on that gun ownership, and require responsible behavior as well as thorough registration if that state so desires.
To that end, Vermont is known as a state with very few restrictions on gun ownership, compared to states such as Connecticut or New York, Massachusetts or New Jersey.
• Second, tighter gun control laws have been effective in reducing the amount of gun violence in states that have implemented them. In a 2015 study, the five states with the least number of guns deaths per 100,000 people were: Hawaii (2.5), Massachusetts (2.9), New York (4.1), Connecticut (4.3), Rhode Island (5.2) and New Jersey (5.7).
Those states also implemented the following gun control laws: a permit or license was required to purchase a gun; background checks were required on handguns extended to private sales; did not have some form of “stand your ground” law; considered it “difficult” to obtain a “concealed carry permit”; considered it difficult to obtain an “open carry permit”; and three of the states had a waiting period (from 7 to 14 days) to purchase a handgun. Hawaii, which has the lowest deaths per 100,000 people, had the toughest of those laws and the longest waiting periods.
The six states with the highest rates of gun deaths per 100,000 people were Wyoming (16.7), Arkansas (16.7), Alabama (17.5), Mississippi (17.7), Louisiana (19.1) and Alaska (19.8). In each state a permit or license was not required to purchase a handgun; background checks were not required for personal sales; nor were handgun owners required to register or report their weapons. In all but one state (Wyoming), those states had some form of “stand your ground” legislation; in all six states they was no waiting period for obtaining handguns, no permits were needed to obtain an open carry permit, and it was either very easy or no permit was required for a concealed carry status.
The logical conclusion is that gun control laws make a difference.
• Third, regulation does not restrict the ability to own a gun, therefore it does not violate any individuals right to bear arms. Regulation can require gun owners to register a gun, undergo a background check and wait a certain length of time (usually 3 to 7 days), but with a little patience and planning ahead, a gun owner can easily obtain a legal firearm.
• Fourth, courts have found it constitutional for states to ban assault weapons. Seven states and the District of Columbia have such laws. Those states are: Connecticut, New York, California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey, which ban them completely, while two states, Minnesota and Virginia, strictly regulate the sale of assault weapons.
Those are just the facts, and statistic after statistic, study after study, bear out the basic premise that states that enact laws that create tighter regulations around gun ownership have fewer gun-related deaths than states with looser regulations.
It’s sad, then, to listen as some of Vermont’s most ardent gun-owners rail against the thousands of Vermont students who have risen up — out of fear for their own safety in schools across the state — to encourage Vermont legislators to pass reasonable gun control laws that will make our state safer and could help prevent the likelihood of a mass shooting at a school or other crowd-centered venues.
We would hope that a majority of responsible gun-owners in the state will join Gov. Phil Scott’s initiative in “doing whatever we can” to create a safer environment in the classroom, by speaking out in favor of such legislation. That takes courage and generosity of heart to support the needs of others above your own, but then we think most gun-owners in Vermont are of that caliber. Gov. Scott apparently thinks so, too.
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