Saturday, May 11, 2013


For me gun control is putting common sense limits on who can legally buy a gun, period. The issue is all about gun safety not gun rights… Nobody is going to involuntarily register or take away our guns (mine included) and Barak Obama is not a new Hitler. Let’s stop all the political rhetoric and start making sense – for the good of the many. What we need to do is enforce existing laws and set up further barriers to those who would purchase guns with the intent to do harm to others. Will the criminal or mentally unstable element in our society find other ways to purchase arms?  They’ll probably try, but let’s make this as difficult as possible recognizing that existing laws denied firearm transfers or permits for almost 1.8 million applications from 1994 to 2008. In 2010 alone (the most recent year for which data is available) FBI and state law enforcement denied firearm purchases to 153,000 people. It would certainly appear that background checks are keeping guns out of the hands of at least some folks that don’t qualify for ownership or even possession. We obviously can do better and that doesn’t mean throwing out the baby with the bath water.  We all have a stake in this game.   

Just when states like Connecticut have adopted saner gun control laws that include background checks the Republican dominated House of Representatives in Texas is going full bore in the opposite direction.  Last week the Texas State House in a mostly in your face gesture passed a dozen measures that will turn our state (which is already gun friendly and very well equipped) into an even greater armed camp.  We think that this also puts more folks in potential harm’s way (more later). The current mentality running amok in the Texas State Legislature would probably not oppose gleefully renaming the state – Fort Texas or as Guv’nr Perry has inferred, engaging an option he doesn’t have and seceding altogether from the United States. Having said that, thank God many of these bills are probably going nowhere when they finally hit the floor of the Texas Senate. Alarmingly, though, some will pass into law.

Some of the Texas House proposals would allow college students over the age of 21 with concealed weapons permits to carry guns into classrooms and are you ready for this one – in a blissfully ignorant and embarrassing move, another that exempts the state from any future federal bans on assault rifles, high-capacity magazines or universal background checks.  Apparently our rough and ready legislators are not aware that state law does not trump federal law.  Among the legislation passed was a bill designed to punish by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine police officers and/or government officials who try to enforce federal firearms limits in Texas (Yikes!). This is nothing more than giddy, confrontational high stakes drama and juvenile posturing politics – just what you can expect from many Texas lawmakers – which for some will be their last hurrah – witness the next election season.  

And then isn’t it nice to know, as well demonstrated in a featured video at the NRA convention in Houston, that Texas Governor Rick Perry can kill a chicken egg at a hundred yards with a round fired from a scoped .308 LaRue Tactical assault rifle.  Perry’s victorious half smile/smirk and faux heroic gaze following the successful shot reminded us of his lighter than air demeanor many times during the last presidential debates – no Kirk Douglas/Spartacus he.  Perry admitted that he first shot a gun at age four and likened his shooting as a hobby – like golf… For me my time on the firing range was an interesting recreational pursuit and opportunity to learn how to handle, use, maintain and respect guns, nothing more.  Having said that, we certainly don’t begrudge any responsible citizenry the opportunity to buy guns for defense, hunt and even pursue legitimately sanctioned shooting events including NRA meets.  By the way, lest we think Perry’s hit a once in a lifetime lucky shot, please know that he really has a good eye and has been choreographing and practicing that shot for well over a year (we’ve seen his tweets). Yes, I have voted for him.

Now with all their bluster the mostly Republican proposed legislation that would allow students over age 21 and with concealed handgun permits to carry on their college campuses also allows the colleges and universities to opt out and enforce bans on concealed handguns.  If the initial outcry from Texas academics is any indication, most colleges and universities will choose to opt out and ban firearms on their campuses. There is, however, support for the proposal and as one Virginia Tech grad opined, “Guns on campus, that’s crazy!” We agree

Let’s take a look at a scenario where on a college campus a deranged gunman in the model of the recent Sandy Hook shooter starts gunning down people.  Law enforcement has been alerted and they along with campus marshals and police are on their way.  You have a concealed handgun permit and you are carrying that day.  The shots are getting closer and while you have a permit you have not had any training in law enforcement and the only thing you’ve shot at are some paper targets on a shooting range, some tin cans and that tree stump you vaporized with an AR-15.  You are now, however, confronted with a life or death situation. You are in the company of your girlfriend and several fellow students and were on your way to sociology class.  What to do?

You responsibly direct your companions to seek cover and draw your weapon anticipating the momentary appearance of the shooter and around the corner, here he comes – in full body armor and carrying a Bushmaster with a high capacity clip and what appears to be several holstered handguns, an ammo sack and a snake gun slung over his shoulder. You confront him and loose several rounds that hit him in his protected zones.  He returns fire at you and your already fleeing companions.  In a fortuitous, cinematic nick of time the police arrive and dispatch the shooter – and you - as you stood at the ready - gun smoking.  You see, the police were unable to determine if you were a perpetrator or a friendly. Thus the tragedy expands and the job of law enforcement is complicated by exponential degrees by a well-intended but poorly trained (and mostly young) citizenry.

Aside from a necessary and last ditch defense of Family, hearth and home when someone confronts you and you have to defend yourself, we think we should leave the heavy lifting to law enforcement and those trained for that job. We are reminded of the recent unsuccessful home invasion by two Oklahoma teens on a rural Maypearl, Texas home.  Confronted with gunfire they fled and then ultimately committed suicide rather than face Texas authorities. That scenario resulted in a rare and welcome win for the good guys. 

