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Fecteau: Until We Act on Gun Violence, Expect More Ungodly Death

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

 

Another day, another mass killing, is anything sacred? Not in the eyes of violent and deranged people, but that is exactly why Congress should act to keep guns out of their reach. As a country, we need practical, Constitutional, federal measures that would reduce the type of high profile mass killing such as in Roseburg, Oregon. Up to that time, expect many more innocent lives needlessly lost. 

With gun violence, we cannot merely settle for state action. The federal government has to take the lead. Cities and states with the most stringent guns laws are at the mercy of other parts of our country where gun laws are simply nonexistent. Thus, we must seek national solutions to address these constant mass shootings.     

This is not a liberal or conservative issue.  Even the patron saint of contemporary conservatism, President Ronald Reagan, understood this. In 1986, he worked with Congress to enact legislation making it illegal for civilians to carry a fully automatic weapon.  After his tenure, in 1991, Reagan came out in support of awaiting periods and background checks, and in 1994, an assault weapons ban.  

Despite accusations to the contrary, gun regulation is inherent in our country’s Constitution. The United States Constitution’s second amendment expressly talks about a “well regulated” militia conducive to the security of our state. However, lately, regulation has become a dirty word few politicians dare say for fear of the gun industry, and their proxy organization, the NRA. This has to change. 

Why is Congress so paralyzed to act? A vast majority of Americans support sensible gun laws.  

Through their financial power, the gun lobby has stymied any ability to curb gun violence. Also, there remains a vocal, misinformed minority that continues to oppose even the most modest reforms. This minority inundate any rational thought. They shut their critics down with gun lobby talking points, easily proven false.  

We gave Congress a pass for simply too long. We need to demand far-reaching action to prevent another mass shooting. While no silver bullet solution exists, there is reasonable federal action we can take:  universal background checks, permanent serial numbers, a national database, safe storage requirements, waiting periods, a ban on high-capacity magazines, traceable bullets, requirements for federal mental health submissions, and even smart gun technology. 

These are neither outlandish, radical ideas, nor will they give rise to a tyrannical federal government, as other gun rights advocates have suggested. At this point, any national legislation would be a step in the right direction, though something has to be done.  

How many more men, women, and children have to die to get the message across?  Until there are across the country calls for gun violence to be reined in and we hold Congress’s feet to the fire, we will continue to watch the mounting death toll, culpable for letting this mass murder continue. 

God save us from ourselves.

Matt Fecteau ([email protected]), of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, lost to U.S. Rep. David Cicilline in last year’s Democratic primary. He is a former White House national security intern and Iraq war veteran.

 

Related Slideshow: 5 Oregon Gun Facts That Might Surprise You

Oregon is the 28th best state in the union for gun owners, according to an analysis by Guns & Ammo magazine that describes Oregon as being, overall, a friendly place for gun owners with relatively few restrictions on firearms. These facts give some insight as to why.  

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1. Mental Health Issues

In Oregon, people who've lost their gun rights because of mental health issues can petition to get them back. After the 2007 Virginia Tech Shooting, Congress passed legislation that changed how background checks are conducted. It also contained a provision that required states to have a mechanism to allow people who had been barred from firearm ownership because of a mental health issue to petition to have this right restored. 

In Oregon, the Psychiatric Security Review Board (PSRB)conducts relief hearings to determine if someone should again be permitted to own guns.

However, the number of people who've had their rights restored is pretty small.

Juliet Follansbee, the executive director of the PSRB, says only three people have applied to have their gun rights restored, all of which were successful. 

Penny Okamoto, a board member and spokesperson for gun-control advocate Ceasefire Oregon, says this is a sensible and fair process.

“I think it's a terrible mechanism,” says Kevin Starrett, director of the Oregon Firearms Federation. Starrett says diagnoses of mental illness are too broadly applied and cover individuals who've recovered from drug problems. 

Photo Credit: Helga Weber via Compfight cc

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2. Background Checks

If you want to buy a gun from a friend or relative, you don't need to undergo a background check. The same applies if you want to buy a gun from your neighbor down the block or even someone you encounter randomly on the street. Once you have that gun, you don't need to get a permit or register it. 

Photo Credit: Svadilfari via Compfight cc

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3. Concealed Carry

If you want a concealed handgun, you apply at your local sheriff's office, pass a background check, prove you're at least 21, demonstrate that you're competent with the weapon and you're good to walk around strapped. Oregon is a “shall-issue” state, meaning that if you pass these requirements, your local sheriff shall issue you a permit. “May-issue” states, like California, are different in that applicants need to provide a compelling reason to have a permit. 

However, if you're wondering if someone you know owns a concealed weapon permit, there's no way to find out. In 2011, the Oregon Legislature passed a law with bipartisan support that exempted concealed weapon permits from Oregon's public records law. 

Photo Credit: Mojave Desert via Compfight cc

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4. Loaded Guns in Public

Earlier this year, Georgia lawmakers passed legislation, referred to as the “guns everywhere” bill, that allowed guns just about everywhere, including bars and churches. Oregon has been way ahead of Georgia on this for years. In Oregon, it was already totally legal to take a gun into a bar or a church (if the property owner didn't object).

According to a description of Oregon gun laws on the National Rifle Association's (NRA) website, it is unlawful to possess a loaded firearm in a public building, which includes hospitals, capitol buildings, schools, colleges, courthouses or city hall. Exceptions are made if you have a concealed carry permit.

“The irony is that you can't carry a sign into the Oregon State Capitol building, but you can carry a loaded AR-15,” says Okamoto, who notes that having a concealed carry permit also allows people to openly carry large, loaded weapons. 

Portland, however, differs from the rest of the state. Last year, the Oregon Supreme Court upheld a Portland ordinance that banned loaded weapons in public, except for police officers and those with concealed weapons permits. 

“In lots of places no one would give it a second glance,” says Starrett, noting that guns are openly carried in Switzerland and Israel. “It's all a matter of perceptions, and open carry has really offended people in Portland, but in Portland a lot of fat ugly people can ride around on bicycles.”

Photo Credit: Ewan-M via Compfight cc

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5. Guns and Suicide

If you own a gun, you're more likely to kill yourself than someone else. According to Ceasefire Oregon, which cited data from the Oregon Health Authority, 417 Oregonians were killed by guns in 2011, slightly down from 458 in 2010 and up from 413 in 2009. For each of those years, more than 80 percent of those individuals killed by a gun committed suicide. 

“When people decide to commit suicide, it's an impulsive act,” says Okamoto. She says that having more background checks in place could save lives because someone considering suicide might have second thoughts while going through the process. 

Photo Credit: ~Steve Z~ via Compfight cc

 
 

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