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Sen. Dianne Feinstein To Introduce Gun Control Legislation

Evening Edition

Aired 12/18/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Charlie Blek is president of the Orange County chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. His son was shot to death 20 years ago.

Adam Winkler Professor of Law UCLA School of Law who specializes in constitutional law with expertise in the right to bear arms he has written about the history of guns in the United States and is author of the book, "Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America"


U.S. Gun Laws: A History

1791: The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified. The amendment reads: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

1871: The National Rifle Association was formed by Union Army veterans Col. William C. Church and Gen. George Wingate.

1934: The National Firearms Act passes in response to gangster culture during Prohibition. The law implements a tax on the making and transfer of automatic-fire guns, shotguns and rifles.

1939: Supreme Court upholds a federal ban on sawed-off shotguns, implying that the Founding Fathers adopted the amendment to ensure the then-new federal government could not disarm state militias.

1968: Congress passes the Gun Control Act. The law calls for better control of interstate traffic of firearms. Lee Harvey Oswald used a mail-order gun to assassinate President John F. Kennedy.

1976 D.C. City Council bars residents from owning handguns.

1986: The Firearm Owner's Protection Act is approved by Congress . The law prohibits felons from owning or possessing guns or ammunition. The Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act is also passed. It prohibits the manufacturing, importing and selling of ammunition that can penetrate a bulletproof vest.

1993: Congress passes the The Brady Handgun Violence Act, establishing the National Instant Criminal Background Check System gun dealers are to use before selling a gun. The law is named after former White House Press Secretary James Brady, who was shot in the head during the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.

1994: The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act becomes law. The law banned the manufacture, use, possession and import of 19 types of assault weapons, including AK-47s and Uzis. The law expired in 2004.

2007: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rules in favor of Dick Anthony Heller, 66, an armed security guard who sues the district after it rejects his application to keep a handgun at his home in Capitol Hill. District appeals to Supreme Court.

June 2008: The Supreme Court upholds the lower court ruling, striking down D.C. handgun ban as unconstitutional.

Source: NPR

Bills to return a ban on assault weapons in the United States will be introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives on the first day they are in session next month, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein vowed on national television on Sunday.

"We've tried to take my bill from '94 to 2004 and perfect it,'' the California Democrat said on the NBC "Meet The Press'' program.

Feinstein authored a federal ban on assault weapons in 1994, a ban that was allowed to expire by Congress in 2004.

On NBC, California's senior senator said her staff has crafted a bill that would "exempt over 900 specific weapons that will not ... fall under the bill.''

She said the 1994 assault rifle bill that she wrote was never challenged in court by the National Rifle Association.

"Back in '93, when I told Joe Biden who was chairman of the Judiciary Committee that I was going to move this as an amendment on the Crime Bill, he laughed at me,'' Feinstein said.

"He said, `you're new here. Wait till you learn','' Feinstein related.

"And we got it through the Senate, we got it through the House, the White House came alive and ... the bill was passed.''

The NRA has declined to comment on gun issues since Friday's slaying of 20 grade school children and seven adults in Connecticut.

In 2002, the proposed extension of the assault weapons ban was opposed by the Coalition Against the Semi-Auto Ban, a project of the National Association for Gun Rights.

The group said the original legislation violated the right to keep and bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment; claiming that what the law called assault weapons were rarely used in crimes and that specifying a type of weapon for a ban was a tactic that would lead to banning all weapons.

Feinstein, who just won her fifth Senate election, was propelled to the forefront of California politics when she suddenly became mayor of San Francisco when Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated there in 1978. She has been a leading voice for gun control since then.

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Avatar for user 'Jaeger1121'

Jaeger1121 | December 17, 2012 at 7:34 a.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Connecticut already has an assault weapons ban. I'm not sure why Ms Feinstein thinks yet another law would be effective. The shooter in Connecticut broke the law when he shot his mother, broke it when he stole her weapons, broke it by having possession of the weapons, broke it when he transported those weapons, broke when he kicked in a school window, broke it when he took the weapons onto school grounds and broke it when he began firing. What law could we pass that be "the one" he wouldn't have broken?