Many times, though, the police may not be able to differentiate between you and the criminal.  A SWAT Team coming into a hot zone is going to shoot first and ask questions later. And we ask what about your Friends who will most assuredly come under attack by a shooter and what if you hit an innocent bystander or like the police what if another gun toting citizen student mistakes you for the shooter… Thoughts to ponder.  We certainly understand the underlying emotion, but this is a complicated issue.  As with life, we are dealing with varying shades of gray.

We also ponder that disagreements once managed and reconciled by debate or at the extreme, a brawl on the back forty, now becomes the impetus to take the easy way out and just shoot your opponent in that crazy hyperventilated millisecond where emotion trumps reason and civil behavior. You can’t take that moment in time away. We are making it easy to take the low road…  

We looked at five major polls which reflect that up to 90% of the national electorate support expanded background checks, yet Congress failed to enact and pass that legislation.  This sure looks to be a wax and wane scenario as folks forget about Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Boston, et al though it would appear they will unfortunately be reminded of the issue many times in the future.

So who benefits if universal background checks and other gun control measures are defeated?  First of all, the gun manufacturers and the gun lobby in Washington who are paid to forward the agenda of expanding firearms sales to whomever benefit the most. The NRA who once supported greater gun controls now perceive that their influence would be greatly diminished if that ever happened thus they morph common sense gun safety into a gun rights issue – the dreaded gun registry. However they paint it, it’s all about the almighty dollar - money.

The NRA’s almost five million members are passionate and well organized – well enough to intimidate our representatives and defeat expanded gun control and background checks at the federal level. Now how does that stack up with the 66 million that voted Democratic in the last presidential election and those of the roughly 61 million Republicans that share gun control reform sentiments?  The overwhelming numbers of reform minded citizen voters don’t mean a thing until that silent and substantial majority demands their lawmakers engage reformed gun control legislation.  Until that happens we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.

The Republicans didn’t learn any lessons from their most recent defeats with it appearing they think they won.   They didn’t and we need to remind them once again of their defeat at the polls along with those from other parties - Democratic, Tea Party, Libertarian or Green, etc. who failed to support and vote the will of their constituents.

So, let’s single one of those out – Senator Kelley Ayotte of New Hampshire who literally defied the highly publicized substantial majority will of her constituents and voted against gun reform - the only New England senator to oppose the legislation. Now, Ayotte’s term runs to 2016 and that interim will be a constant reminder of an elected representative who committed political suicide in front of God and Country. She is most likely going to suffer a decreased effectiveness in the Senate, the enmity of her now estranged constituency and as the Huffington Post opined, suffer a political future that’s, “in the toilet.”  We agree and encourage all to seek out the Kelley Ayottes on The Hill and vote them out of office. Please continue to remember and stay motivated…

The NRA’s reaction?  Though we’re talking about expanded background checks that would keep firearms out of the hands of criminals, the mentally incompetent and others adjudged a risk to society, the NRA lauded Ayotte for, “protecting the rights of gun owners.” Huh?

Then on the heels of all this rubbish the Texas Senate today approved and sent to Gov. Rick Perry a bill that drastically reduces the hours of training needed to get a state concealed handgun license. The bill that passed the senate without debate cut the training from a minimum of ten hours to from four to six. We’ve determined that most states concealed weapon permit training is all accomplished within a day.  We thought that expanding the training might be more appropriate but what of those that slip in between the cracks and adopt an empowered vigilante posture - an invitation to take the law into their own hands. One highly regarded range master who trains for the Texas Concealed Carry permit stated that the now further reduced course is woefully inadequate.

If you think your sons and daughters might potentially migrate to a state with a cowboy shoot em up mentality and on a college campus that doesn’t opt out where there is no limitation on who can carry a concealed handgun save a minimalist handgun permit that doesn’t include any formal law enforcement training, you better do some real checking.  Those states are many and well beyond the borders of Texas. In fairness we heard of one study by an chemical engineer from Texas which reflects that those with Texas concealed handgun permits were, “less likely to commit any particular type of crime than the general population, and overall were 13 times less likely to commit any crime.” We say being a good (untrained) guy doesn’t make them qualified to carry on any campus where the mere presence of firearms could provoke and incite conflict.  Maybe we will ultimately come to the conclusion that there are no real safe places left – that like crossing the street there are risks inherent in all activities – where life becomes cheaper and even just another commodity.

We say let’s make it more difficult to purchase any weapon and obtain a permit and encourage all of the fifty states, the District of Columbia and our possessions to participate and share local critical data on criminals and the mentally ill, etc. to our national databank for that purpose. And, yes, let’s hold all our politicians accountable for our wishes. And let’s wonder about those students who now armed get sideways with their professors and decide to shoot it out. This is sure a different world and seemingly not a better one…

When did we ever arrive at the conclusion that the lives of our babies and innocents wasn’t as important as gun safety. As one Texas educator questioned, “How can any reasonable, sentient human being support this policy?” Ah… And with the current Texas legislature all this is paramount over the more substantial public education, highway/transportation and in a state with a great thirst – water issues.  Go figure     


Ned Buxton

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