Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Gun Laws and Drug Testing

Who would ever knowingly take a drug that had no proof of its being effective against the disease for which it is being prescribed? What doctor would prescribe a drug without knowing whether it was safe or not, particularly when the available evidence showed that it may be fatal? These are the kinds of information, or lack of information, about the impact of weapons in our society that need to be asked and answered if intelligent gun laws, consistent with the requirements of the second amendment, can be passed. A study conducted by a group of mayors (Mayors Against Illegal Guns) has produced some profound results about the impact of weak gun laws of various states on the health and safety of the public. This discovery is akin to the discovery that insulin is effective in diabetes, or that penicillin works against pneumorcoccal infections. As reported in the New York Times on December 23, 2008; "The study analyzed trace data for guns used in connection with crimes during 2007. The data reveal a strong correlation between weak state gun laws and higher rates of in-state murders, police slayings and sales of guns used in crimes in other states.
"Many states have enacted strong gun laws to supplement inadequate federal ones, including mandatory background checks on gun show sales. States requiring the same background checks at gun shows as those required for store purchases show an export rate for guns used in crimes that’s nearly half the national average. This argues for Congressional action to end the gun-show loophole nationally. States with weak gun laws produce different outcomes. More than half the guns recovered in out-of-state crimes last year were supplied by Georgia, Florida, Texas, Virginia and six other states where weak laws make it easy for gun traffickers and other criminals to obtain weapons.

"Weak gun laws also put a state’s own citizens at risk. There were nearly 60 percent more gun murders in the 10 states where exports were highest than in the states with low export rates — and nearly three times as many fatal shootings of law enforcement officers."

The current U.S. Supreme Court has decreed that the second amendment grants the rights to keep and bear arms to all citizens of our society in overturning a law passed by the District of Columbia seeking to ban all handguns. The court in other cases has suggested that reasonable limitations can be placed on this so-called right in the interests of safety. The NRA has steadfastly resisted the imposition of any limits being imposed by legislative fiat (e.g. the opposition to assault weapons). A lawyer arguing for the NRA recently before a Pennsylvania court stated ""Most of my clients have machine guns," [he[ said. "They are absolutely lawful. Police already have the authority to seize weapons if they are being used unlawfully."

In my opinion, this contention is the moral and legal equivalent of claiming that a person has the right to possess cyanide (Drugs do not kill people. People do.) Or allowing druggists to sell drugs that do not work and are likely to harm. "Give your child this KoolAid laced with cleaning fluid for his cough. It'll stop it, guaranteed." When the focus is on guns, the situation meets the definition of insanity. Insanity is expecting different results from the same behavior. Thirty thousand people a year die from guns in the United States. Allowing individuals to possess these weapons of death without reasonable restrictions being imposed is insane. The impact on our society is too important to ignore. We need federal legislation modeled after the tougher laws in various states to create the uniformity that will lower this number. We have the evidence that the drug works. Let's write the prescription so that it can be used.

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