Newtown, newcountry?

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

One year after 20 first-graders were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.; two months after my twin grandsons were born (seven years before they enter first grade); and six months after my son became a gun-carrying police officer, I've been thinking about the recent failure of our Gun Rights and Responsibilities Committee to reach consensus on how to reduce gun violence in this country.

As you can see, I come at this issue from several angles.

I'm incredulous that 12 months after the latest "massacre of the innocents," we've done nothing as a nation to reduce the easy availability of guns by criminals and the dangerously mentally ill. I'm frightened (to death) that my grandsons someday might be mowed down by a madman who found it way too easy to access semi-automatic assault weapons with high-capacity magazines. I dearly hope my son never has to discharge his firearm because taking the life of another human being, no matter the circumstances, is personally traumatic. And I'm deeply disappointed that people who should know better (gun owners) seem to care so much more about their individual rights than the overall safety of our community.

I'm also shocked by their apparent indifference toward the rising number of mass-murder incidents nationwide. If they have feelings about it, they certainly aren't showing them. It's as if they're deathly afraid that acknowledging emotion about Newtown will make them "soft" and threaten the defense of their gun rights, which are more precious to them than anything else. 

Gun-rights advocates, if probed, would probably say the Newtown massacre was "regrettable" and, if questioned, might even express discomfort about it. But their conclusion is that the only way to prevent such catastrophes is to arm the schools.

The gun-responsibilities side, on the other hand, believes the best way to prevent criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from getting guns in the first place is a strong, effective, universal background check system on all firearm sales and transfers.

But neither approach can absolutely guarantee our kids' safety, so the obvious compromise would be to do both. Their refusal to compromise, I suspect, comes from a deeply ingrained fear that opening the door a crack will inevitably lead to confiscation of their guns by an evil, oppressive government.

No amount of reassurance can breach that fear, even the obvious — that there are an estimated 300 million guns in private hands in this country. Even if some future authoritarian government-from-hell wanted to, they'd never be able to confiscate that many guns — however draconian their measures.

But the myth is firmly fixed, no matter how irrational it sounds to the rest of us.

Only one member of the gun-rights side, John Erickson, made an honest attempt to listen to what our side had to say over the course of 11 months. You can read his latest response to our final report — which ran in Viewpoints on Dec. 4 — on page 30 of this section.

It's hard to imagine that any compromise is possible with the gun-rights side, but I won't give up completely until we see the specific proposals for reducing gun violence that John Erickson has promised next week. To date, however, the gun-rights side has proven incapable of producing any specific proposals.

As of the week before Christmas, a year after Newtown, this country still has the same problem it had then: Guns are far too easy for criminals and the dangerously mentally ill to acquire.

I'm not the only one saying that, by the way. According to the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California Davis School of Medicine — cited in the January Harper's Index — 55% of U.S. gun retailers believe "it is too easy for criminals to get guns in this country."

If you agree with that statement, then the rest naturally follows. This country should do everything it can to reduce gun violence, and that obviously includes preventing the wrong people from obtaining guns in the first place — in addition to increased law enforcement efforts and licensed citizens carrying firearms. To not do everything possible, I think most people would agree, is foolish, and gun-rights advocates certainly do not consider themselves fools. 

To prevent the wrong people from having easy access to guns, we need an effective background check system for all gun transfers and purchases nationwide. There is no other way to do it.

The gun-rights side, in 11 months, has yet to develop a persuasive argument against this line of reasoning.

What really frustrated them, I suspect, is that our side knew what we wanted from the beginning and we never wavered. When they realized we weren't about to budge, the discussions ended, and they went back to hiding behind their rhetorical smokescreen. Check out the online comments about our report at if you want to read some examples. 

We presented our position in good faith. It's clear. It's even-handed. It's fair. Whenever gun owners want to engage us honestly, we're ready and waiting.

We owe it to those first-graders at Sandy Hook and to all the kids who will be bloodied in 2014 and beyond because of this nation's inability to take action And I owe it to my grandsons.

Newtown, newcountry. It's time for progress.

