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After thrashing the Roman Army in 279-280 B.C., King Pyrrhus of Epirus complained that “one more such victory shall utterly undo us.” Seems the Romans were energized by their defeats. The troops rallied and new recruits flooded their ranks. The term “Pyrrhic victory” now refers to a win that turns out to be a loss. The Supreme Court’s McDonald decision is shaping up that way. Post McDonald, Chicago Mayor Daley followed D.C.’s lead in enacting racist—sorry “reasonable” handgun legislation. The Supreme’s ruling has also brought gun control advocates out of the proverbial woodwork, into the mainstream media showcase . . .

Here’s an NPR police polemic penned by Chaska (MN) Police Chief Scott M. Knight, the same small town cop who shills for Mayors Against Illegal Guns. For Scott and many of his brothers-in-arms, new gun control laws are the “obvious” solution to “this senseless loss of life.” Oh, and the feds should re-instate an assault weapons (a.k.a. home defense gun) ban.

A ruling handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court last week threatens Chicago’s 28-year-old ban on handguns. But the court’s finding that residents have a Second Amendment right to keep a handgun in their home for protection could also provide a new opportunity for Chicago — and other cities and towns across the country — to enact strict firearms policies.

As a police chief, I know first hand the threat that handguns pose to law enforcement officers and other first responders like firefighters and paramedics. In order to do our jobs effectively, we need comprehensive public policies that keep handguns out of the wrong hands. I am talking about the need to preserve and enhance laws that keep handguns away from criminals, gang members, the mentally ill and others who would visit harm upon our citizens. I am talking about laws that make sure that firearms are stored safely, especially around children.

My professional interest in responsible firearms policies is also a personal interest. A few years ago, one of my officers was shot in the line of duty — fortunately, he lived and continues to serve our community. And just last May, Sgt. Joe Bergeron — an uncle to one of my sergeants — was ambushed, shot and killed in Maplewood.

Nationally, in 2009, officer line-of-duty deaths decreased except for firearms-related deaths, which rose by 22 percent over 2008. At this point in 2010, officer firearm-related deaths are 35 percent above 2009. Between 1999 and 2009, more than 20,000 law enforcement officers were assaulted with firearms in the United States. Of the 530 officers killed in the line of duty during the same time period, 486 — more than 90 percent — were killed by a firearm. If not for advances in body armor, paramedic practices in the field and emergency room medicine, we would have lost more officers.

Firearms in the wrong hands are also a threat to community safety — guns are used to kill about 30,000 Americans a year, and they injure some 70,000 more. According to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, during the past several decades firearms have been involved in approximately 65 percent of homicides, 55 percent of suicides (the Minnesota Department of Health tells us that, in our state, 76 percent of deaths related to firearms are suicides), 40 percent of robberies, and 20 percent of aggravated assaults in our country. The numbers I cite do not include accidental shootings, which especially take a toll on our children.

The obvious solution to this senseless loss of life is reasonable law on who can buy guns (close the “gun show — no background check needed” loophole); on the kinds of guns and ammunition that can be purchased (e.g., military assault weapons and armor-piercing bullets do not belong on our streets); on the reporting of lost or stolen firearms, and on how guns are kept and stored.

Gun violence is a destructive force and threat to our communities and society. We need sensible gun policies to reduce this threat. Last week’s Supreme Court decision has provided all of us with an opportunity to make that happen.

Solid first steps would be to close the gun show loophole that allows the sale of guns on a cash and carry basis, with no identification required. Add those who commit crime(s) with a gun to the Predatory Offender Registry, and require them to register where they live and when they move, as we now do with sex offenders and other predators. And we should enact an assault weapons ban.

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  1. I'll go one better.

    Fine, make training required in order to purchase a handgun. At the range, I've seen some sickening and heart-stopping gun handling by citizens who haven't the first clue what they're doing. Giving these owners the basics wouldn't be a bad thing at all — and may even save their own lives (and those around them).

