It’s Time For Us To Take Responsibility For Gun Regulations

This article appeared in the The Huffington Post October 10, 2017

In the days after a mass shooting, especially after this week’s shooting in Las Vegas, Twitter and Facebook feeds across America are clogged by impassioned posts condemning the senseless act of violence.

I used to find this heartening. It would make me believe the tides were turning and people were realizing we did not have to surrender and accept the 30,000 deaths a year caused by gun violence. But after seeing the same pattern shooting after shooting, I realized this was not the case. For one week after a mass shooting, revolution is in the air. Congressmen and woman do sit-in protests in the chambers, Chris Murphy becomes a regular on MSNBC and Chuck Schumer rolls out a bill. But as quickly as America’s passion arises, it vanishes.

Gun regulation bills are voted down, and America is no longer engaged enough to give our representatives the momentum they need. Twitter shifts from being mostly gun violence statistics back to being mostly memes. America moves on.

But when the next shooting happens, indignation erupts from the same people who forgot about the fight. We act dumbfounded, and we blame Congress for not coming to their senses and acting.It’s time for us as individuals to quit absolving ourselves of responsibility on this issue by blaming institutions and figureheads. How can we accuse Congress of inaction, when we ourselves are not willing to do more than Tweet?

Congress will not loosen the NRA’s chokehold by passing gun regulations until their jobs are threatened. And when upwards of 90% of Americans already support universal background checks, there is no reason that their jobs should not be threatened already; we have the manpower, we merely need a shift in mindset. We decide when gun regulations pass, not any one representative. When we average citizens decide to take it upon ourselves to call our representatives about legislation, donate our time and money to organizations such the States United to Prevent Gun Violence, Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown, and Moms Demand Action, progress will be made. Only then will we be better than the Congress that we criticize.

And it can start today. Both The Hearing Protection Act (which would deregulate silencers) and The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (which would essentially reduce each state’s gun regulations to that of the lowest common denominator) have more than one hundred co-sponsors, and will likely get a vote this year. Call your representative now, and tell them to vote NO.

Elizabeth Love  serves as an intern for the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah.



Time to cut down gun violence

This Letter to the Editor appeared in the The Deseret News October 16, 2017

Recently, the deadliest mass shooting in American history took place in Las Vegas. After the massacre, 59 people were dead and over 500 were wounded — roughly half of those critically. There are now almost as many guns as there are people in the U.S., and yet, to the contrary of the gun lobby’s persistent claims that more guns make us safer, we are clearly not safer. When an average of 33,880 people die annually and the numbers are steadily rising, we have a problem that should concern anyone with a conscience. The gun lobby shrugs or points the finger after each horrific massacre, but have we seen any action on their part that has led to fewer deaths? No.

It’s time to demand that all stakeholders do their part to decrease death and injury from gun violence. Let’s set a goal of cutting the number of gun deaths in half by 2030. Then let’s demand that everyone take action: legislators, gun lobbyists, gun store owners, gun owners and non-owners. If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem. If the number of gun deaths is not going down, then we’re not doing enough.

Nancy Halden is a grant writer living in Sandy. She serves as Chairperson of the board of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah.



This OpEd appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune January 7, 2017

Written by Nancy F. Halden, GVPC Board Chair

Gun Lobby Traffics In Fear To Sell More Guns

A recent letter to the editor, claiming that gun control is a “sham and a waste of time” incorporates some of the popular misconceptions about guns and gun-control laws. First, the Second Amendment rights of individuals are not open-ended.  In fact, they are generally limited to the right to own a gun for self-protection in one’s home.  The notion that the Second Amendment proscribes the adoption of reasonable controls on possession and use of firearms is a fiction perpetuated by the gun lobby to keep the public fearful that someone is “coming for their guns.”  Yet, how many guns have been confiscated from law-abiding citizens in the eight years of the Obama presidency? Zero.

What has happened is that the gun industry and gun lobby have successfully appealed to many citizens’ sense of fear—fear that has fueled the largest increase in the sale of guns and ammunition in the gun industry’s history. According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the number of firearms manufactured annually in the U.S. has more than doubled in the last eight years. A 1994 survey showed that gun owners primarily bought guns for recreation and hunting. A similar 2016 survey showed that Americans now buy guns out of fear. Fear sells guns—lots of guns—and it feeds the gun-industry’s lust for more sales and profits, while adding to the American death toll.

The truth that the gun lobby and gun industry do not want you to know is that you are not statistically safer with a gun. A gun is much more likely to be used in a suicide, domestic violence assault or unintentional shooting, or to be stolen and used in a violent crime than it is to be used to protect family and property.  Further, a home that has a gun is much more likely to be the scene of homicide or serious accident than is a home without guns. It is startling that more Utahns now die from guns than from car accidents.

