By The Raleigh Telegram
RALEIGH – Many North Carolina gun owners and gun enthusiasts are worried that new gun proposals that go far beyond an assault rifle ban would make many of the otherwise law abiding 80 million Americans who are gun owners into criminals if they do not register their weapons with federal authorities.
National and international media reports have stated that the White House under a committee led by Vice President Joe Biden is going to seek sweeping changes in how guns are registered, sold, and taxed in the wake of the Newton, Connecticut school shooting.
Under the potential proposals which have yet to be officially announced, all firearms would be required to be registered in a national database that would keep track of all guns and who owns them. The database would include all new guns but also would include all guns that have been sold in the past, as there would be no “grandfather” clause in the new proposals.
In addition, one gun shop operator told the Telegram that the proposals could basically treat all firearms as “class three” weapons.
This would mean that they would be tracked in a national database, that there would be a substantial tax on the guns, and that they could not be passed from generation to generation as they would be destroyed upon the death of the registered owner. In addition, it would be a federal crime to transfer the guns or even to own them without having them registered, even if they were legally obtained.
Currently, state laws vary on how guns can be transferred. North Carolina allows the legal transfer of a shotgun or rifle from one private person to another as long as the people involved do not have felony convictions or if there are other reasons such as mental illness or a history of domestic abuse that would keep them from owning such a weapon. Similar laws apply to pistol sales except that the private sale of pistols require the purchaser to have a gun permit issued by the local Sheriff’s office, which does a background check on the applicant.
Any gun sold at a gun shop in North Carolina requires a federal background check and if a pistol is being sold, a gun permit is also required from the local Sheriff’s Department in the resident’s county.
Currently all counties in North Carolina except one, no guns are listed or registered with law enforcement authorities, although the serial numbers of guns that were sold as new weapons are recorded and retained by federal authorities.
The effort to include all guns in a national database to allow the government to track thas already generated a national controversy.
Recent efforts by US Senator Diane Feinstein (D-California) after the Newtown school shooting have included her publicly stated goal of getting all guns listed in a national database.
In an open letter that was reported on and published by CNN, Marine Corps veteran Joshua Boston who has served in both Iraq and Afghanistan said that Feinstein and others who are trying to make the registry a reality are “overstepped a line that is not your domain.”
“I am not your subject,” he added. “I am the man who keeps you free. I am not your servant. I am the person whom you serve. I am not your peasant.”
Boston said he would not register his guns with the federal government and wouldn’t comply with that new law if it is implemented.
Several people on both sides of the issue spoke with The Raleigh Telegram about guns and gun control. Similar to the abortion debate where there seems to be high emotions on both sides of the issue with little compromise, everyone we spoke with did not want to have their names published in the newspaper for fear of being targeted online or elsewhere by opponents who don’t agree with them.
A high-ranking law enforcement official with over 30 years of experience spoke with The Raleigh Telegram on the condition that his name not be used.
The official said that although he could understand an assault weapons ban, he was concerned that all of the talk of massive new gun measures have actually had the opposite effect on keeping guns off the streets.
“It seems like ten years worth of gun sales have taken place in just two months,” said the police official. “Instead of taking a quiet approach to the issue, it seems like this hype and all of the media attention has just meant big gun sales. All of these millions of guns are now out on the streets.”
The officer said he had talked to the owner of a North Carolina gun store that had ordered 700 semi-automatic AR-15 style rifles before the holidays and before the Newtown shooting.
“Sales were not as good as they had been and they were concerned that they were going to stuck with them,” he said. “After talk of an assault rifle ban, they sold every last one of them.”
Indeed, guns and ammunition have been flying off the shelves at local stores. At places like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Gander Mountain, and other gun stores, new pistols and rifles have been in short supply, especially those types of guns with high-capacity magazines that may fall under new bans. At some Dick’s Sporting Goods in North Carolina, signs have been placed on ammo shelves saying that they are short on ammunition and that customers are limited to a certain number of boxes.
Handgun rounds, .22 rifle rounds, and .223/556 rifle shells have been especially in short supply.
Another high ranking law enforcement officer who wished not to be identified said that he has been in favor of expanding some gun rights for various reasons.
For example, he is in favor of the North Carolina concealed carry permits because the “fingerprinting [required for the permit] means that we have that many more people in the database” to help solve crimes.
However, despite some support for some gun rights measures, he said he was in favor of new gun laws that require more stringent background checks in terms of mental health issues.
“There are lots of people out there who have no business owning a gun,” he said. “With patient confidentiality [in mental health records], we have no way of knowing what that person is capable of doing. It’s not on their record when we pull them over and it’s not on their profile when they apply for a gun. Also, if you live with a person who is mentally unstable, you should be required to keep the weapons under lock and key. That’s gotta change.”
Another law enforcement official with the same agency had a much different opinion and said that he was not in favor of any private citizen having a gun on their person unless they were in their home.
“People who carry guns find a way to use them,” he said. “Instead of avoiding trouble if you don’t have a gun, sometimes people go looking for it.”
Many gun owners that the Telegram spoke with said that they were afraid that a nationwide gun registry would eventually lead to gun confiscation by the federal authorities.
