Americans Deserve Comprehensive Gun Control


Rick Hartford

In a nation with such extreme opposing views on gun control, compromise is the first step to protecting lives. (Rick Hartford/Hartford Courant/MCT)


In a nation with such extreme opposing views on gun control, compromise is the first step to protecting lives. (Rick Hartford/Hartford Courant/MCT)
In a nation with such extreme opposing views on gun control, compromise is the first step to protecting lives. (Rick Hartford/Hartford Courant/MCT)

A bi-partisan group of Senate leaders is now devising a plan to enforce a universal background check on those purchasing guns throughout the country. Leaders hope to strike a deal within the early days of March but talks are being held up by a debate on how to record citizens’ information from the transaction after the fact and whether or not the federal government should hold a national registry for people who own guns, as it is currently illegal to do so.

It’s a small sign of hope that Senate leaders have continued the discussion on gun control since the Newtown massacre. However, the debates around creating the registry are a from distraction what really needs to be addressed: limiting the kinds of guns that will be available to ordinary American citizens. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of people (despite not having criminal records or a diagnosis of a mental illness) who may not have the rationale to responsibly operate any type of gun still having the ability to purchase and virtually use them as they see fit. But New York politicians have enacted aggressive gun control policies that I think should be used as the basis for nationwide legislation. Our state policy addresses the concerns on both sides of the debate and if allowing gun purchases for what some would call less-harmful ammunition is the only way to start limiting access to guns, I am open to compromise.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have made the Empire State the leading state in gun control policy after having signed into law our country’s harshest crack down on unlawful gun use and possession earlier this year.

Entitled the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act, the new legislation is mandated to: keep assault weapons out of the hands of felons and the mentally ill, ban certain magazines and assault weapons and require gun transfers between private parties to be vetted by qualified professionals to ensure proper background checks.  It has also upgraded the crimes of possessing guns on school grounds or illegally using guns during gang involvement and drug dealing from a misdemeanor to a felony.

New York is a highly unique state in comparison to the others that make up our nation given our diverse ethnic makeup; the concerns expressed from our relatively high population of people of color have made heavy regulation of weapons largely accepted. Yes, the culture and ideologies that are popular in our state differ from those of other states, inevitably leading to officials handling various priorities and solutions to problems they find most pertinent to their region.

In any case, doing the most to preserve human life should be a priority to officials everywhere and failure to thoroughly establish who should and shouldn’t have access to assault weapons will only exacerbate the problem, not fix it. It is a small comfort to have such legislation for New York citizens and similar initiatives sprinkled throughout other states like Maryland, Oregon and Connecticut. But I will not be satisfied until my fellow citizens (and family members) that happen to live in other states have the same protection.

The discussion of what an assault weapon actually is is a debate of its own, so much so that whether or not someone even uses the term often indicates which side they support in the issue. Anti-gun people use it to describe semiautomatic rifles like M-16s and AR-15s with removable magazines and features found in military ammo like pistol grips, flash suppressors and collapsible or folding stocks. However, groups touting the Second Amendment say these kinds of guns are frequently used for target shooting and hunting and that the features these guns have are mainly “cosmetic.”

But as much as people want to play the blame game, the fact is that all guns are a threat to human life and need to be treated as such. These weapons were specifically designed for the battlefield and to kill mass numbers of people. They are not appropriate for citizens living ordinary lives on American soil. And as much as gun activists want to praise the rights granted with the Second Amendment, that part of the Constitution wasn’t addressing self-defense when the Constitution was written in 1787. It was addressing national defense, granting the federal government the right to arm its militiamen with weaponry the needed to win in combat.

The fact that conservatives and gun activists have held back influential legislation that could lead to more comprehensive protection for citizens against gun violence appears to me like a last ditch attempt to showboat for party image. We can’t afford to waste time stalling on deciding how to manage paperwork when we really should now be discussing the most sensible way to limit people’s access to assault weapons, weapons that pose the largest threats and are gratuitous to citizens’ everyday life.