We're not going anywhere. We're right here.



Reader Comments

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Uncommon Sense  

Posted: January 13th, 2014 1:28 PM

Brian, that is typically the situation in general. Thugs don't by guns legally and vast majority of mass shooters don't either so while throwing up all these new laws make gun grabbers feel good, you can bet we will be having these same discussions years from now because they aren't addressing the real issues of gun violence which have nothing to do with laws but the cultural degradation of minority communities and lack of resources keeping crazy people off the streets.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: January 13th, 2014 1:12 PM

Typical; Ken Trainor double talk: Paragraph 15 "To prevent the wrong people from having access to guns we need an effective back round check system for all gun transfers and purchases nationwide" Except that Adam Louanza murdered his mother stole her firearms and used them to murder people. The national back round check would have stopped none of this. what frustrates me(not us) is that Ken Trainor mixed everything and the then posts it doesn't matter if you are right or wrong

Bill Doogan  

Posted: January 13th, 2014 12:46 PM

There are no concealed carry "rights" in Phelps HB183. You have to sign the UNLIMITED privacy waiver in the application so the State Police can snoop into your medical records and IRS returns, retain them FOREVER & share them with the feds. Thank NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde for that language, he provided it. The retarded hicks who comprise 90% of NRA members actually think that they are "the good guys" and they "have nothing to hide" so the carry license will make them junior policemen.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 24th, 2013 8:36 AM

@ Ken Trainor - let me see if I understand your offer. You will come back to the table if we forfeit our 2nd amendment rights, our Supreme Court victory, our newly acquired conceal carry rights, our reams of data and statistics supporting our position and anything else that you might perceive as "SCARY" and you offer endless hand wringing scenarios and nothing else. Fooled once shame on you, fooled twice shame on me. You have stated here that you have no willingness to budge on anything - what are you offering? Why would we even consider reopening talks?

Bill Doogan  

Posted: December 22nd, 2013 11:13 PM

Jim- NRA had not done a thing for IL gun owners in 40 yrs. Then they got trendy & recruited Otis McDonald from Chicago for their lawsuit. Won a victory for everyone in America at the Supreme Court. Then the NRA contract lobbyist from IL writes a carry bill w/ Duty to Inform, designed to profile & control blacks in Cook County. The hick small town NRA members can't figure out that the NRA is their worst enemy. Bad laws create lawsuits, money & job security for unethical lobbyists. Scam.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 22nd, 2013 4:51 PM

A Jim - I guess the NRA will not be expecting a Christmas card from you this year. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 22nd, 2013 3:58 PM

Come on, Ray. The NRA is not out there promoting itself to be an organization dedicated to competition and certification. Wayne LaPierre doesn't show up on Meet on Press to highlight those activities. He claims to be advocate for 2nd amendments rights but his bottom line is all about the bottom line for the gun manufacturers and wholesalers who pay him millions to pretend to be the voice of law abiding citizens. He now argues against proposed legislation that he previously and publically supported. LaPierre listens and answers only to the gun makers/sellers; and not to you or anyone else who pays NRA dues. 300,000,000 nonmilitary weapons in our country right now! The NRA argues that's not enough and won't stop until all of us are fully locked and loaded. That's a nightmarish scenario for a lot of folks but a dream come true for those who seek only to profit. We need more public discussion and greater citizen involvement. Keep the politicians, lobbyists and special interests on the sideline and work together to find both safety and security. Peace to you and your family in 2014.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 22nd, 2013 2:44 PM

@Jim - My involvement with the NRA has been through their competition and certification functions. Your problem seems to be with the NRA-ILA which is the legal action group. They are pretty good at preventing sneaky twists in the law. This group of comments is more related to Ken Trainor's screed that the gun owners refused to give in to his groups demands and agree to a meaningless list of concessions without any proof that gun violence will be reduced. He admitted that his side never had any intention of compromising with anyone - for any reason. That admission, in this very column, proves that a agreement would never be possible - and he knew it! A year of my life was wasted.

