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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Who is controlled by Gun Control? by Tara Fox Hall

Tara Fox Hall

Being American—and a former member of the NRA (National Rifle Association)—I admit to being pro-gun.  In most of my works, my hero or heroine has a working knowledge of guns. Sarelle, heroine of the Promise Me Series, shoots and kills an average of at least 1 bad guy in each book, as do heroes Danial and Theo. Lash, my antihero of the Lash Series,  has a far higher shoot and kill rate per book. I have used guns in real life, and view them as necessary tools for rural living, as do all of my neighbors. So it probably comes to no surprise to you that I am against the recent gun control measures passed in my home state of New York (NYS).
I am very bothered by the issue of gun control in the United States, in terms of mass killings. My gripe with the measure passed regarding guns in NYS is that:

 a) It was done on the sly, i.e., I went to bed with one set of laws and woke up to another;

 b) While some measures do close important loopholes in the law, like rules on waiting periods and background checks on gun sales, others like reducing clip size from ten bullets to seven does NOTHING. (All mass murders as a rule bring large number of clips with them to their massacres, and they never expend all of them. The only thing changing clip size really did to stop massacres is…NOTHING. Criminals won’t care if their clip has a few more bullets than is allowed! All the better to kill you with! But it sure will prompt a rise for the gun manufacturing business  when everyone who cares about being legal has to run out to get new clips to be compliant.);

c) NYS already HAS strict gun laws.  Pistol permits in NYS take at least 6-8 months for processing…and it takes a few months just to compile all the data needed for application.

Even if you do all of this, you may have a licensing judge in your county who frowns on pistol ownership. Or one of the four references you have to provide as character witnesses may say they are not comfortable with you having a gun. In that case, you may be denied out of hand for a permit, and that $20-115 you paid for photos, processing, and other fees to apply is gone. Yes, that amount of cash is not a misprint: In Rockland County, pistol permits run $150:

And guess what? Even if you go through all those hoops above to get your permit, you still aren’t allowed in New York City—probably the most dangerous city in NYS—with your pistol:

In order for an upstate licensee to lawfully carry a handgun in New York City, he/she must first make application with the New York City Police Department to have their permit "validated." An investigation will be conducted to determine the authenticity of the license, after which a "needs assessment" will be conducted to determine whether the applicant has sufficiently demonstrated a "need" to possess a handgun under the circumstances provided. The simple desire to possess a handgun while in New York City, without some other extenuating circumstances, will not serve to present a "need" suitable to receive authorization. In cases where "need" is sufficiently demonstrated, permission will be given, usually for a specific period of time, after which the process would start over again

A recurring NRA argument for less gun control is that any laws that are made to increase gun control affect only the people that obey them. It’s reasonable to think that criminals who have illegal guns are not going to rush out to buy legal clips, or hurry to sell any illegal rifles that the new law mandates are assault rifles (which are now illegal to own in NYS).  While there is truth to this argument, it is not a measure for advocating against all gun control measures.  Rather I present to you that some gun control measures ARE needed, especially to close loopholes in current law, such as making longer wait times, requiring background checks, and requiring sellers to keep records at all gun shows, which before the new law took effect were exempt from many laws that gun shop owners had to comply with. I just believe that measures legislated in the dead of night in order to be the first state to comply with the president’s new hard line on gun control is not in anyone’s best interest, especially the law-abiding gun owners of New York State.

Here is a passage from my vampire romance Promise Me’s first chapter, in which the human heroine Sar goes out to confront someone trespassing on her land:

            I cursed aloud and decided I’d better take a look. Whoever had decided to take a little side route to adventure had first gotten through the heavy steel chain that blocked the access road. Bolt cutters would have been needed to cut through that thing, and who carries bolt cutters in their car? Someone had planned this, and if they were willing to cut a chain, they might be planning worse than some drinking and partying.
            Throwing on some clothes and collecting my waist-length hair in a plastic clip, I gathered a flashlight and my keys. I debated taking a weapon, but I talked myself out of it. Then, on the way to the door, I talked myself back into it, and got my .38 Special revolver. It was loaded. Depending on the size of the car, there could be six people at the most. Six bullets were enough.
            I buckled on my gun belt and knife and went out the front door. Walking to the barn, it occurred to me that I might be overreacting. But I wasn’t one for hiding in the house, waiting to see if someone would leave me alone. It wasn’t my way and had never been.
            The first fall I’d owned the farm, I’d seen a hunter parked by my barn during deer season. I hadn’t called the police, hoping they would show up before he either left or put a bullet through one of my windows. I’d loaded my shotgun and walked over to his truck. I’d racked the weapon within hearing range, and when his head had whipped around, I’d asked him what the hell he thought he was doing. He’d been properly apologetic and left. More importantly, he’d spread the word, and I didn’t get many trespassing hunters anymore. People who wanted to hunt on my land respected me enough to ask me, and if I thought they hunted with care, I let them. That was that.
            Tonight, I hoped I could just ask them to leave nicely and have them agree. Most times, despite my worries, that’s exactly what happened. But I didn’t hear the usual sounds I expected: loud talking, music, the sort of giggling that meant sex was a definite possibility but not a surety. Odd that whoever was in the quarry wasn’t laughing it up.
            I got to the barn. Its outside light was on and welcoming. I slid the door open and walked into the darkness inside. I knew the barn in and out, and I wasn’t afraid. There was nothing that was going to hurt me in there. I’d never been afraid of ghosts. I believed in God, and I had faith. And what my faith couldn’t handle, my .38 Special was sure to be able to take care of.