A more common sense approach would be to train willing school employees to provide security. Over the past years, several mass shooting opportunities have been thwarted by legally armed citizens. They include:

A 1997 high school shooting in Pearl, Miss., was halted by the school's vice principal after he retrieved the Colt .45 he kept in his truck.
• A 1998 middle school shooting ended when a man living next door heard gunfire and apprehended the shooter with his shotgun.
• A 2002 terrorist attack at an Israeli school was quickly stopped by an armed teacher and a school guard.
• A 2002 law school shooting in Grundy, Va., came to an abrupt conclusion when students carrying firearms confronted the shooter.
• A 2007 mall shooting in Ogden, Utah, ended when an armed off-duty police officer intervened.
• A 2009 workplace shooting in Houston, Texas, was halted by two coworkers who carried concealed handguns.
• A 2012 church shooting in Aurora, Colo., was stopped by a member of the congregation carrying a gun.
• At the recent mall shooting in Portland, Ore., the gunman took his own life minutes after being confronted by a shopper carrying a concealed weapon.

We put Air Marshals on random aircraft, we authorized arming of pilots, we see armored cars drive by every day, filled with armed individuals yet we put our most precious into a place where weapons are almost categorically banned. Then, when tragedy occurs our politicians don't address the fact that THEY created that "Gun free Zone", They wail and tell us we need to enact a ban on something already banned. They tell us we need to "change" and "do better" then they do the same old thing.

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Avatar for user 'owlnettle'

owlnettle | December 17, 2012 at 8:53 a.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

I completely agree with the above poster. Ridiculous gun regulation is NOT going to make this country any safer. What it will do is rob our citizens of the ability to protect themselves, their families, and other innocents around them. NO law is going to prevent someone with the intent to harm others from doing so. If they can't get a gun legally they will find it illegally. If they can't get a gun then they will resort to other heinous options like IEDs.

Police and Schools are incredibly underfunded. The response to a threat with our current system is slow and dysfunctional. Schools should be able to respond immediately to a threat rather than just hoping to heaven that the shooter won't come into their classroom while they wait for law enforcement to arrive and stake out the area. Why aren't we focusing on actually putting funding and security policies in place that will ACTUALLY PROTECT our children vs. bickering for months about a policy that will not prevent crimes like this from happening again.

The world is full of both very good and very bad people. We need to accept the later and take REAL and applicable precautions so that if any future attack does occur (which it will sadly) that we will be ready.

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Avatar for user 'spanks'

spanks | December 17, 2012 at 9:29 a.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

What exactly are you protecting yourselves from? Zombie invasion? More guns, especially in the hands of school workers is ridiculous. I don't want a gun. I am sure all the teachers I know are not interested in handling firearms. If any gun ban is going to be enacted it needs to be serious; no assault, no semi-automatics, hunting rifles and revolvers are fine. That's it. Done. If you want to protect yourself, a revolver can do the job, a rifle is huge enough to scare anyone off your property and hunters can still hunt. Are small easy to hide automatic weapons really necessary? Get another hobby. Yup, the nuts screwed it all up for you. Oh well.

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Avatar for user 'rodzzz'

rodzzz | December 17, 2012 at 10:26 a.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Have a read of this satirical piece: It sums up the ludicrous arguments of the pro-gun lobby perfectly.

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Avatar for user 'EC_Mom'

EC_Mom | December 17, 2012 at 10:39 a.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Gun control is another band-aid fix by our elected officials. This issue goes far deeper than gun control. The mental health laws in California need to be changed. It is no coincidence that all of violence coincides with the breakdown of family and our core values. When I was growing up, single motherhood was frowned upon Divorce was frowned upon. Parents didn't go out and party like they did when they were single or before they had kids. People were satisfied with one income. Mom stayed home to nurture their kids (and actually knew what they were doing after school). We need to be honest about why we are choosing dual-income families. Why can't we be happy in a smaller home, a simple car and fewer electronics/toys/useless items? Until we quit paying homage to the almighty dollar and put our focus back where it belongs, gun control or no gun control, this senseless violence will continue.