Suicide rates have steadily increased over the past 15 years, especially in Utah. Means matter. Guns are responsible for more than half of all suicide deaths, and states—like Utah—with higher gun ownership have higher suicide rates. According to a study in the American Journal of Public Health, domestic-violence victims are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to a gun. These incidents also often claim the lives of intervening police officers. Another report in Accident Analysis and Prevention shows that states with the highest percentage of guns in the home had nine times the rate of unintentional firearm deaths compared to states with the lowest gun levels. Many of these incidents involve children unintentionally shooting family members. Not only is this devastating for the loss of life, but also for the emotional toll it takes on surviving family members.

As for the recent Ohio State University stabbings, no one was killed.  Had the assailant used a firearm, the result would surely have been more tragic.  Most survivors of active assault situations will tell you that they would not have been safer carrying a firearm. Open-carry enthusiasts in Dallas actually hampered police efforts to identify and disarm a sniper.

Easy access to firearms has made our country less safe for all of us. How to reduce the tragedies of gun violence?  States that have enacted sensible gun laws, such as more rigorous background checks, longer waiting periods, safe storage and gun-proficiency requirements, have fewer gun deaths and injuries. Common-sense gun legislation does not infringe on the rights of responsible citizens and would save many American lives.


Copyright © February 2016 Violence Policy Center

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The Violence Policy Center (VPC) is a national nonprofit educational organization that conducts research and public education on violence in America and provides information and analysis to policymakers, journalists, advocates, and the general public.

This publication was funded with the support of the Lisa & Douglas Goldman Fund. For a complete list of VPC publications with document links, please visit To learn more about the Violence Policy Center, or to make a tax-deductible contribution to help support our work, please visit



Silencers are devices that are attached to the barrel of a firearm to reduce the amount of noise generated by the firing of the weapon. By providing a larger contained space for the gases generated by the discharge of the gun’s ammunition round to dissipate and cool before escaping, silencers reduce the sound generated by the weapon’s firing.

Since 1934, silencers have been regulated under the National Firearms Act (NFA).1 The NFA requires that transferees of silencers submit fingerprints and a photograph, pay a special tax, and undergo a background check. It also requires a “Chief Law Enforcement Officer” or CLEO to sign a statement confirming that a certifying official is satisfied that the fingerprints and photograph accompanying the application are those of the applicant and that the certifying official has no information indicating that possession of the silencer by the applicant would be in violation of state or local law. In January 2016, however, the Obama administration finalized a new rule that eliminates the CLEO sign-off requirement and replaces it with a requirement that local law enforcement need only be notified of the transfer of a silencer. The rule is awaiting final implementation.

Hiram Percy Maxim is credited with patenting the first silencer in 1908. But a short time later their utility in crime was demonstrated in a tragic murder-suicide on Central Park West in New York City in 1915.

In the decades that followed, silencers were used by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II for clandestine missions. Silenced handguns were also used in Vietnam for multiple purposes. According to a Former Special Forces NCO, military units used suppressed pistols “for all sorts of sneaky ops, from dumping guards to out and out assassinations.”2

In 1967, a new generation of silencers was developed by Mitch WerBell for Sionics, a company that specialized in counterinsurgency equipment. The acronym Sionics stood for Studies in Operational Negation of Insurgency and Counter Subversion. The company supplied silencers and similar items for covert operations by military and “CIA-type” clandestine organizations.3 These next-generation silencers were more efficient than their turn-of-the-century predecessors and could effectively be used on battle rifles and Carbines. Today’s military silencers are used by special operations units to reduce noise and muzzle flash.


1 Examples of the types of firearms that must be registered under the National Firearms Act [26 U.S.C. §5845] include: machine guns; the frames or receivers of machine guns; any combination of parts designed and intended for use in converting weapons into machine guns; any part designed and intended solely and exclusively for converting a weapon into a machine gun; silencers and any part designed and intended for fabricating a silencer; short-barreled rifles; and, short-barreled shotguns. Also included are “destructive devices.” These include Molotov cocktails, anti-tank guns (over 50 caliber), bazookas, and mortars. “Any other weapon,” which includes cane guns and other gadget-type firearms, such as “pen” guns, which fire a projectile by the action of an explosive are also regulated under the NFA.

2 “The Ruger/MAC MKI: Vietnam’s Silent Service,” Small Arms Review, May 2005, accessed October 30, 2015 from

3 “Sionics Incorporated,” Small Arms Review, November 2011, accessed October 27, 2015 from For more detail on Sionics and the use of silencers in Vietnam, see “Silencers: the NRA’s latest big lie,” Salon, December 30, 2012.

Article continues, Follow to Violence Policy Center text


This was broadcast on NPR All Things Considered November 15, 2016

Nathan Rott and Luke Vander PLOEG. NPR

Following Election, NRA Goes On 'Offense'; Here's What It Could Aim To Do

"Our time is now." That's the message from Wayne LaPierre, the head of the National Rifle Association, to his group's members and gun owners across America, following last week's election.

With a Republican-held Congress and Donald Trump headed to the White House — helped, in no small part, by the support of the NRA — big changes could be coming to the nation's gun laws.

