I am a “gun nut.”
Why? Because I own more than one. I know that’s what some of you think, because you have told me so, usually behind a screen name.
I also have been told I am a coward. (Because I am “afraid” to be defenseless?)EditorialEditorial: Find compromise in Congress on gunsOpinionOpinion: I bought an assault rifle in 7 minutesEditorialEditorial: Higher costs could cut gun bloodshed
I’m not saying every gun hater has said it, but many have, and the undeniable hysteria on their part doesn’t help their cause.
I am not a member of the NRA, which doesn’t speak for me. It doesn’t even speak for a majority of its members when it comes to background checks.
A 2013 Pew Research Center survey found 37 percent of adults said they had a firearm - rifle or pistol - in their home.
Here’s the part antigun zealots must hear: Of that group, 79 percent favor background checks and closing loopholes. There’s more: A poll by Frank Lutz found that 74 percent of current and former NRA members approve of the same thing.
So those “gun nuts” were just as disappointed as you by the Senate’s failure Monday to pass any of the four measures before it.
Not disappointed, however, is Jon Mirowitz, a Philadelphia gun rights attorney and a former candidate for sheriff, who laughingly describes himself as “to the right of the NRA.” He’s glad they all were defeated.
Some of you hear “gun control” and salivate in a Pavlovian response, but not everything labeled “gun control” is a good idea.
The amendment proposed by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley would have made it harder to add mentally ill people to the background checklist. I oppose that.
Mirowitz approves, and he often uses the same phrase: denial of rights. I understand his constitutional concerns, but I would prefer to err on the side of caution.
An amendment by California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein would have allowed the attorney general to deny a gun to anyone if she has a “reasonable belief” that the person “is engaged, or has been engaged, in conduct” related to terrorism. “Belief” rather than “probable cause” bothers me.
Mirowitz says: “You are giving an administrator - not elected - power over who gets constitutional rights. That’s a classic tyranny.”
Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn was closer to the mark for me with a proposal that law enforcement be notified when anyone on the terror watch list attempts to buy a weapon. If that person has been investigated for terrorism within the last five years, the attorney general could block the sale for three days while a court reviews the sale. Yet this “no fly, no buy” was no sale for Mirowitz - and the Senate.
The least objectionable amendment came from Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy, to close the “gun show loophole” by requiring every gun buyer to pass a background check, plus expand the data base.
Naysayer Mirowitz says the system sometimes crashes, which it does, and is prone to error, and that’s true, too. He makes his living correcting mistakes that have barred qualified people from guns.
“I’m opposed to the universal background check because it won’t catch the bad guy; it will make life harder for the innocuous guy who makes a minor error and gets caught because they don’t understand the system.”
I think a universal background check does stop some bad guys, and while I can agree with his general sentiments, I continue to err on the side of caution. It’s not like we don’t have a problem here.
It is puzzling, and disgusting, that the Senate won’t make even the most minor move in the direction of safety. We have a representative government and the representatives aren’t repping.
I’ve been writing about gun issues for a long time. In 1997, following a shooting at the Empire State Building, a big New York tourist attraction, I strapped on my Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum and visited Philadelphia’s top tourist sites to see if I would be challenged.
I visited the Art Museum, the zoo, Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and others. The U.S. Mint was the only place I faced a metal detector and was challenged. I made the weapon visible only once - at the Bell, for the purpose of a photograph - and I made sure no one else saw it.
Over the years, this “gun nut” has strongly called for background checks, closing loopholes, jailing straw purchasers for 10 years, and adding 10 years to the sentence for any crime committed with a gun. At this point I’d also mandate instruction in gun care and use, and a course explaining when deadly force can be used.
I got my first gun 25 years ago after my life was threatened because of something I wrote. It sometimes happens to reporters, and since neither the police nor my company can protect me 24/7, I decided self-protection was my responsibility. Had that not happened, I don’t know if I ever would have bought a gun.
A few years ago, someone was making death and dismemberment threats against four of us at the paper. He did it by email and made the mistake of using a computer at the Free Library. The D.A.’s office detected a pattern and caught him red-handed. He went to jail.
Upward of 99 percent of 100 million gun owners have never misused their weapons. There is no need to disarm them.
Some Americans like to hunt and eat what they kill. Some like the sport of competitive shooting. Some, like me, like punching holes in paper targets at the range.
When you shoot off your mouth and call us “gun nuts,” you’re shooting blanks.