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Avatar for user 'Frankie'

Frankie | December 17, 2012 at 10:53 a.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Jaeger -- the name of a hunting falcon, if I am not mistaken -- we could also outfit our school principals with small grenades to neutralize potential threats at their campuses. Or how about lethal drones?

Instead, we need to get on Dianne Feinstein's bandwagon here, thank her for her courage in proposing this legislation and encourage our legislators in Congress to support it. Period. Do it today.

Personally, I don't want my elementary school principal armed to the teeth. I don't want to shop in malls alongside people carrying concealed weapons. "Legally armed people" get on my nerves. We want to model something else for our domestic society. We need to eliminate the likelihood of people being blown away
in a home-accident or an argument or as a result of a grudge or because of paranoid ideation by someone bearing legal high-powered firearms.

Assault weapons need to be removed from the For Sale table and ammo clips of many rounds need to be prohibited as well. After that, we can start to re-fund our decimated mental health programs and work on finding peace and love.

In Scotland, where there were FIVE shooting deaths in the last year, assault weapons are banned and handgun ownership is strictly limited. After a similarly horrific school massacre in a small Scottish town some years ago, the national gun law was further strengthened to require that legal handguns be secured at gun clubs, not at home.

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | December 17, 2012 at 11:42 a.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Good for Senator Feinstein for being aggressive in reinstating this legislation. There is absolutely no harm that can come from banning assault weapons. This is a good first step to reducing gun violence in the United States. The status quo is not good enough.

The effects of Australia's similar law is worth reading about.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 17, 2012 at 11:47 a.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

JAGGER, anecdotal evidence is one thing, but for EACH and EVERY example you provide, ASSuming it was accurate, one could give you examples of multiple murder/suicides by gunfire that could have been EASILY prevented, had the weapon of choice been less accessible

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | December 17, 2012 at 12:16 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Buy your guns now boys, they will be illegal soon. You can get a new one every 10 days. Get 'em while you can.

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | December 17, 2012 at 12:28 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

"Our bill of rights does not guarantee gun manufacturers the absolute right to sell military-style, high-caliber, semi-automatic combat assault rifles with high-capacity magazines to whoever the hell they want." - gun advocate Joe Scarborough this morning

Wise words.

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | December 17, 2012 at 12:29 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Don't worry, JeanMarc - you will still be able enjoy violence in many other non-gun forms.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | December 17, 2012 at 2:11 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Don't worry Ilk, I already have guns, but I will not use them for violence. That is idiotic.

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Avatar for user 'Really123'

Really123 | December 17, 2012 at 2:44 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

JeanMarc, the sole purpose of a gun is violence. It just depends who you visit violence upon. A bird? A deer? A person? I suppose you could purely be a target shooter, but lets get real here, no-one I know who has guns has them for target practice. Self defense is violence, it is worthy, but violence none the less.

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Avatar for user 'Frankie'

Frankie | December 17, 2012 at 2:47 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Thanks for this comment, JeanMarc, it reminds me to pass along what I heard on KPBS today. Apparently there are about 300 million guns circulating in the United States -- almost one per person. But the NUMBER OF GUN OWNERS is NOT GROWING. Rather, the increase is because GUN OWNERS -- presumably like you and the late Mrs. Lanza -- ARE BUYING MORE GUNS.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | December 17, 2012 at 3:52 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Really123 - Actually, the SOLE purpose if my guns is not violence, unless you mean violence against a paper target. How can guns that have locks through them, in a locked safe, be used for home defense? It would take me a few minutes just to get one ready to fire. Don't generalize. I, and many others I know, think it is fun to go target shooting with guns. It is fun, it's loud, it's powerful. Just like racing in a car, powerful, fun. Under the right conditions both can be completely safe. On a track, at a range. What is wrong with that?

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | December 17, 2012 at 4 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Regardless of their intended use and regardless of how difficult they are to obtain, the more guns there are out there, the more likely they are to fall into the wrong hands.

Tell me, JeanMarc - do you feel that you have the right to own and operate a fully automatic assault rifle? A grenade launcher? A missile launcher? A nuclear weapon? These things are all so loud and so powerful that I'd think they'd be right up your alley. Where do you draw the line with regard to your rights?

