Gun Control Debate Packs Heat

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By Marisa Demarco

—As President Obama announced a task force to evaluate gun control, business was booming at Ron Peterson Firearms on east Central.

Obama tapped Vice President Joe Biden to lead an effort to evaluate national gun laws after the Newtown, Conn. mass shooting that left 27 dead. “Our business in the last two days has gone crazy,” says Ron Peterson. “All over the country now, people are concerned they won’t be able to buy guns.”

Peterson’s been selling firearms for five decades, with most of those years spent under the Gun Control Act of 1968 signed by President Lyndon Johnson. The law regulates the sale of firearms across state lines and requires record-keeping, among other things. “All it’s succeeded in doing is creating a bigger and bigger federal bureaucracy,” Peterson says. “It has not made any difference in crime or anything else.”

The only thing that works, he adds, is the concealed and carry program that allows licensed individuals to pack heat. “It means people who are going to pick on other people don’t know who to pick on, because they don’t know if that person is armed or not,” Peterson says.

Pat Davis also enjoys guns. He spent nine years in law enforcement—on the police force in D.C. and the University of New Mexico Police Department—through 2009. He’s also the executive director of liberal group ProgressNow New Mexico. He says assault weapons have no place in responsible hunting and that Second Amendment rights can be protected while strengthening gun control. “We might have gone too far in trying to protect our Second Amendment rights,” he says.

After every mass shooting—at a Colorado movie theater, a Wisconsin Sikh temple and a Connecticut  elementary school, among 13 total in 2012—the country is shocked, Davis says. In the wake of each tragedy, a national conversation starts about what can be done, but the rhetoric fades. A lack of political courage is to blame, he says.

Davis acknowledges the issue is complicated, and the mental health system in America needs work. “Had we done something post-Aurora, perhaps Adam Lanza’s mom would have had a better resource. Without anything in place, this is going to continue to happen.”

In the West, guns are a part of our heritage, Davis says. “People still have a connection to people who’ve fought with weapons for land grants. But nobody has a historical connection to an assault riffle other than marines in combat.”

That sure isn’t stopping folks from buying out AR-15s around the country. The Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle was the primary weapon used in the Newtown attack. Belinda Gallegos owns ABQ Guns, which has been open for two months. She cannot keep AR-15 magazines on the shelves, she says, and the gun itself is sold out. “It’s just nonstop,” she says. “I’ve been getting nonstop calls for ARs, and my vendors can’t get them. I have one on its way. It will be bought as soon as it gets here.”

There’s a panic going on, she says. Stricter gun laws only affect law-abiding citizens. “Criminals are going to get their guns no matter what.”

Among the reforms being discussed by Obama’s task force is one she agrees with. As things stand, people who buy guns at trade shows from individuals aren’t subject to the same background checks as folks who buy firearms from a store. “I’m not opposed to people having to have paperwork done or forcing them to buy from a dealer,” Gallegos says.

Gallegos and Peterson agree that teachers should be allowed to carry concealed firearms and say it could have prevented the deaths in Connecticut. “I teach at a community college,” says Gallegos. “If I were allowed to carry a concealed weapon, I would.”

Mark Horst held a candlelight vigil the day after Newtown shooting. At Tiguex Park in Old Town, mourners lit 26 luminarias on a circle in the center of the playground. About 60 people attended, Horst says, and spoke about gun control and safety. The rules must be strengthened, says Horst. “If you couldn’t shoot off a hundred armor-piercing bullets in a matter of minutes, certainly there’d be greater opportunity for intervention,” he says.

The gun lobby has been ridiculous, he adds. “The idea that constitutional rights prevent us from discussing gun safety is preposterous.”

Svadilfari /  CC BY-SA 2.0

Svadilfari / CC BY-SA 2.0

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  • Barbara Grothus

    People are addicted to guns, just like crack. We are going to continue to live with the “unthinkable,” mass murder. It is the new normal. Gun-heads don’t need all these weapons, they just want them and must have them, no matter the social cost. They make a lot of excuses about why they “need” them. It is the same people buying the guns, they can’t quit. They want more and more, there will never be enough guns in their homes or cars. Have at it you fear-mongering paranoid weapons junkies. No one will intervene, your addiction is safe in the USA. And we will all cry together at the funerals and talk about how tragic it is when someone goes nuts near you, your children or your co-workers, at church, at home. Happiness: bang bang, shoot shoot.

    • http://www.nationalsportshooting.com A. gallegos

      First of all we live in a free country or at least it is for now. I am not telling anyone that you have to purchase a firearm, knife, pepper spray or any other means of personal protection, but don’t for a moment think I will not fight you tooth and nail to keep the God given right to self protection. You may feel the the need to point fingers at the tool instead of the person but the fact is cars, boats, cigarettes, coffee, and donuts kill more people each week than what is killed by firearms each year. Where is your outrage against these items?

      We (the American people) are not addicted to guns as you state, we like to sport shoot, hunt, participate in competitions, and just collect these items that are part of our past and future. Do we need a 30 round magazine to hunt with? Sometimes yes, we do! But I suppose you have never been in a situation where more ammunition is better than throwing rocks. But also, the magazine capacity is not the point here is it Ms. Grothus, it’s the control and confiscation of our tools that is the point. Lack of firearms in a society has not saved one life, EVER. People will continue to violate each other just because they can. We just want the right to protect ourselves as WE see fit.