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 22nd, 2013 2:17 PM

Ray, it's hard to understand you're continued defense and support of the NRA. They don't seem to be protecting the rights of law abiding citizens as much as corporate interests of the gun manufacturers and retailers. We've repeatedly seen their chief lobbyist withdraw support for policies that the NRA previously supported and even taken positions that are contrary to the views of membership. In Illinois, the NRA is objecting to background checks for Cook county residents extended to include a search of criminal records in other counties. You complain about people who want safe and sensible guns laws but nary a peep from you about objectionable NRA positions that do nothing to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and unstable individuals.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 22nd, 2013 6:38 AM

It is interesting that you wave the "on line comments" as proof of our unwillingness to compromise. Had your presentation had any merit someone would have defended your position - no one did! The comments were almost exclusively pointing out how ignorant you are of the law, the problems of gun violence and the statistical data that refutes everything you have claimed. You have stated here that you were unwilling to compromise about anything - not the way to develop a consensus about anything. You denied us our constitutional rights for thirty years and have openly stated you would do it again - we want none of it. We were willing to talk about realistic solutions to a defined problem - you offered "magazine capacity" and an attack on the NRA BALDERDASH!!

joe from south oak park  

Posted: December 21st, 2013 9:07 PM

Dave- employers are allowed to post no carry if they so choose. Nobody is "overturning a person's right to determine what happens on their own property."

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 21st, 2013 6:14 PM

In 11 months we have detailed the background checks that happen at EVERY legal commercial gun transfer. You chose not to listen because it was not convenient to your argument. Nothing the 2nd amendment side said was convenient to your simplistic solutions. You, Ken, are a hypocrite!

LDL from Oak Park  

Posted: December 21st, 2013 1:08 PM

@OPT (cont.): As far as the operation of the firearm goes, there is no practical difference between an AR15 and a Ruger 10/22, or any other common semi-automatic sporting rifle. If you're so convinced that the AR15/M16 platform is uniquely suited for mayhem and mass destruction, why don't you name the specific characteristics of the rifle that enable this?

LDL from Oak Park  

Posted: December 21st, 2013 1:07 PM

@OPT (cont.): The M16 is different from its predecessor (the M14) mechanically and aesthetically. It's made from lighter materials. It fires a lighter round than earlier military rifles. It looks completely different. But that's like saying a Mazda with a rotary engine is completely unlike a Chevy pickup truck. Technically, it's true, but as far as the end-user is concerned, it doesn't matter. Push the gas pedal, the car goes. Pull the trigger, the firearm shoots.

LDL from Oak Park  

Posted: December 21st, 2013 1:06 PM

OP Transplant: Your drill sergeant was an idiot. The AR15 predates the M16. ArmaLite developed it before selling the design to Colt, who sold it to the military. In fact, a number of M16s purchased by the military were actually stamped "AR15." Furthermore, your one-hour block of instruction about how the M16 is "completely different from any weapon" [you] may have fired in the past" was, if it actually happened, either meaningless or misleading.

Dave from Chicago  

Posted: December 20th, 2013 3:37 PM

Given the intellectual heft of Oak Parkers, one would think the Village could come up with a new approach to protecting people from gun risks. The NRA is overturning a person's right to determine what happens on their property by forcing employers to allow workers to bring guns to work. So, the Village should require gun owners to allow searches of their homes to ensure they are storing their guns consistent with NRA gun safety policies. Even the NRA has to be against sloppy gun ownership.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 20th, 2013 3:21 PM

2nd amendment 19 Doogan 2 (He voted for himself both times) Trainer can't seem to buy a vote


Posted: December 20th, 2013 2:44 PM

Hey Billy Doogie, right to inform protects motorists. Believe it or not, several are thick skulled enough to be pulled over by the police and grab their insurance card from the glove box with their legally possessed firearm which not has heightened the sense of the police who may have their weapons drawn because Joe Six Pack forgot to say.."I have a weapon in my glove compartment." I never met a cop who didn't like duty to inform. The forgetful citizen with the gun in their face should prefer it


Posted: December 20th, 2013 2:39 PM

Decades after prohibition people are still bootlegging alcohol. Now we have bootleg movies and even better... black market cigarettes bought for cheaper prices in Indiana but somehow the govt can stop the illegal sell of firearms. They haven't stopped prositution, drug use, robberies, petty theft, burglaries..but they can stop me from meeting with you in secret to sell you a handgun. How? If you say legislation you as well quit. What about the firearms stolen from freight trains??? crickets..


