Rational gun control

Scarcely a day goes by in America without a news report that some individual, driven by motivations that one often can only imagine, has used a firearm to take the life of another. A gun is, far and away, the weapon of choice for anyone bent on deadly violence — whether it be to take one’s own life or to kill another fellow human being.

America has 4.4 percent of the world’s population but almost half of the civilian-owned guns throughout the world. So it’s hardly surprising that our nation has six times as many firearm homicides as Canada, 15 times as many as Germany. Guns allow people to kill much more easily than do other weapons. The reason is simple. The more guns, the more gun homicides. According to the Mass Shooting Tracker database, there is a mass shooting (four or more victims, including the shooter) in the United States every day.

Americans in ever-increasing numbers say they want to protect the right to bear arms. But they also support, in increasing numbers, various gun control proposals. In 2013, when legislation to expand background checks failed in the U.S. Senate, a Gallup poll found that 65 percent of Americans supported the bill; an ABC/Washington Post poll found that 67 percent of respondents thought the Senate made a mistake in rejecting the bill. In that same year, a Pew Research Center poll found 85 percent support for background checks in private and gun show sales, 67 percent support for a federal database to track gun sales and support ranging from 54 to 58 percent for bans on semi- automatic and assault-style weapons and high capacity ammunition clips.

Such data makes it abundantly clear that, even as Americans want to preserve the constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms, they support policies that would reduce access to firearms. How is it then that, as a nation, we seem unable to engage in any meaningful discussion of rational gun control?

That answer, too, is all too simple. The estimated revenue generated by America’s gun and ammunition industry amounts to billions of dollars annually — almost all of it dependent on the continued sale of the millions of new firearms manufactured each year. In 2012, Time magazine reported a l7-to-1 ratio of gun-rights lobbyist spending ($4.2 million) to gun control lobbyist spending ($240,000) the year before. Those lobbyists, with the aid of the powerful National Rifle Association, successfully convince millions of Americans that even the most reasonable gun control measures represent an attempt “to take away your guns.”

A proposal to expand background checks of Maine gun-buyers to include private sellers as well as licensed firearms dealers was initiated recently by the Maine chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. The group, which includes several Hancock County residents, will seek to obtain 61,000 signatures to place its proposal on a statewide referendum ballot. The measure is not at all an attempt to thwart gun ownership by anyone not banned by law from possessing firearms. “We’re trying to make it better and safer for the people in the state of Maine,” said Bucksport Police Chief Sean Geagan, who is backing the effort on behalf of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association. It’s telling that the group is opting for the citizen initiative process, rather than approaching a legislature that has repeatedly succumbed to the shrill and well-financed voices of opposition in rejecting other attempts to regulate firearms. Perhaps it will be possible that, for the first time in many a year, a rational discussion of a gun control measure, appearing to have broad-based support, can take place here in our state.

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