By Ken Trainor
The Gun Rights vs. Regulation Group — for want of a better name — met for the second time on March 7 at Dole Library, and participants got into a heated discussion. Not about guns but about organizational issues. So far, we're challenged on that front. Not surprising, I suppose. We're amateurs, trying to find our way.
Dave Schweig, who launched this endeavor, said he thinks we're informationally challenged, too, and he challenged us to get more informed. So I pulled together some of my homework in preparation for tomorrow night's meeting (March 28, 7 p.m., Dole). Here's a small portion of what I've learned, presented in — what else? — bullet points:
Did you know:
- In the 2008 Supreme Court decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, which led to overturning the D.C. handgun ban, which led to overturning the Oak Park's handgun ban, the court limited its scope to firearms "in common use" for self-defense. As Jeffrey Toobin, a respected journalist who has covered the Supreme Court for many years, wrote in the New Yorker on Dec. 18, 2012 ("So You Think You Know the Second Amendment?"): "Scalia could not create an individual right to contemporary military weapons – like tanks and Stinger missiles. In light of this, [he] conjured a rule that said D.C. could not ban handguns because 'handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home, and a complete prohibition of their use is invalid.' So the government cannot ban handguns, but it can ban other weapons — like, say, an assault rifle — or so it appears. The full meaning of the court's Heller opinion is still up for grabs. But it is clear that the scope of the Second Amendment will be determined as much by politics as by the law. The courts will respond to public pressure — as they did by moving to the right on gun control in the last 30 years."
- Oak Park's 1984 handgun ban went to public referendum in 1985 and was approved by voters, 54-46 percent.
- Our handgun ban is still "on the books." We just can't enforce it without incurring a court challenge. Like our longstanding "ban" on For Sale signs, it's essentially voluntary.
- In addition to a handgun ban that can't be enforced, Oak Park also has an assault weapons ban that can be enforced because they aren't covered by the Supreme Court's recent gun-friendly decisions.
- About 10 years ago, New York Mayor Bloomberg told a congressional committee, "About 1 percent of all gun dealers account for almost 60 percent of all crime guns nationwide." (Source: an op-ed piece in the New York Daily News)
- Columbine High School in Colorado had an armed guard on duty when 12 students and one teacher were murdered in 1999. (Source: a Politico column by Roger Simon, Jan. 16)
- 40 percent of gun purchases take place either through private transactions or at gun shows where no background check is required. (Source: a Washington Post column by Eugene Robinson, published Jan. 17)
- Most gun shows do not allow loaded guns, writes Roger Simon in the aforementioned Politico column. Why? As one show put it on their website, "Your personal safety is our number one priority while you are at the show." Yet, as Simon points out, the NRA wants loaded guns in our schools to make them safer.
- According to the "Harper's Index" (which lists the source of all its statistics) in the April edition of Harper's Magazine, at least five people were accidentally shot at gun shows on "Gun Appreciation Day" this past January.
- Roughly 30,000 Americans die each year from gunshots. (Numerous sources, including Robinson's aforementioned Washington Post column) 58,000+ Americans died in the entire Vietnam War.
- 2/3 of American gun deaths in 2011 were suicides. (Source: Harper's Index, April)
- 680 U.S. children under the age of 13 were killed by firearms between 2006 and 2011. (Source: Harper's Index, March)
- Projected year by which annual firearm fatalities will surpass motor-vehicle fatalities in the United States: 2015. (Source: Harper's Index, March)
- The NRA spent 10 times more than all gun-control activist groups combined on lobbying in 2012. (Source: Harper's Index, April)
- The NRA's Victory Fund spent $11,159,493 on the 2012 election, of which 44/100ths of 1 percent went to winning candidates. (Source: Harper's Index, March)
- According to a Boston Children's Hospital study, released March 6, those states with the most firearm legislation had a 42 percent lower overall firearm-associated mortality rate than states with the least legislation. The firearm-associated homicide rate was 40 percent lower, and the firearm-related suicide rate was 37 percent lower in states with the most legislation. (Any number of media sources, including Yahoo)
We have a long way to go — in this country and in our group. Tomorrow night, the gun rights members of our group will have the opportunity to present their side of the issue while the gun regulation members listen and ask clarifying questions only. The goal is to show respect. At the following meeting, the gun regulation side will be presented with the same ground rules.
If we survive those sessions, we'll begin the challenging task of seeing if we can develop a gun regulation ordinance that both sides can live with.
Failing that, I suppose, we'll settle for two different ordinances that hopefully will have some overlap.
Genuine dialogue will be required.
Wish us luck.