Gun Violence Week
By Bill Richbourg
During the week of May 5 – 12, there was a veritable explosion of gun control events in Montgomery County. First, there was an educational lecture aptly named Finding Common Ground followed by events sponsored by two local organizations, Moms Demand Action and The Interfaith Gun Violence Prevention Network. The next day we noticed that there was a Gun Violence Prevention Forum sponsored by Congressman David Trone, who represents western Montgomery County’s 6th District.
Meanwhile, during a school shooting that occurred that same week in Highland Ranch, Colorado, a young hero sacrificed himself to save his friends and classmates, a situation that local elected Democrats hijacked for their own political purposes.
These episodes reminded us that the gun issue remains extremely controversial and does not yield to simple answers. Even so, the majority of attendees at these events were definitely seeking the kind of simple answers that inspire our political leaders to desperately seek “magic bullet” solutions. Unfortunately, none of them solve the problem and, in some cases, they make it worse by creating new problems.
During the Finding Common Ground forum, the keynote speaker was retired ATF Agent David Chipman, who now works for the Gabby Giffords Foundation. He spent a significant amount of time explaining the types of firearms as defined by Federal Laws, and the restrictions placed on them by those laws.
At present, there are three legal categories: hand guns, long guns and “other,” which includes machine guns, sawed off shotguns, short barreled rifles and silencers. When pressed, he tried to avoid any suggestion that guns would be confiscated or taken off the market. However, he did say he would support gun licenses modeled after automobile licenses, i.e., you need to have a license to drive a car, so why not have a license to own a gun?
That, of course, is akin to the universal background check, dressed up in different language to make it appear less radical. In fact, David Chipman also said he would include long guns such as the AR-15 in the “other” category that would require ATF approvals to purchase. Perhaps he mistakenly described the AR-15 as a military style assault weapon, which an ATF agent presumably would know it is not.
The Gun Violence Prevention Forum was both better attended than the “Common Ground” event and significantly more political. While the focus was on eliciting ideas to prevent gun violence, there were surprisingly few recommendations from the politicians on stage compared to the broad mix of questions and comments that came from the audience. There was also a surprising amount of vitriol directed at the NRA, claiming that it represents gun manufacturers rather than gun owners and, as such, is only interested in protecting industry profits.
The assertion was also made that 80% of gun owners support universal background checks, but no source was offered to substantiate that claim. Congressman Trone provided little insight into the issues under discussion other than expressing his support for universal background checks and banning military style weapons without explaining how universal background checks would get guns out of the hands of criminals or how privacy issues would allow the exclusion of those with mental illness.
As for banning the AR-15, Congressman Trone was not aware that the ten-year ban that was on the books until 2004 had no impact on the crime rate, because the banned guns were rarely used in gun crimes.
The Colorado school shooting, which occurred about the same time as the forum, inspired heated demands for an answer to “how do we prevent this.” However, arming teachers, an idea that has proven successful in other states, received strong criticism from Maryland State Delegate (Lesley Lopez, LD-39) who claimed that teachers wearing holsters in class during the school day would frighten children rather than protect them.
All in all, despite the focus on gun related issues during the week of May 5, 2019, there was not a net gain for either side in this ongoing argument, which means that our school kids are still unprotected.