    In gun stores, I've seen noobs go straight for the full-size 1911 .45 or the Ruger Redhawk .44 for their home defense needs, going all Dirty Harry and not understanding that they're completely overgunned for their experience and environment (the drywall that separates your position and your child's bedroom isn't gonna slow that 44 slug down — and neither is your home's aluminum siding, or your neighbor's front door).

    So fine. Send us all to the NRA's pistol training classes.

    But then, quid pro quo, legislators.

    With said training should then come a CCW card. Gimme that here in Illinois, you got a deal.

    But understand, all this training will not lower gun violence or remove illegal guns on the streets. Just make Joe Citizen better able to survive.

    RF, I do see your position that such mandatory training and testing may be construed as "racist" from a historical perspective. Lack of access to schools and education did make this so when viewed in context for voting rights. But since busing and tax dollar redistribution (federal school subsidies), some of the "access" argument has been blunted. There is no educational hindrance for any 21 year old or older adult in my state from taking (and understanding) a firearms test. And given the small fee the NRA charges for their handgun training classes, I don't see a financial barrier either. (Just a fraction of the cost of the gun itself.)

    We can argue that such a requirement does indeed infringe upon the purity (and intent) of the 2nd Amendment. But when one puts themselves in the historical context of the framers, it was universally understood that firearms training was a foregone conclusion. That fathers and grandfathers and uncles and brothers brought up young boys who knew how to shoot was simply a way of life in the colonies of the New World. Today, the passing of firearm training and safety down from one generation to the next has become far rarer (as the accident rates Police Chief Knight attest to).

    So fine. Train and test everyone. We can make a case that this is equal, fair, and far safer for those who wish to bear arms. We can debate the constitutionality of it as well.

    But should this come to pass, just hand me my CCW as I walk out the classroom door.

  2. Monte,

    I've given this a lot of thought. To quote one of the world's greatest philosophers on the need to balance personal rights with social good, you can't fix stupid. But Darwin does.

    Seriously. I'm of the opinion that any American adult without a criminal record should be able to walk into a store, buy a gun and walk out with it. Period. That is our Constitutional right. You can't shout fire in a crowded movie house, and you can't brandish a gun without just cause. But the freedom comes FIRST, the limits AFTER.

    If you;re so hot on gun owners getting training, train 'em. If you think it's that important, subsidize the courses (you, not me). Meanwhile, if the dolts who buy guns shoot themselves or their family or someone, they should pay a heavy price. Actions have consequences. But I consider collateral damage and unintended effects—which we have anyway—as the price of freedom.

    Note: the dangers of gun ownership are vastly exaggerated. The number of guns in circulation in the U.S. is . . . unknown. But let's call it 350 million. One gun for every man, woman and child in the U.S. (legally). If we're talking about accidents (rather than murders or suicides), here are the 2009 stats from our un-biased friends in the NRA, crunching numbers from the CDC:

    "The firearm accident death rate is at an all-time annual low, 0.2 per 100,000 population, down 94% since the all-time high in 1904. Since 1930, the annual number of such deaths has decreased 80%, to an all-time low, while the U.S. population has more than doubled and the number of firearms has quintupled. Among children, such deaths have decreased 90% since 1975. Today, the odds are more than a million to one, against a child in the U.S. dying in a firearm accident.

    "Firearms are involved in 0.5% of accidental deaths nationally, compared to motor vehicles (37%), poisoning (22%), falls (17%), suffocation (5%), drowning (2.9%), fires (2.5%), medical mistakes (1.7%), environmental factors (1.3%), and pedal cycles (0.7%). Among children: motor vehicles (41%), suffocation (21%), drowning (15%), fires (8%), pedal cycles (2%), poisoning (2%), falls (1.9%), environmental factors (1.5%), firearms (1.1%) and medical mistakes (1%)."

