It’s Not Guns, It’s Bad Laws, People

Jerry Coffee
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Wednesday - April 25, 2007
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I grew up in a “gun” culture - hardly at the level of fanaticism but in a natural sort of way. My dad and and his dad were hunters, mostly for birds such as pheasant, duck, quail and dove, but maybe once a year we’d hunt deer in the nearby Sierra Nevada. My friends and their dads and grand-dads did too. It was as normal as playing touch football or doing chores.

My Grandpa Coffee presented me with a treasured Daisy BB gun when I was 7n, and a more powerful Crossman air rifle at 10. He helped me become a crack-shot, the scourge of the abundant sparrow and blackbird population on his 40 acres of California’s verdant San Juaquin Valley.

On my 14th Christmas I received a double-barrelled .410-gauge shotgun, and a .16-gauge two years later.

As a deputy sheriff, my grandpa was sometimes retained by private hunting clubs to patrol for poachers. Some of my most cherished memories are of duck hunting with him while he was “on duty.” And grandma really knew how to roast a duck.

I never killed a deer until I was grown, and, once I did, I lost all desire to do it again.

I have never believed automatic weapons (multiple shots with one pull of the trigger, like a machine gun) were appropriate for hunting, and was in favor of the federal law which banned their sale. Then I was disappointed in Congress’s failure to renew it upon expiration - gotta get that NRA (National Rifle Association) money! Except for law enforcement, there is no place in our civilian society for automatic weapons. After the recent hideous massacre at Virginia Tech University, it’s obvious that a semi-automatic (one shot for one pull of the trigger but with multiple shots available) is bad enough. The murderer might have doubled his kill with a totally automatic weapon.

Understandably, the tragic event at Virginia Tech has rein-vigorated the national debate on gun control laws and how they may or may not have changed the outcome there. The university, by it’s own decree, was a “gun-free zone” (all firearms banned). And this in one of 40 states with “right to carry” laws, meaning a qualified citizen (basically, 21 years of age, no significant criminal record, no history of mental illness) “shall” (changed from “may”) be issued a permit to carry a concealed handgun if he/she applies for one. Although a counterintuitive policy on the surface, the assumption is that criminals are deterred by the possibility that a potential victim might blow his head off at the first sign of mal-intent

The most comprehensive statistical study on the efficacy of such laws in reducing crime was conducted by economist John R. Lott Jr., and found that in “right to carry” states, murder was reduced by 7.6 percent, rape by 5.2 percent, robberies by 2.2 percent, and aggravated assault by 7 percent.

Although Lott’s apparent motive was to simply measure the results of the policy, not surprisingly, his findings were very controversial, and were instantly challenged - in some respects effectively - by agenda-driven gun control advocates. So even though 40 state legislatures have adopted right-to-carry laws, the debate continues.

Hawaii is one of eight states with “restrictively administered discretionary” permit issue systems. According to statute S134-9, “In an exceptional case where the applicant shows reason to fear injury to person or property (and is otherwise qualified) the chief of police may issue a license to carry a concealed handgun.” Anecdotally, however, such licenses are very rarely issued.

Only eight years ago here in Honolulu, we witnessed the carnage of multiple murders when a similarly deranged Xerox employee murdered seven coworkers in less than a minute.

As we re-evaluate (as we must) the security policies of our own University of Hawaii system and, sadly, even our high school campuses, we should proceed with open minds to all possibilities.

One wonders, if selected, qualified and gun-trained faculty members, deputized by the campus police force at Virginia Tech, had had the right to a handgun in purse or desk drawer, might the slaughter have been less, or averted entirely.

Things have sure changed drastically since those idyllic, boyhood days in central California

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