Posted: December 20th, 2013 2:33 PM

Just a week ago a young girl was shot in the head by a high school student armed with a SHOTGUN. She wasn't shot with an AR-15 or a 45 caliber handgun, it was a shotgun. Trainor is wrong his misinterpretation that gun owners are not concerned about the safety of the community. Gun owner realize that legislation has never and will never be enough to dissuade determined human beings. Side question: when has a mad man with any weapon ever not been a safety issue?

Bill Doogan  

Posted: December 20th, 2013 12:44 PM

#545- Fight the real enemy? It's Todd Vandermyde, the NRA lobbyist who sold out Otis McDonald w/ Duty to Inform in the carry bill & the hick Phelps who sponsored it. LaShawn Ford knows that. What did John Gacy do to his victims after he abducted them with a sheriff badge? What did CPD detective Jon Burge do to torture black men B4 he sent them to death row? Electric shock & suffocation. False confessions. Planted evidence. Ever wonder why IL has no death penalty anymore?

OP Transplant  

Posted: December 20th, 2013 11:50 AM

Joe - Many years ago, I received a one-hour block of instruction intended to illustrate why the M-16 was, as a military weapon, completely different from any weapon we may have fired in the past. The AR-15 came in for particular derision, mostly having to do with "wannabe soldiers" who had, if my drill sergeant was to be believed, abnormally close relationships with their mothers. Haven't been able to look at an AR-15 without smiling since.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 20th, 2013 11:44 AM

2nd amendment 17 Doogan 1 Trainor still zip

Chris Williams from Oak Park   

Posted: December 20th, 2013 11:29 AM

Finally, I have discovered a good way to hunt feral hog. The feral hogs have been bothering me for years. I shoot at them with my .22, it does nothing. They laugh their feral hog laugh and continue on. I need a weapon that will fill those feral hogs with pounds of lead. That being said, I do believe everyone has the right to have a handgun in their home.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: December 20th, 2013 11:07 AM

Mr Doogan, you couldn't be more wrong. What did a police officer do to you that has you so warped in your perception of them? The only people who don't care about Mr McDonald & the black community are statists like Mr. Trainor who think their "good intentions" trump all the bad results their Great Society programs have wrought. Fight the real enemy, dude. No, NRA types don't think govt is de facto good & just. Quite the opposite, but they do respect the Constitution, unlike the Current Occupant.

Bill Doogan  

Posted: December 20th, 2013 10:20 AM

Ken- the NRA types are flag wavers who pose about rights and the Constitution, but most of them are authoritarians. They think that government is good and just in itself. That's why they accept a concealed carry bill w/ an unlimited privacy waiver & Duty to Inform. They think it makes them junior cops. They don't care about Otis McDonald or the people in black neighborhoods. To them, prison is for people who deserve it. They are "the good guys." The system has worked out well for them.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 20th, 2013 7:48 AM

I love it when the guy who is "SCARED" of guns creates a forum where firearms enthusiasts can argue the relative strengths and weaknesses of their favorites. Way to go Ken!!

joe from south oak park  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 11:07 PM

OP transplant- I beg to differ. The AR platform is excellent for hunting coyote and feral hog. As far as the barrel length goes you might be confusing the M16 (20 inch barrel) with the M4 Carbine (14.5 inch). AR15's routinely come with barrels ranging anywhere from 16 to 24 inches and there are already federal laws that cover the possession of a short barrel rifle. (you need the BATFE and your local chief LEO to sign paperwork, you pay a $200 tax, plus you must hold the appropriate license).