    As my friend Henry says, round it down to zero. It's a non-issue, really. Now you COULD say that more guns in the hands of idiots would increase the murder and suicide rate. But we all know that's a bunch of agit-prop. Criminals have plenty of access to guns right now. People who want to kill themselves will do so. Don't we?

    As for the racist side of the gun control equation, I've got an editorial on that very subject appearing in tomorrow's Washington Times. Suffice it to say, you could make an excellent argument that voters should know how the American system of government works in order to vote. If you instituted that requirement tomorrow, over 60 percent of Americans would be instantly disenfranchised. The majority of them would be low income, poorly-educated minorities.

    Would that be fair? Would that be Constitutional? Same goes for gun control training requirements.

    Chicago's handgun licensing laws will add hundreds of dollars and require lots of time and mandate close contact with the police for anyone seeking to buy a handgun in the City. Sure as you-know-what, Chicago's trickle of new handgun owners will be predominantly white in a predominantly black city. Otis McDonald is a black man. The Supremes struck down the handgun ban on his behalf. Is it right that Chicago's laws will prohibit the very people the Supreme Court sought to protect? Hell no.

    Common sense says training. The Constitution says NOTHING about training, for one simple reason. Training's got nothing to do with it. "Reasonable gun control laws" my ass.

  3. Oh yeah…

    You also neglected to mention that Police Chief Knight is not only a shill for MAiG, but also holds a leadership position in the Soros funded "International Association of Chiefs of Police".

    Not only is Knight's position on the issue unsurprising, I'd have been surprised if he hadn't come out with a statement like this at some point. He's a dedicated and active anti-gunner from way back.

  4. First, I don’t think McDonald was a Pyrrhic victory by any stretch. Of course the anti-gunners have come out of the woodwork to decry the ruling and insist that it is meaningless…that’s what they do. Of course the media is in the tank for the anti-gunners, they have been for decades. Of course Mayor Daley proceeded to pass laws that undermine the spirit, (and probably even the letter) of the ruling, that’s what tyrants do when slapped down and everyone I know expected it.

    Did you expect someone so irrationally wedded to a worldview and agenda to just roll over because they lost this one? Unrealistic expectations. McDonald was a huge win for us, but is nothing more than a pillar of the foundation, as was Heller. Mr. Gura and company know what they’re doing. They have been carefully crafting each case to build upon the foundation built by the case before.

    They already have a case winding its way through the courts designed to get the “bear” part of “keep and bear arms” recognized as an equally valid part of the protected right, and within days of the decision, they filed in North Carolina to get the provision that guns possession and sales can be restricted during emergencies overturned.

    Be patient. Heller and McDonald aren’t the end, they are just the beginning.

    As far as mandatory training: When the founders protected the right to keep and bear arms, the prefatory clause makes it clear that part of their purpose was to ensure that American Citizens remained proficient with the arms they have the right to own.

    It think that’s true of the millions of gun owners who’ve “always” owned guns, but for first time owners, I would say that they do need some training.

    With that said, I think the idea of requiring some sort of mandatory training class is a short-sighted solution and places an unconstitutional burden on gun ownership. People who can’t afford to pay upwards of $100 (or more) for a mandatory training class should be excluded from exercising the right to keep and bear the old coach gun that grandpa willed them? Domestic violence victims under immediate threat of death or injury from the abuser should be required to wait days or even weeks to get into a training class before being “allowed” the right to be properly equipped to defend themselves?

    No. Training should absolutely not be mandatory in that sense. Effectively employing firearms for self-defense is not rocket science. That’s one of the things that makes guns such an effective tool for that purpose. You may not be an expert the first time you pick up a gun, but anyone with a modicum of intelligence can figure out how to point it and make it go bang in a matter of seconds.

    And, as a previous commenter pointed out, accidental shootings is a virtual non-issue. I don’t believe that any mandatory training program can reduce gun accidents much more than they already are. As a wise man once said: “you can’t fix stupid”.