Now, in reflection, is Sar being a little reckless going out to handle things on her own? Possibly.  Most women would not feel comfortable going outside in the dark to confront someone, even if they were armed, myself included.  However, if this situation occurred in daylight, it would be a normal thing that you’d do if you lived in a rural area. Just as the passage above states, most people who trespass will leave if you ask them nicely. But in the event that someone does something unpredictable—such as the hunter that killed several other hunters who attempted to kick him out of their tree stand a few years ago in the U.S.—it’s good to have backup in the form of a gun.  A gun is not something to wave about, or idly threaten people with. It’s a tool that can be useful when you’re living out in the country by yourself…and it’s something that you hope you never have to use on another human being.

Promise Me is available from the following sites:

Jenny Twist's argument will follow in a few hours' time.


Anonymous said...

I am an anti gun, anti war, far left liberal, BUT I have done a lot of thinking and research on gun control(as any American should when they are faced with a situation about rights). The fact that they are pushing gun control in any format is ridiculous. All of these measures help the businesses that produces all of the products. Facts are black and white on this issue, the only people that are getting controlled by any of these measures are the citizens who are honest Americans. I do not understand why the government can not just tighten rules (ie background checks and longer wait periods)in order for the public to have the ability to purchase these items the right way. As I said in the first line of my post I am anti gun, but that just means I am not going to buy one, not that I am going to push for someones rights to be taken away, and I will fight for the right to buy one if I choose to! It is not the people who OWN guns legally that commit theses heinous acts of violence to begin with, so what is gun control going to accomplish?

Tara Fox Hall said...

Well said, Anonymous :)

Tori L. Ridgewood said...

I guess the bottom line for me is that good people, responsible people, don't abuse the privilege of gun ownership, (though accidents do happen), and criminals / bad people will always find a way to get a weapon if they want it. There has been some evidence that the long gun registry has helped police to solve crimes, and yes, hunters and gun enthusiasts have found it to be a pain in the ass. It's also been used by politicians as a way to get elected / keep power -- not necessarily as a real tool for preventing deaths. Has it made me feel safer, knowing that anyone who wants to get a firearm in Canada has to fill out reams of paperwork?

I'm not sure. I've rarely felt not safe, to be perfectly honest. And those two or three times when I worried about a man following me on the street, the idea of him having a gun didn't even enter my mind. I was more worried that he might have a knife.

I was in high school when the legislation passed in Canada, so I really didn't think about it a whole lot. Except for a passing interest now and then, just to see how good I might be at targeting, I don't have much interest in or worry about guns. The one time I even came close to touching my dad's police-issue sidearm, I got in so much trouble that i never considered it again.

IMHO…I think that registration as a means of controlling dangerous substances or devices is not a bad thing. We regulate certain chemicals, put warnings on them, create WHMIS and MSDS guidelines to try to prevent accidents. We require people who use vehicles on public roads to register their vehicles and get licenses, as proof that they are honestly capable of operating them without hurting or killing anyone. We require hunters and anglers to be licensed, in an effort to protect sustainability and prevent poaching. To me, registering firearms is just logical. It makes sense. A rifle or a handgun is as potentially dangerous as a car, but unlike a car, the gun is designed specifically for the purpose of killing. Vehicles only kill when misused. I suppose this argument could be turned around against me, and someone could suggest that a number of other items that might potentially lead to personal injury or death should also be registered in kind, pushing the bounds of logic -- e.g., knives, computers, gas fireplaces.

I do think that the severe penalties we have for owning unregistered firearms has been a bit of a deterrent for some. Canada's general views on gun ownership and gun culture are considered by some to be much more temperate than that of the American culture. We, in general, don't really go
for concealed weapons or big gun shows. I have relatives who collect and keep their hunting rifles in firmly locked cases, as per federal law (and THAT, I think, is a good idea to reduce accident potential).

Tara asks, Who is controlled by Gun Control? In my corner of the world, I can't really remember an absence of gun control, but even before it existed, no-one talked about weapons much or worried about them to any great extent. I think that if someone wants to buy a gun and has nothing to hide -- no criminal record, no past of spousal abuse, etc. -- then great! But I don't think it should be unregulated. A responsible citizenry demonstrates responsibility by documenting and leaving a paper trail. I think that impulsive people are controlled by gun control: they can't just run out and get a gun (legally) on the spur of the moment, and buying a gun illegally carries all kinds of ramifications if / when they're caught.

Jenny Twist said...

Hi Tori
I think the culture on guns is different in Canada. Have a look at Herbert's comment on the next piece. Your response is so thoughtful and detailed, I'm going to leave Tara to reply properly.

Tara Fox Hall said...

Hello Tori. I agree with much of what you angst is that NYS tightened down even more on the gun owners who obey the law, while many other states have nothing even close to the laws we have here, and some of them have relaxed some gun laws in an attempt to curb gun violence. My only problem with gun control per se is that it never controls the criminals that its supposed to be for, only the ones who actually obey the law. Like Jenny, I will reference the blog she did on guns in the UK, and the opinion presented there that greater penalties for gun crimes should be mandatory, and agree with your opinion above. If people using guns for crimes knew that jail time was automatic, they'd likely think twice about it. But that still leaves us with the guy who wants to take out a ton of people in a blaze of glory, because if you are planning on dying, no penalty possible will probably be more final than that.
I will also add that a gun is designed to fire a bullet, not necessarily to kill. People do use guns to practice marksmanship and to strengthen hand muscles (fire a gun for an hour..your hand will ache after and so will your shoulders from holding it). They use them to hunt (I have used them to put suffering animals out of their misery on more than on occasion). And some just collect them for antiques/history. Many people practice archery without planning to shoot anything but a target. But I do take your point and agree that guns are a lethal weapon that can often be used for evil purposes.

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