The SHARE Act shares the potential for more gun violence

This OpEd appeared in the The Deseret News September 28, 2017

Legislation named "The Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act" is currently before the U.S. Congress. Who would think such a bill with such a benign-sounding name would make it easier for drug dealers and other criminals to obtain gun silencers and body-piercing ammunition (known as “cop killers”)? That is exactly what House Bill 3668 will do.

This bill deregulates gun silencers and armor-piercing bullets, putting them on the streets of our cities. Silencers and cop killing bullets are strictly regulated for one reason only: the safety of American citizens and the law enforcement officers who protect them.

Many police departments have “shot spotters” that immediately alert law enforcement when a weapon is fired and pin-point the position of the shooter, allowing for a quick police response. Silencers make this technology virtually useless. How many more rounds can be fired before a shooter is detected? How much easier is it for a shooter to get away if no one hears the gunshots? What happens when snipers, mass shooters, drug dealers, other criminals, terrorists, street gangs or members of self-proclaimed militias are equipped with silencers and armor-piercing ammunition.

The gun industry has long argued that Congress should focus on enforcing gun safety measures already on the books, rather than enacting new ones. Laws regulating the sale of firearm silencers and armor-piercing bullets are effective. They save lives. Deregulating their sale, which this bill does, will make us all less safe.

Law-abiding, mentally stable gun owners can already purchase silencers, but they must pass strict local and national background checks and, to help cover costs, pay a $200 tax (an amount set in 1934 when sales of silencers were originally restricted). Under the SHARE Act, unlicensed dealers and private sellers will not be required to conduct background checks to sell silencers. They will be easily available at gun shows to those who currently cannot qualify to possess them.

So why is deregulation of silencers tucked away in a sportsman’s bill? It is called “The Hearing Protection Act.” Its sponsors, which include all of Utah’s U.S. congressional delegation, believe that it is too burdensome for sportsmen (hunters and target shooters in particular) to place inexpensive hearing protectors over their ears or use ear plugs — which provide good protection. Silencers usually retail for $400 to $1,000 and up. The gun industry estimates there are 1.3 million potential sales. Do the math.

Gun sales are down since the last election. By deregulating accessories and ammunition (the bill also lifts the ban on hunting with lead bullets), the gun industry can boost sales of these items as well as firearms. Many silencers screw on the gun barrel. Smith & Wesson and Glock are now manufacturing new guns with threaded barrels to accommodate the expected spike in silencer sales. Again, do the math.

The bill also restricts any state or local governments from enacting laws that tax or regulate firearm silencers. What happened to states’ rights? And why would anyone but a profiteer from the sale of armor-piercing ammunition want to deregulate such killing devices? How can politicians say they support our law enforcement community on the one hand and propose HB3668 on the other?

Law enforcement throughout the country opposes the deregulation of silencers and dangerous ammunition. Those who represent us in the U.S. Congress and Senate need to know that the SHARE Act (HB3668) is not what any responsible gun owner, police officer or the general public wants or needs. The price in human lives is too high.

Linda K. Newell is a writer living in Salt Lake City. She serves on the board of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah.

 

 

Wild West rhetoric distracts from gun-violence solutions

This OpEd appeared in the Salt Lake Tribune July 29, 2017

Among many incidents of gun violence this summer, two were particularly disturbing. The first was close to home, when Jeremy Patterson of Draper stalked and killed Memorez Rackley and her son as they walked home from school. Patterson injured two other children and committed suicide. The second is a road-rage killing that took place in Pennsylvania. When David Desper and 18-year-old Bianca Roberson had a conflict while merging into traffic, he shot her in the head from his vehicle. As Roberson's car drifted off the road, Desper fled.

From those who knew these men, we heard the usual descriptions. "He's a great guy. He would not normally do this," said Patterson's sister. "I never saw him as a hothead or in any way a threat to anyone," said Desper's coworker.

