I want to express my appreciation to Mr. John Saniel-Banrey for offering his commentary on the issues concerning gun ownership (Letter, April 10). As I have stated previously, my intention in writing about them was and is about engendering reasonable dialogue, hopefully leading to better outcomes than our nation has been experiencing.
While I understand that Mr. Saniel-Banrey and I do not see eye-to-eye on a number of potential actions that could serve as interventions to reduce gun violence (especially in our schools), I think we can agree that two of my stated concerns are quite similar to his: The need for better screening processes for mental health candidates whose gun ownership should be curtailed and better communication resources with sufficient follow-up personnel being in effect when individuals are identified as potentially problematic. Perhaps, that might be a doorway to what the majority of Americans indicate they would favor being enacted into law. In a Gallup Poll conducted in October of 2017, 96 percent favored requiring background checks for all gun purchases and 75 percent supported a 30-day waiting period for all gun sales. I would hope that Mr. Saniel-Banrey might be in agreement with the majority on those issues.
But I do recognize that he and I differ on a number of other points, and, in the spirit of further understanding of each other, I would like to respond to some of the positions he took. Mr. Saniel-Banrey said that my use of the term “extraordinary amount of gun violence plaguing this nation” was a gross exaggeration. Now, I realize that people can view what the term “extraordinary amount” might mean, but even a cursory scan of the internet reveals enough statistical comparisons of gun violence in the U.S. to other nations to reveal that homicides in which a firearm is used is many times greater here than in most nations. For example, our firearm homicides average five times those of Canada and 14 times those of Germany. Using the term “extraordinary” doesn’t seem to me an exaggeration.
But the degree of difference on Mr. Saniel-Banrey’s definition of a word is hardly the point. What I feel is relevant centers around two distinct aspects of this debate. The first is centered on use. I believe that Mr. Saniel-Banrey missed my point about my familiarity with rifles and guns. In the case of the usefulness of a semi-automatic weapon (or an assault weapon, for that matter) for hunting or home protection, the examples of needing one to kill coyotes and wild pigs fall short of the concept of reasonable use for most people living in urban communities. I could understand why a farmer might have an occasion to confront such animals and could easily be licensed to shoot one. In such cases, the rules governing hunters everywhere should be applied. But that hardly justifies the need for high-capacity magazines to get the job done. And when simple adjustments and the use of bump stocks are combined with semi-automatics, they have the potential to be used as weapons of mass murder. Regulation of such weapons is clearly called for.
I must also address the notion that it is “a knee-jerk reaction” to want to ban all assault rifles because less than 2 percent of mass murders are committed by them. I would ask, what is the actual number of deaths it would take before we, as a nation, should consider an AR-15 a problem? Likewise, when I spoke about the use of an M-60 machine gun, I was hoping to make the point that there are some kinds of weapons civilians should not possess. If owning an AR-15 is permissible, why not an M-16 or an M-60 or a 105 cannon? How about an RPG or maybe even an M20 rocket launcher?
And this brings us to the place where I hope that Mr. Saniel-Banrey and I could engage in a further conversation: On the meaning and purpose of the Second Amendment. If I understood his objection, there was no need to consider the opening clause “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State…” as he argued that the only thing that need to be considered is the phrase “shall not be infringed.” I would like to encourage him to consider why our founding fathers felt both parts of that amendment were important and to perhaps to ask himself if it would make sense to declare firearm ownership a constitutional right if there were no conditions or circumstances impacting on their thinking. I believe context in this matter is all important, and unless we try to understand their motivations, we may well be courting an outcome that is detrimental to our nation.
In the end, I feel that responses to my comments like those of Mr. Saniel-Banrey’s and others are very useful and more than welcome, and I sincerely hope the positive tone of these discussions will continue.