      While I agree the use of these tools in a violent manner to innocent life is reprehensible, the fact also remains, the use of these tools prevent far more than it causes. If you have a problem living with firearms in our society my I suggest you move to a society where these tools do not exist. I believe there is water front property in Iceland available.

      It’s apparent to me if you really cared about the social cost you would be advocating the use of concealed carry rights and training instead of the destroying and confiscation of these tools. Please remember these tools were essential in procuring our freedom from tyrannical governments in the first place. As was said earlier today, we have armed guards for our banks, sports teams, and politicians, but none for our own children.

      As a college educator, a firearms trainer, and licensed Concealed Carry Instructor, I would love the right to carry concealed and teach CCW to students and facility at the college level. We all have a right to self preservation in all circumstances as you have the right not too.

  • Civiserpent

    Well Mr. Gallegos, my pistol’s way bigger than yours, it spews out more hollow points faster than yours, it’s more accurate, and because my clip’s way bigger than yours, my pistol wins (and it’s bigger, did I already mention that?). The problem with your argument is simple: where does it stop? What weaponized device will you need to own in order to secure the piece of mind you seek when you know I have one up on you? Wouldn’t showing up for a fight with an assault weapon, when you know I have an RPG, be the same as bringing a knife to a gun fight? Better get an RPG! Oh, good guys can’t really get those, but bad guys don’t seem to have a problem. Better relax the restrictions more.

    Also, why conceal? Why bait a situation? Let it hang out there for everyone to see how big and lethal your gun is, and so in a road rage situation we’ll all know what to expect from you. Try asking a cop what they think about all of these issues.

    Ban the sale of all assault weapons and large capacity clips to civilians (so you have to stop to reload more often – big deal), register all new sales contingent on a thorough background check that includes a system of red flags for the walking insane (which according to our national politics would be 50% of the populace), allow citizens to own a gun for home protection (with a limited capacity for bullets), allow hunters to have their hunting weapons for sport and food, allow collectors to have their antique collections, and tax the hell out of all amo. Can you honestly tell me this wouldn’t save lives, and at least start to address the fears we have about safety in our schools?

  • http://www.nationalsportshooting.com A. gallegos

    Now you have just taken the discussion to being silly. My answer to your question is no.
    To address your statement of safety in our schools? There are already laws on the books not being enforced. Try enforcing the laws we already have before you call for making new ones.
    Also, I have asked Cops and they are entitled to their own opinion as am I. BUT, it’s still an opinion. And we all know about opinions.

    • Civilserpent

      Would you agree that there’s a possibility of a well intentioned self appointed vigilante with a concealed weapon, who might have some training with a firearm, but little experience with violent situations, not only posing a threat to the people they’re trying to protect, but themselves as well? Police make mistakes often enough, and you might be a Cool Hand Luke, but what about all those people who also see themselves as good and righteous, but lack trained judgment, or just happened to forget to take their meds that day? Why should that person be allowed to pack a gun, or worse, one with overwhelming fire power?

      You know laws have been relaxed for the past ten years. The Bush administration did away with the ban on assault weapons in 2004. I’m assuming you would probably argue that it’s because they weren’t effective, but fixing them so they are more effective would have possibly been more prudent than doing away with them all together. I’m way to suspicious about the gun lobby’s influence over the Republican party as a whole to believe that their gun control positions are in the public interest, and not totally focused on the money filling their election coffers.

      The thing that really bugs me about gun people, and I have family who belong to the NRA, is their total unwillingness to consider anything to address this issue except more guns, and instead attack freedom of speech in regards to the entertainment business and media. Guns are never the problem for you… never. Everything else is, but never guns. Our culture is addicted to violence, and as I see it, education offers meaningful alternatives without trampling freedom of speech. You have a right to own a gun, but that’s just not enough. It has to be the badest gun available out of fear that someone else will have a more lethal one than you. Fear. Let’s just arm fearful people and see how that works… oh wait, that’s what we’ve been doing for way too long.

  • http://www.nationalsportshooting.com A. gallegos

    No Civil Serpent I actually would NOT agree with your statement. Mainly because CCW holders do not go out and shoot innocent people. There has not been an incident where a licensed CCW holder has gone on a rampage or caused harm that I know of. Your trying to tie people who gave done the right thing by getting training, fingerprinted, and licensed with the law breakers. Another issue is your reference,

    The vast majority of modern social shooters are left leaning or Democrats, even though the news reports don’t say it, it’s fact. Let’s cut to the chase here, ban the firearms from these people, make it illegal to posses a weapon of any kind. It is obvious to me and others that the left has no moral character or willingness to consider any other view point other than getting rid of these tools. I am sure you have already disposed of all modern devices to live green, oh wait, you are posting on the computer.

    If we take a look at the entertainment industry, you will see more and more violence even from so called pacifists like Matt Damon, Jamie Foxx, and others that have made their careers on violence and guns and now they are making commercials against guns?

    Lastly, Cool hand Luke did not use any firearms in his crimes and was arrested for using a bottle opener to pop the top off of parking meters so I am a little unsure as I think you are to using this fictional character as a reference.