Another perspective  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 7:39 PM

The gun rights speaks in generalities too--and abstraction written by men who lived hundreds of years ago before such things designed for killing were imagined.You all have given no rationale explanation for how arming yourselves and anyone else is going to stop crime.Why don't you give statistics? The only places with incredibly reduced gun violence are places where guns are illegal.Keep being stubborn and letting innocents die, and your worst nightmare, losing your precious guns, will cometrue

Another perspective  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 7:34 PM

You all do realize that having guns may actually attract bad guys to your house? letting them know who you are is also probably not very wise either.

OP Transplant  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 4:05 PM

The authors of the Constitution had no power to divine the future. They had some pretty embarrassing misses (slavery?) They could only have guaranteed the right to bear arms as they understood arms. They had about as much to say about high-capacity magazines as they did about airline regulation. That's why we sometimes need new laws.

OP Transplant  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 3:59 PM

The AR-15 is the civilian version of the M-16, lacking the capacity to fire on full auto. It is designed to be more easily handled in a combat situation. You give up the increased accuracy of a longer rifle for the maneuverability of a shorter weapon that puts more rounds toward the target in less time. The AR-15 is designed for a firefight, not for hunting. There is a functional difference, which is why the military doesn't carry fully automatic hunting rifles.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 3:44 PM

OPT, they were political men who understood the weakness of men and government which is why our constitution is so important. It prevents to slow creep into tyranny because no one person can seize power. As far as firearms are concerned, the general public cannot buy automatic weapons. AR-15s are styled to look like military issue weapons but are no different from any general use rifle.

OP Transplant  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 3:35 PM

RE: "Your faith in political men and government is naive." The authors of the 2nd Amendment were "political men and government." Laws change, often as technologies change. There was minimal difference between the weapons used for sport and military purposes in the 18th century. There's an enormous difference now.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 3:23 PM

OPT, I don't think there is any question that private citizens have a right to bear arms. That isn't even up for discussion anymore. However, I do find it frightening that you would think the 2nd amendment is outdated. Your faith in political men and government is naive. Our founders had great insight to the failings of government run by men with unchecked power hence the three branches of govt and our amendments.

OP Transplant  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 2:55 PM

Uncommon - I'm not a Constitutional scholar, but, to my untrained eye, the 2nd Amend appears to guarantee the right to private ownership of the types of weapons used by military groups. The discussion has to start there. I'm not really in favor of the formation of militias or the private ownership of certain types of weapons, but advocates of gun rights seem to have the law on their side. We're basing all laws involving gun ownership on an amendment that's become an anachronism.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 2:17 PM

I think to have a meaningful discussion, debate, and solutions both sides need to agree on some base line facts first. What constitutes "assault weapon"? Mass shootings vs thug on thug violence. # of deaths. Demographics. Types of firearms used in deaths. Source of those firearms. Legal or illegal. We don't need generalities. We need facts. The responsibilities side seems to prefer to speak in generalities imho.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 1:13 PM

Sense and reason 4 Trainor 0

OP Transplant  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 11:28 AM

Ken - If there is some sort of check that can predict the future mental health of all relatives of those applying for FOID, I'm in favor of requiring the use of that check. If such a check doesn't exist, what's your point? It seems that you're just reminding the reader that, despite having no solutions, you care more than anyone else. Duly noted. By the way, I'm not even a gun owner; your unctuous self-righteousness just irritates me.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 11:19 AM

Just like "universal healthcare", "universal pre-school", "comprehensive immigration"....code words for statism i.e, the religion of the left. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 19th, 2013 11:07 AM

My late father told us that" The empty wagon makes the most noise" Ken loves to wave the "universal background check" flag at every opportunity. He cannot tell us what it is, how it works or what it will accomplish - but that is of no matter. We are all bad, unfeeling people because we refuse to buy this pig in a poke. The targets of his venom have tried to provide statistics, alternatives and a different view of the gun violence problem - he chooses to ignore any other point of view and just marches on waiving his universal background check banner. Feelings always trump facts.


Posted: December 18th, 2013 10:05 AM

Oh come one. Look, the state has pre-emption over all things handgun related. Now you are just talking for the sake of talking.

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