A problem with the gun violence debate is that we often see it as an issue of good and evil. "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns." This "Wild West" rhetoric oversimplifies our modern problem. Both killers mentioned above likely purchased their weapons intending to be the good guy — to protect themselves and their families. Which of us thinks of him/herself as the bad guy? In reality, quick access to a gun allowed their sudden delusions and temper tantrums to have terrible consequences.on after killings like these, and the NRA plays a major role. It has an interest in maintaining this Wild West mentality because it encourages gun ownership. The NRA relies on the notion that society is safer with more armed people. Repeatedly, the opposite has been shown to be true. Utah is no exception. A study from the American Public Health Association analyzed gun ownership and homicide rates in every state from 1981-2010. "We observed a robust correlation between higher levels of gun ownership and higher firearm homicide rates." According to Utah's Department of Health, our youth suicide rate is consistently higher than the national average. From 2012-2014, 46.5 percent were done by firearm, which is the most common method.

To combat statistics like these, the NRA uses fear to promote gun purchases. A recently circulated example is the "Violence of Lies" advertisement with NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch. It depicts the USA as dangerous and divided, with hordes of savages (Berkeley students) on the horizon, ready to dismantle western civilization. Using footage of protesters, she condemns those "screaming racism and sexism and xenophobia and homophobia" as if they are tired and baseless claims. The video ends with a call to "fight this violence of lies with a clenched fist of truth," followed by the NRA logo. Loesch claims this is not a call to arms against certain American citizens, yet fails to explain what guns have do with "truth."

If widespread tension leads to weapon sales, is it unreasonable to suggest the NRA has an interest in division? The defense of constitutional rights and American liberties is an honorable cause, but dividing the nation for the benefit of gun sales is not.

Hopefully we will change the way in which gun violence solutions are determined — with statistics instead of hypothetical scenarios and fear. This is not the Wild West. Killers do not meet the town gunslinger at high noon. They attack without warning, leaving little opportunity for self-defense. Something must be done about frequent gun violence, and more armed "good guys" is not the answer. Desper's legally owned handgun was supposed to be a tool of self-defense. Instead, it served a much more common and cruel purpose. Patterson and Desper were not "outlaws" before committing these atrocities. This type of rhetoric distracts from the evidence. If we can overcome it, we have a better chance to find real solutions.

Sam Adondakis is a college student and an intern with the Alliance for a Better Utah

 

 

 

Utah's Stand Your Ground

 Current Law: 76-2-402 in Utah’s Code

1. A person has the right to use force when it is “reasonably believed” to be “necessary.”

2.  They do not have the duty to retreat when they have “lawfully entered or remained” in a location.

3.  They do not have the right to to force they are involved in “combat by agreement,” provokes force from another, or are committing a felony.

 

The Legislature’s Failed Amendment: H.B 259

1. “clarifies” that one does not have duty to retreat

2. States that “whether a person who did not retreat from an aggressor acted reasonably is not relevant in a trial on the issue of self-defense”

3. Establishes a “person does not have a duty to retreat from the force …even if safety could be achieved by retreating”

 

Florida’s Stand Your Ground Disaster

·  Florida’s homicide rate rose 24% and their firearm homicide rate 31.6% following the 2005 implementation of the law

·  Florida’s law, like Utah’s proposed amendment, was a “clarifying” provision

·  Homicide rates in states with the law rose an average of 8% following its implementation

 

 

The gun lobby pushed legislation in states around the country this year that would have dismantled state concealed carry permitting systems and let people carry concealed, loaded guns in public without a permit or safety training. These permitless carry bills lower the bar for who may carry hidden handguns in public—allowing violent criminals, teenagers and people with no safety training to carry in crowded town centers and on city streets. This reckless legislation ignores the 88 percent of Americans who support requiring safety training and a clean criminal record in order to carry a concealed handgun in public.

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Utah Gun Laws

• In 2013, Utah had the 19th highest number of gun deaths per capita among the states.
• Utah had the 19th lowest crime gun export rate (guns purchased in Utah but recovered after criminal use in other states) in 2009.
• Utah had a total of 1,622 deaths from firearms between 2010 and 2014.
• Utah has 1,316 licensed gun dealers.

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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.

We provide education and promote legislation and policy intended to reduce gun violence.

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