Work for sensible gun control Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Jun. 30, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

In the wake of the shootings in the nightclub in Orlando, Fla., I’ve heard some people say, “We have to buy a gun to protect ourselves.”

While on the surface that may seem like something to consider, I’ve looked into the issue of gun ownership and found some alarming statistics.

Rarely used for self-defense

Most studies show that guns are rarely used in self-defense. When you think about it, unless you’re carrying a gun with you everywhere you go, you often won’t be able to get to your gun quickly enough to defend yourself.

Instead, gun owners are far more likely to injure themselves or an innocent person rather than stop a criminal, according to a study released in 2015 by the Violence Policy Center.

The report, “Firearm Justifiable Homicides and Non-Fatal Self-Defense Gun Use,” was based on FBI and Bureau of Justice Data. Roughly 22,000 people die accidentally from a gun or use one to commit suicide in our country each year.

Suicide is indeed one of the tragedies of gun ownership. In places where exposure to guns is higher, more people die of suicide, said Deborah Azrael, associate director of the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center.

A gun in the home raises the suicide risk for everyone: the gun owner, a spouse, and children alike, according to various studies.

I’m not calling for a ban on gun ownership. That is certainly not a solution, given our citizens’ right to bear arms.

Regulating gun purchases

However, I think there are some common-sense approaches which should be followed.

It begins with the purchase of guns. Laws regulating the purchase, ownership, and access to firearms vary widely from state to state.

There are often fewer restrictions on guns bought at gun shows. One way to toughen gun laws would be to tighten up the so-called loopholes by requiring all gun show transactions to take place through Federal Firearms License (FFL) dealers.

Another way to keep a closer eye on who buys guns would be to screen potential buyers to see if they are on the government’s no-fly list or on the national terrorism watch list. Even Al-Qaida has reportedly gloated about how permissive U.S. gun laws are.

One operative is quoted as saying, “America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms. You can go down to a gun show at a local convention center and buy a gun without a background check.”

Do civilians need assault weapons?

Then there is the matter of military-style assault weapons. Do these weapons have any place in the hands of civilians?

Two U.S. Catholic bishops — Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago and Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas —  issued appeals in response to the recent incidents in which people have been killed by attackers armed with semi-automatic rifles.

“There’s no reason in the world why these guns are available. There’s no logic," Bishop Farrell told Catholic News Service (CNS).

CNS reported that the bishops’ stance puts them in opposition to gun rights advocates, who say that any effort to limit the sale and acquisition of firearms would violate the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was weighing a statement June 23 as the national debate on the need for action on gun control rose in intensity. Since the mid-1990s, the bishops have called for “sensible regulation” and “reasonable restrictions” on firearms.

Archbishop Cupich responded to a string of recent violence in Chicago in which 13 people were killed and more than 40 others were injured in shootings. One victim, Salvador Suarez, 21, was killed by an assailant with an assault rifle outside of a Catholic church as worshippers attended Mass.

The U.S. Congress has failed to enact any new gun control measures. I hope concerned citizens will contact their senators and congressional representatives asking them to put aside partisan politics for a change and agree on sensible gun control measures.