Originally published Sep 23, 2013 by Ad Crable in The Lancaster Intelligencer Journal. Photos by Bob Lowing.
Some of Mayor Rick Gray’s best friends are gun collectors, hunters and National Rifle Association members.
But, he told about 80 people Sunday attending a forum on gun regulations, the public has a right to self-protection against the small percentage of those who shouldn’t have guns.
It’s why he says he will continue to push for “reasonable” gun regulations as one of 200 mayors in Pennsylvania who have joined Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
“What we’re really talking about is why don’t you regulate guns the same way you regulate automobiles or motorcycles? You have speed limits, you have to get the title for a motorcycle, you have to register it,” Gray said as the keynote speaker at the Autumn Peace Forum, held by the Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church.
Gray said he once gave such an example before Pennsylvania legislators. “You certainly don’t equate motorcycles with guns, do you?” Gray recalled a lawmaker saying.
“I said, ‘No, a gun can do a lot more damage than a motorcycle. But we regulate that far more than we do guns.'”
Gray said he would like to see these common-sense measures nationwide:
* Laws mandating that a person report a missing or stolen gun within three days after the owner discovers it missing.
Such a law is needed, Gray maintained, to combat “straw purchases,” when someone who can legally buy a gun does so, then sells it to someone who is forbidden from owning one.
Currently, when a gun is found with a criminal and it is traced back to the person who purchased it, that person can just say it must have been stolen.
* Universal background checks. Currently, guns purchased at gun shows or sold privately do not require background checks for the buyer.
* A ban on the sale of assault-style semi-automatic rifles and a restriction on bullet clips to no more than 10 rounds.
* Tougher penalties for gun trafficking.
Gray said local residents don’t need to read about mass shootings like that last week at the Washington Navy Yard or in Aurora, Colo., to learn of the horrors that guns can inflict.
Even an idyllic place such as Nickel Mines in Lancaster County “can bring it all home what’s going on in this country.”
Unfortunately, he said, the majority of law-abiding gun owners hear the words “gun control” and fear government gun registration, leading eventually to gun confiscation.
He blamed the NRA for too often “trumpeting hysteria.”
Moderator J. Dwight Yoder, a Lancaster attorney, pointed to national polls that show a majority of Americans want tougher gun regulations and asked how the NRA can block any legislation in that direction.
Gray responded with a warning: “If you take an absolute position like that, you better watch out when the dam breaks. Sooner or later something you don’t agree to is going to happen. And when it starts to happen, people are going to realize the emperor doesn’t have any clothes.
“And, at that point, it won’t bode well for gun owners either. So we should sit down and try to work out reasonable solutions.”
The mayor stressed several times in his talk that he well knows firearms play an important role in people’s lives, whether they be for self defense, recreational shooting or gun collecting.”We all have got to commit ourselves to be reasonable about it and try to work through things with people who have legitimate uses for guns, who want to have guns. We have to make sure they’re inconvenienced as little as possible while we’re protected as much as possible,” Gray said.He referred to “gun muscle” behavior. Too often, he said, guns “empower people in a way that is not healthy.”Addressing the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator in Florida, who was later acquitted of murder, Gray asked the audience, “Is there anybody here in this room who thinks George Zimmerman would ever have gotten out of the car to approach Trayvon Martin if (Zimmerman) didn’t have a gun? He never would have gotten out of the car.”People need to rail against the violence seen on television and in video games that desensitizes those to the taking of human life, he said.”It’s like when the kids were killed at Sandy Hook. People were saying to me, ‘I just can’t look at the pictures of the kids.'”And I tell people, ‘You’ve got to look at the pictures of the kids. And you’ve got to cry and you’ve got to understand these were not just 20 kids who were killed, these were 20 humans beings who were killed who aren’t there anymore.'”You don’t see that on TV. Bam, bam, bam, the guys are dropping all over the place. There’s no kids, there’s no mourning, there’s no nothing. And after a while, I think it just desensitizes you.”
Reacting to Gray’s talk from his home Sunday evening, Ken Hess, a 74-year-old member of the Lancaster County Friends of the NRA, said he thinks Gray is “going about it the wrong way.
“This gun thing is a severe problem, but we already have too many gun laws that we can’t enforce,” the Lititz resident said.
“What we are doing with our children with videos and violence — we have to start this at the other end.
“It’s not an easy thing. I understand what Gray is up against. If (people) want to harm you bad enough, (they will) find a way. And you can’t change that with laws.”
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A Background Explanation, by Robert Lowing
Amendment II of the US Constitution 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.
The title of the Mayor’s talk, “Approaches to Reasonable Gun Regulation,” assumes that the audience understood the phrase “reasonable regulation.” It refers to the language used by Supreme Court Justices that the Second Amendment does not prohibit the reasonable regulation of firearms as influential lawmakers interpret the Heller v. D.C. decision. Both Justices Ginsburg and Kennedy said that lawmakers still have “substantial latitude and ample authority to impose reasonable regulation.” See Supersizing the Second Amendment? (Part II) March 4 2010 www.acslaw.org/ascblog/all/reasonable-regulation.html.
Several of the Mayors comments should be understood in relation to the position that the Supreme Court took, that the Second Amendment should be governed by the “reasonable regulation” standard that allows a gun control regulation to stand as long as it doesn’t destroy or nullify the individual right to have a gun for self defense.
He explained that the Pennsylvania General Assembly legislation preempts local municipalities from passing gun control legislation. Ironically, the General Assembly resists passing legislation governing the regulation of firearms. Consequently there is an absence of gun regulation by municipal governments and by the state.
The Mayor said that the Lancaster City has legal authority to have a shooting ordinance. A person can be sentenced to 90 days in prison and a $1,000 fine for discharging a firearm. Other cities, he said, have followed suit.
The Mayor observed that the Second Amendment protects the right of a militia to bear and keep arms, not individuals.
He addressed the NRA’s aggressive opposition to the regulation of all firearms, regardless of their firepower, and their opposition to universal background checks for firearms through mail order, personal transfer, or gun fairs. Although the public from both political parties favor universal background checks, the political arm of the NRA has effectively lobbied legislators to oppose it. According to their propaganda, universal background checks would lead to a national registry of guns and eventual confiscation. If the 2nd Amendment already guarantees the right to gun ownership, then their fears are based on hysteria, according to Gray.
Heller v. District of Columbia – From Wikipedia
On June 26, 2008, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in Heller v. District of Columbia. The Supreme Court struck down provisions of the Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 as unconstitutional, determined that handguns are “arms” for the purposes of the Second Amendment, found that the District of Columbia’s regulations act was an unconstitutional banning, and struck down the portion of the regulations act that requires all firearms including rifles and shotguns be kept “unloaded and disassembled or bound by a trigger lock.” “Prior to this decision the Firearms Control Regulation Act of 1975 also restricted residents from owning handguns except for those registered prior to 1975.”
Dick Heller was a special police officer in the District of Columbia, whose application to register a handgun he wished to keep in his home, was refused. Heller’s application was refused. He appealed and his appeal went all the way to the Supreme Court as summarized above.