    With all that said, I think training is important and should be mandatory in a more far-reaching, pr0-active sort of way.

    Gun safety and handling, moral and legal ramifications and responsibilities of self defense and marksmanship should be a required part of the curriculum of every public and private school in America. In order to obtain a High School Diploma or equivalency, every American kid should be required to demonstrate knowledge of those subjects including a the basic firearms proficiency test.

    To that end, something like the “Eddie Eagle Gunsafe” program should begin in the earliest grades. As the children enter higher grades and sufficiently mature, they should be introduced to air guns, rim fire rifles, shotguns, and eventually to center fire rifles and handguns. Intra and intermural shooting team and individual sports should be introduced and promulgated to encourage active participation and application of the principles learned.

    In other words, we need to use “mandatory training” as a pro-active method of encouraging a broader base of knowledge among the citizenry and to encourage participation and proficiency in firearms use, not as a narrowly focused “stumbling block” used to add to the expense and inconvenience of exercising a constitutionally protected right.

    Besides, it’s almost funny how quickly you can shut up an anti-gunner when they start screaming about the problem of untrained gun owners and you make the above proposition as a solution. I don’t think they’ve ever fully considered the ramifications of their idea that mandatory training is a good thing.

    BTW: Because I do believe that training is important, even though I don’t support it as a mandatory element of gun ownership, I am an NRA and 4H firearms instructor and I regularly volunteer my time to teach gun safety and use to children and adults with no compensation of any kind (except, perhaps, for gratitude) received.

    As a previous commenter noted, you don’t tend to see many people railing about mandatory training requirements actually doing anything about it, do you?

    I wonder: how many gun safety classes has the Brady Campaign, the VPC or the Freedom States Alliance sponsored in the past couple of decades? They don’t care about safety training. All they care about is making gun ownership more difficult.

  5. RF and Sailorcurt, your arguments are completely constitutional and bulletproof.

    I cannot argue against either of your legally pure interpretation of what the framers said…and meant.

    But from a practical standpoint, training doesn't suck. It really, really doesn't.

    RF, from your experience as an automobile journalist, you've been amongst the masses on the highways and byways of America. While the majority of drivers are average, if we go to the edges of the Bell curve, we can see there are more poor drivers than there are excellent ones (and most often, the excellent drivers have had lots of advanced training).

    However, can you imagine how much worse our roads would be if we simply tossed anyone the car keys — with no training — and say, "Off you go. Good luck. Try not to kill anyone."

    Of course the framers did not guarantee the right of driver licensure. We had to stumble our way toward a practical solution of right vs privilege as car ownership became prevalent.

    We were (and are) unable to "fix stupid" on our roads, but we can make the majority of people (some of whom are stupid) at least half-way acceptable.

    I know that we can round the statistically small firearm accident rate to zero. But you wouldn't say that if one of your children were one of the statistically inconsequential people killed by someone else's firearm ignorance. That tiny statistic would be the biggest factor in your tear-streaked, broken-hearted life.

    Look, I know I cannot — nor can the nation as a whole — fix stupid. But I have offered my experience and skills, such as they are, to all my friends and neighbors who might want to own a gun or take up shooting sports. Some have taken me up on it. And it fills me with great satisfaction that at least they've learned the basics. The four rules, as RF states here over and over again (and you cannot be reminded too often). Basic handling techniques. Recommended reading. Further training sources.

    So I was able to fix ignorance.

    I did my part to erase the TV-show and movie gun fantasy my noob friends had about firearms and began the process of showing just how serious, important and self-empowering responsible gun ownership is.

    I've got another example of how training doesn't suck…

    In almost every state in the union, the passing of a hunter safety course is required of every new hunter taking the field. Young and old, from novices to experienced woodsmen — each prospective hunter must submit their course credentials in order to receive their license.

    In this case, the state is not saying you cannot have a gun, it's saying (since hunting is not a constitutional guarantee) that if you're going to be outside bearing arms with a very good chance that you will discharge your weapon, then by God, the state must do what it can to educate you so you don't kill yourself or others.