At an NRA-sponsored event Monday, in the desert north of Phoenix, more than 1,000 gun owners and enthusiasts gathered for a so-called 1000 Man Shoot. Men and women from 16 states lined up shoulder to shoulder to fire 1,000 Henry Golden Boy Silver rifles simultaneously. They fired two rounds at a long row of targets. In the cheers after the second, a shooting safety officer in a lime green shirt and red hat said: "Can you hear us now, Hillary?"

"We made history last week," Pete Brownell, the first vice president of the NRA, told the crowd. "And I have to tell you it feels great to be on offense again."

Brownell and other gun rights advocates say that they've had to be on defense for the past eight years under the Obama administration.

"We've always had to be looking out for how our rights are going to be taken away from us as individuals; how our constitutional rights are going to be impinged upon," Brownell says. "Now, the ball's going to be in our court."

There are a number of laws that the NRA and gun enthusiasts would like to see change under the Trump administration. We've listed some of those laws below and asked Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at the UCLA School of Law and author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America, what the chances are for each proposal.

We should note that this is not a comprehensive list. And if you're wondering why it's not longer, Winkler says, "It's because the NRA has been so successful over the last 40 years in American politics that it's already accomplished almost everything on the list of its agenda items."

1. National reciprocity for concealed-carry permits

This is the biggest-ticket item for the NRA and it's the most likely to happen. Trump, a concealed-carry-permit holder, has said that concealed carry "is a right, not a privilege," and that a permit should be valid in all 50 states, similar to a driver's license.

That's what national reciprocity would do — it would give a concealed-carry-permit holder in a state such as Texas the right to carry a gun in a state such as New York, regardless of New York's concealed-carry laws. There are two versions of this law that have already been proposed in Congress, the broader of which would allow a person to get a concealed-carry permit outside his state of residence.

"That's the more controversial version of national reciprocity," Winkler says. "I'm not sure that's the one we'll get, but the NRA is most likely going to push for the broadest version of national reciprocity."

Winkler believes that some version is likely to pass, but he says that Democrats could filibuster. He also notes that some Republicans could withhold support from national reciprocity because of states' rights.

"If you believe in any local autonomy, as Republicans claim to, then the broad version of reciprocity undermines that significantly," Winkler says. "Because a state or city like Los Angeles would no longer be able to control who carries guns in public."

2. An end to gun-free military zones

At a rally in January, Trump said, "My first day, there's no more gun-free zones." He was talking about schools and military bases. He later clarified his position on schools, saying that school resource officers or teachers should be allowed to carry them. He has not publicly changed his opinion on military bases.

Currently, most gun owners on military bases must register their firearm and store it in an armory while on base. The only people who can carry guns while on a military base are on-duty military, state or local police.

There have been pushes by the NRA and Republican lawmakers to allow more military personnel to carry firearms on base, following mass shootings at Fort Hood in 2009 and the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard in 2013, but the Department of Defense has not changed its position. Under Trump, it might.

"This is very easy," Winkler says. "Allowing carrying of firearms on military bases is something that the president will probably be able to do through executive order. I believe that [Trump] will."

3. Removing suppressors from the National Firearms Act

Gun owners can already use suppressors — or silencers — in most states, but gun rights groups say that the process to get one is onerous. Suppressors are regulated under the National Firearms Act, which was originally enacted in 1934 following the St. Valentine's Day Massacre to tax the making and transfer of certain firearms. The underlying purpose of the act, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, was to "curtail, if not prohibit, transactions in NFA firearms."

Gun rights advocates and shooters have long argued that suppressors should not be regulated by the NFA and have made a public health argument for their use: Guns are loud. "Everybody that you know that's an old shooter is deaf," says Michelle Camp, the leader of the Utah chapter of The Well-Armed Woman. "To have the ability to get [suppressors] easier would be really helpful."

Winkler says it would take legislative action to get suppressors off the NFA list and that a piece of legislation already exists: the Hearing Protection Act of 2015, proposed in the House of Representatives. Winkler says he doesn't expect it to be a priority for Congress, but "if the NRA decides to get behind silencer legislation, I think it will pass," he says. Hours after Trump won last week's election, the NRA dropped this tweet:

4. Revamping federal background check process

Nobody is entirely happy with the federal government's current background check process or its database, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Gun control groups argue that there are too many loopholes in it, and many gun rights groups concur — a rare show of agreement — though not in the details.

The system is supposed to prevent a felon or someone who is mentally ill from purchasing a gun, but it has obstacles like underfunding and inaccurate, out-of-date data. Gun control groups would like to see things in the current system fixed, including the straw purchasing loophole. Gun rights groups say they'd like to find ways to get the system better data to work with.

During his campaign, Trump said that he was against expanding background checks and that the current system needs to be fixed.

"Unfortunately, I feel the efforts to 'fix' the background check system will be really efforts to gut the background check system," Winkler says. "To make it less effective, less streamlined, and make it harder for prosecutors to find gun criminals. That's been the NRA's practice with regard to background checks in the past."

The Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah is a non-profit organization working to end the violence and suffering resulting from the misuse of firearms.

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