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | December 17, 2012 at 9:54 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

What happened at the school, as horrific as it was, is an extremely rare event that more laws - gun control or otherwise - probably can't prevent.

However, this tragedy needs to draw attention to the DAILY murders (including kids) that take place individually on the streets of this country.

Law should be based on facts not emotion.

And the facts show that murdes and violence in this country are far higher than any other industrialized country.

There is no reason any citizen needs automatic machine guns or rapid fire weapons, the writers of our constitution did so with muskets in mind, not these assault weapons.

I support Ms. Feinstein not because I am being emotionally reactive over this tragedy.

Rather, I support Ms. Feinstein because the pain of losing someone that happened in CT on Friday happens. EVERYDAY on the streets of our cities, we just don't hear about it in the media - and this daily violence can be helped by stricter gun control.

It's sad that it takes the cold-blooded mass murder of children to get our nation to wake-up and realize we have a problem.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | December 17, 2012 at 10:01 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

The point I was trying to make above, since it may not be clear, is this argument by the gun lobby that what happened in CT wouldn't have been stopped by stricter gun laws is not a reason to not enact gun control laws.

We have DAILY murders by guns in this country and we need to enact gun control laws to bring our overall gun morbidity rate down.

On a typical day in this country 33 people are killed by guns.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | December 17, 2012 at 11:53 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Firearm Murder Rate per 100,000 people:

4.75 Zimbabwe
3.70 United States
3.24 Uruguay

US is just behind Zimbabwe for 13th most likely country to get gunned down in.

What about the developed world? It's not even close.

0.22 France
0.06 Germany
0.04 United Kingdom
0.02 Japan

It is time to stop calling the United States "developed" and call it for what it truly is: third world.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | December 18, 2012 at 7:40 a.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Per Wikipedia the incidence of firearms related homicide in Switzerland is 51 per year (0.7 per 100,000). Also note that every male citizen between 20 and 30 has an assault rifle. When they turn 30 they can have keep their government issued rifle if the full auto option on the fire selector is removed.
I believe it reasonable to conclude that access by responsible persons to military weapons does not imply there will be school massacres, there not being any reported from Switzerland for example.

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Avatar for user 'Really123'

Really123 | December 18, 2012 at 7:43 a.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

" JeanMarc | yesterday at 12:16 p.m. ― 19 hours, 16 minutes ago

Buy your guns now boys, they will be illegal soon. You can get a new one every 10 days. Get 'em while you can."

This comment was for target practice? I don't believe you for one second.

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | December 18, 2012 at 11:42 a.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

benz, you may believe your conclusion is reasonable, but I certainly don't. Switzerland is demographically, culturally, sociologically, and economically distinct from the United States. Just because their gun policy seems to produce favorable homicide statistics for them doesn't mean their gun policy will do the same for us.

If we're looking for a foreign country with which to compare the effects of gun policies on homicides, I suggest looking at Australia, which better matches our own nation in all the aforementioned aspects.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | December 18, 2012 at 12:18 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago


Switzerland is a unique case, but there are a few catches.

Citizens complete mandatory annual firearms training and are not issued ammunition for storage at home.

The Swiss are advanced enough as a society for everyone to own assault rifles and only use them for their intended purpose of national defense.

The US as a society is not that advanced and thus unable to safely arm itself. Perhaps we should follow the Swiss model and disband our standing military in favor of a well regulated citizen militia. Hmm, I wonder where I've heard that phrase before.

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | December 18, 2012 at 12:30 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

So curious to know how you define "advanced." Care to elaborate on that?

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | December 18, 2012 at 3:34 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

I'll bet you're curious, but I think it would be more meaningful if you tried to answer that question yourself.

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Avatar for user 'llk'

llk | December 18, 2012 at 4:06 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Ha! What a copout. I suppose you hold California responsible for America's failure to "advance" culturally, too, SwissDefender.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | December 18, 2012 at 4:41 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Not a copout, I'm just not willing to explain the obvious.

As for holding California responsible for not advancing American society, there is no responsibility. Other states typically follow California's lead, but they are free to do whatever they like. California is not Texas and Texas is not New York and New York is not Florida. To each their own.