“The first thing they will come for is your guns,” said a woman in a gun store, who didn’t want to give her name. “Then they can do whatever they want to after that. That’s why it’s in the Constitution right after the right to free speech.”
Other gun owners said gun laws are not followed by criminals and people with mental health issues. They say that there are already gun laws on the books that aren’t followed by criminals every day.
“If someone really wants to kill someone, they don’t have to go to a gun shop to buy a gun,” said one gun owner who said he had a concealed carry permit and carried a gun with him all the time as allowed by law. “They can go steal one or buy it on the streets from another criminal. More gun laws mean that only cops and criminals will have guns. Mass shooters don’t go to police stations to kill people. They go where they know there are no guns.”
A criminal defense attorney who works in Durham in North Carolina commented to the Telegram that she feels that guns are far too prevalent in society. She mentioned that she had a gun pointed at her on one occasion and that is fearful of guns entirely. She said based on her experience with her own clients, that it’s too easy for people to obtain guns and that she had seen the results of gun violence in the courts.
“I don’t feel that banning assault rifles would be a bad thing,” she said. “Those types of guns shouldn’t be out on the streets. There will always be guns out there but if there are less of them, it would help. There are just too many people out there shooting each other.”
Durham County requires handgun owners to register their guns with officials at the courthouse, but the rule seemingly has rarely been enforced. As the county is the only one in North Carolina with that requirement, its effects on reducing gun violence, which is common in the city of Durham, is unknown.
Some gun owners says such registration rules, if enacted on a national scale, would simply mean that millions of gun owners would become criminals.
“It will be just like Prohibition and we see how that turned out,” said one gun store worker who wished not to be identified. “There will be mass noncompliance. I don’t know many gun owners who are going to want to tell the government what guns they have. It will just make criminals out of normal, ordinary people. That’s exactly what the gun control people want — to make criminals out of people who own guns.”
Many gun owners say they are law abiding citizens who are already being treated like criminals. After the Newtown shooting, The Journal News newspaper in New York drew lots of criticism for printing the names and addresses of those who had received gun permits. There was a map that allowed people to get directions to the homes where gun owners lived. Shortly after, the website Gawker listed all of the names of those in New York City who had gun permits.
Neither the newspaper nor the website chose to print the names or addresses of criminals who had been charged with illegal gun possession crimes in those areas, just those who had legally obtained guns or least gun permits.
Gun control activists say that the legal registrations are public record and as such are printable in the media to let people who owns a gun in their neighborhood. Gun supporters say that at best, the listings of gun owners subject the owners to possible identity theft and at the worst, make them targets for burglars looking for guns to steal.
“While the information is public record, what they’ve done is point out all these homes to criminals and burglars and also point out all those homes that don’t have weapons that they could target,” said William J. Pape II, the editor and publisher of the Waterbury, Connecticut-based Republican-American, in an interview with the Bloomberg News.
Some states such as Connecticut do not allow that information to be given out to the public.
In North Carolina, some information concerning gun ownership is considered public record. Last year, WRAL-TV 5 in Raleigh drew flak from viewers when it listed the names and addresses of all concealed carry gun permit holders on its website.
Bowing to criticism, the website was later limited to listing those concealed carry holders who lived in the Triangle as opposed to the entire statewide list. In addition, the TV station later changed its listings to include only the street, not the entire home address.
Some concealed carry gun owners objected to being listed on television website like sex offenders or other criminals.
“Why does anyone even need this information?” said Grassroots NC President Paul Verone in a posting on the gun rights group’s website. “The only people subjected to similar treatment are sex offenders, to protect against predation. Does WRAL consider permit-holders dangerous?”
Verone also pointed out that many of the 300,000 plus people who have applied for a concealed carry gun permit in North Carolina may not want their addresses to be given if they are the victims of domestic violence and are trying to escape an abusive ex-spouse or boyfriend.
“House Bill 1311, the “Domestic Violence Victims Empowerment Act,” requires courts to advise victims who apply for “50B” protective orders of their right to apply for concealed handgun permits,” said Verone in his blog. “Most certainly, these victims would not be ‘proud’ to have their information revealed, especially to the abuser against whom they just filed a restraining order.”
The debate about what types of weapons are appropriate for civilians to own and whether there should be limits on gun ownership in a modern world will likely continue for some time. As America struggles with balancing Second Amendment rights with protecting its citizens from gun violence, the laws and rules will likely shift in both directions over time.
Guns with high capacity magazines have been around for some time. For example, in 1860, the Henry Repeating Rifle was introduced to the civilian market and later became a staple in the Old West. The gun held 15 rounds in the tubular magazine. According to magazine advertisements of the era, in the 1920′s and 1930′s, a Thompson Submachine gun could be ordered through the mail with a 50 round drum magazine.
However, with notable exceptions like the Kent State shootings in 1970 where 13 students were shot by members of the Ohio National Guard, regular mass shootings of civilians on school campuses seems to be unique to the last couple of decades.
As its citizens struggle with complex causes that also include exposure to violent movies, video games, mental health treatment, copy cat fame seekers, media coverage, and of course, access to guns, the debate as to what the solutions will work best will likely continue for some time. ::
Article Posted: Thursday, January 10th, 2013.