    And for the most part, it works.

    RF, consider that in Michigan alone, 1 million hunters take the field on opening day of deer season. When you cite those firearm accidents, understand that you should find the most mishaps occuring in the field — because you've got lots of people with guns out in close proximity to each other — and a good portion of those people should be stupid.

    However, the opposite is true. Most firearms f-ups do not occur in the field, where everyone is armed and actually looking to intentionally shoot at something.

    I'm going to credit that to training. Mandatory training. Stupid was not eradicated completely. But ignorance was.

    Yes, RF, I do see where Daley has made it far harder for inner-city African Americans to get access to training, and that needs to be addressed. And if Washington DC does charge that much for training and licensure, that, too, is an unfair burden that's disproportionate toward certain classes and races of people.

    But in all human endeavors of importance — especially those with the ramifications of life and death — training matters.

    I don't have the answers of how firearm training works out constitutionally, or how to make such a requirement fair for all citizens. I really wish I did.

  6. Monte

    Operating a car is far more complicated—and dangerous—than owning or shooting a gun. There's simply no comparison between firearms and automobiles in terms of KSI (killed and seriously injured).

    As for the old "you wouldn't say that if it was YOUR child" argument, you're right, I wouldn't. But then, at that point, I wouldn't be a suitable person to consult when determining suitable public policy re: firearms. For example, the "New York trigger pull."

    As a gun guy, I say WTF has an eight-pound trigger pull (measured at the center) have to do with gun safety? If a kid playing with a gun can't pull a trigger with one finger, he'll use two. Meanwhile, the heavy trigger pull makes the gun owner less accurate (i.e. more likely to shoot the wrong person). As a free market gun guy, I say let the market decide. Consumers don't want accidental discharges any more than the government.

    If my kid shot herself with a gun, I'd probably say a billion pound trigger pull wasn't enough. But my pain and suffering doesn't make me more "right" about mandatory trigger pull weights that someone with a more detached dare I say common sense perspective. Or that my opinion should be valued more highly.

    Anyway, you're almost there. You're taking control of the situation as best you can at the local level. Good for you. So are millions of responsible gun owners, and thousands of NRA instructors. We need the government to supervise and regulate this activity why?

    I don't say training sucks. I say mandatory training sucks. Whenever the government gets involved, standards go down, not up. To wit: when I pick up a gun from my dealer, I have to sign a form stating that he explained all the gun's safety features. Guess how comprehensive that training is?

    You don't have to figure out how to make mandatory firearms training fair or constitutional. Just skip it. Darwin will take care of the rest, as he already does.

  7. I, also, never said training sucks.

    I never even said mandatory training sucks. What I said was that training being used as an impediment to the exercise of a right sucks.

    I could even agree to mandatory training if it's approached in an even-handed way that doesn't place stumbling blocks in the way of immediate access to the proper tools of self defense to which we all have the right.

    Your comparison of gun safety to automobile safety is more prescient than you may realize.

    In spite of mandatory licensing, registration and training, we still have over 30,000 automobile deaths every year in this country. Automobile crashes are the number one cause of death among teens and young adults. Most of those deaths were completely preventable and due primarily to irresponsible people (including they themselves being irresponsible).

    The automobile fatality numbers demonstrate pretty thoroughly that irresponsible people will be irresponsible regardless of any licensing, registration or training requirements.

    Responsible people get the training they need regardless of any law requiring it. If training is mandatory, irresponsible people may attend, but do they actually learn anything or apply the lessons taught? Our driving fatality and injury statistics indicate to me that the answer is largely no.

    The question isn't whether training is a good idea or not. It obviously is a great idea.

    The question is whether MANDATORY training would have any impact at all on overall gun safety, or would it simply be used by the anti's as another impediment to the exercise of a constitutionally protected right?

    The answer to that question is clear.


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