I like SwissDefender. It is a great society, but they have defended it just fine for centuries. California needs defenders much more.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 18, 2012 at 8:46 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Good one, Frankie.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 18, 2012 at 8:48 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Why are references to Europe almost always made in American political debates? When it comes to the economy, we always say that "we don't want to be like Europe."

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | December 19, 2012 at 7:48 a.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Ilk, CD, Every country is a unique case. You are correct to point out that there are cultural differences that make different policies more or less effective with different populations. The same argument can be presented for not emulating England or Japan of China in their paths to regulating weaponry.
That statement has not been disproven. Access does not imply misbehavior.

I am with ilk on the vagueness of the characterization of US society as ‘not that advanced’. We have in the past been more heavily armed and have been sufficiently safe. CD, do you consider us to have somehow devolved? If so, what factors do you believe contributed most to that retreat?

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | December 20, 2012 at noon ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Peking, fully automatic guns or "machine guns" have been illegal here since the 30s. According to the FBI, 72% of firearm murders were committed with handguns. 4% were committed with "rifles" which includes assault rifles. Why are we banning assault rifles?

Here, so you know I am not lying.

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | December 23, 2012 at 2:33 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Wasn't Trayvon Martin killed by Zimmerman, who was armed and claimed it was self-defense? I suppose the NRA's position is that a bad guy (Martin) was stopped from robbing homes by a good guy (Zimmerman) because he had a gun!

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 24, 2012 at 5:08 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

CA Off . . . errr . . . Defender, it is ironic you would like that moniker. After all, the Swiss weren't really neutral . . . were they? They only said so on the surface.

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Avatar for user 'LBrixey'

LBrixey | December 25, 2012 at 12:33 p.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Making guns illegal in order to reduce gun violence is about as smart as removing cars from our society to reduce motor vehicle fatalities. (About the same number of people are killed in cars as the number of people killed in gun violence in the U.S.: approximately 30,000 per year.) Yes, making everyone walk everywhere will reduce motor vehicle fatalities. And it will even make society more physically fit, as a side-benefit. Nevertheless, people are willing to take their chances every time they get into their car. And I for one am also willing to take my chances on not being a victim of gun violence. To me, it is an acceptable risk of living in a free society.

On a practical note, banning semi-automatic rifles - or even all guns - is not at all effective in reducing gun violence. (Handguns account for the vast majority of gun violence.) First, of the 30,000 gun fatalities, more than 1/2 were suicides. People who are seriously suicidal will simply find an alternative method. And second, only the law-abiding will give up their guns. Washington DC had a ban for many years. Chicago too. Didn't do anything to reduce violence, just the opposite in fact. Law-abiding citizens are defenseless while the criminals continue to be armed.

Do I know the answer to reducing gun violence? No, but I do note that the vast majority of gun owners are responsible, law-abiding citizens. Perhaps we need to focus of getting more mental health help to depressed individuals, as well as to those who are willing to take out their grief and frustration on others.

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Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | December 26, 2012 at 8:40 a.m. ― 4 years, 2 months ago

Not speaking for the NRA, or anyone but myself, but I would presume the position would be the bad guy (Martin) was prevented from beating someone (Zimmerman) to death because Zimmerman had a gun. Whether that can be established in court we will, I am certain, hear more than enough of in the future.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 30, 2012 at 10:32 p.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

Yeah, Di Fi, and thanks for extending FISA

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | January 7, 2013 at 9:08 a.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

The idea of gun control is a frustrating logical fallacy. It will not do anything to prevent gun violence, and has a very good chance of increasing gun crimes by making law abiding citizens more vulnerable to criminals.

Any of the measures in place, or that could be put in place (magazine lock, 10 round magazine limit, no fully auto weapons etc) can be easily overcome with simple modifications. Law abiding gun owners would not risk prison to illegally modify their weapons. Criminals, with stolen guns, would have no qualms about making illegal modifications to their weapons.

Put as many laws as you want on the books. Criminals will continue to do as they please with no regard for the law... those of us who obey the law, on the other hand, are stuck holding the short end of the stick, overpowered by criminals and unable to defend ourselves.

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