DOES NEW JERSEY NEED EVEN TIGHTER GUN CONTROL?: Two recent gun-related attacks - the Arizona shooting that left six dead and 13 wounded, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and the fatal shooting of a Lakewood police officer - have prompted plenty
Submitted by andy on Tue, 2011-02-15 13:06
February 13, 2011 - Asbury Park Press
In the wake of another predictable mass shooting, the most recent in Tucson where six people died and another 13 were wounded, including a U.S. congresswoman, the issue of preventing gun violence has raised its head. It's sad that it takes such carnage to awaken people to the lack of safety from gun violence in America.
Such massacres are uniquely American and predictable, as are the shootings that occur in cities, towns, suburbs and countrysides across our nation every hour. Americans have a per-capita gun death rate many times greater than any other industrialized country. Incredibly, many major American cities have more gun homicides each year than entire industrialized nations.
Americans respond to massacres like Tucson, Virginia Tech, Columbine and too many others in one of two ways. A tiny minority calls for allowing individuals to carry guns in public, in a delusional belief that arming everyone will lead to less gun violence.
Let's dispose of that dangerous notion and get serious. The "more guns, less gun violence" theme is based on the theory that, if there were many more armed citizens, people intent on mayhem — whether it be sensational mass killings like Tucson or everyday gun crime that makes citizens fearful of walking the streets — will think twice about wielding guns and may eschew doing so altogether. Thus, "an armed society is a polite society."
I admit there is some seemingly appealing, if twisted, logic to this. But the facts disprove it. If it were true, our country, with its high per-capita gun possession rate, would have a relatively low rate of gun violence. The opposite, of course, is true. More guns in more hands do not cause less gun violence; they cause more.
New Jersey, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, the nation's largest organization devoted to reducing gun violence, has the second most effective gun laws in the country. The pro-gun minority seeks to weaken them, citing the bogus "armed/polite" premise. Should we?
It would be an enormous mistake to make the Garden State's effective gun laws less so. We know they work because annualized data from the federal Centers for Disease Control demonstrates that New Jersey has one of the lowest per-capita rates of gun death among the 50 states. In fact, the six states with the lowest rates of gun death also have relatively strong gun laws. Coincidence? I think not.
The bulk of the gun violence we face in New Jersey is committed with guns purchased in other states and illegally trafficked here. According to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the enforcer of federal gun laws, almost three-quarters of the guns recovered from crime by New Jersey law enforcement come from out of state. This is because our laws, including one that limits purchasers to no more than a single handgun per month — which gun advocates seek to dismantle — discourage the movement of guns from legal sale at New Jersey gun shops to illegal street sale.
Because of our rigorous state background check system, the Tucson, Virginia Tech and Columbine shooters would not have been able to purchase any guns here, much less the assault guns used in two of those massacres, which we have banned for 20 years.
We should actually be doing more. Specifically, we should ban massively destructive .50-caliber sniper rifles. They are military weapons made to destroy material targets like refineries, chemical plants, rail tank cars and passenger aircraft — targets that dot our state and are available from New Jersey gun dealers.
New Jersey's choice is simple and clear: Make a tiny group of pro-gun zealots happy by weakening our gun laws, or opt for increased safety by strengthening them. If you believe the latter, you are part of the vast majority of New Jerseyans who want increased safety from gun violence, not more guns and gun violence.
Bryan Miller is the project director for Ceasefire New Jersey, a gun violence prevention group that is part of the Coalition for Peace Action.