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JP Grace: Gun control should have sensible limits

Apr. 16, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

The gun control debate? Here's what I think, tough on current gun owners though it may be.

You should not own a gun if:

You are under age 16.

Are a convicted felon.

Are a known and unreformed drug addict.

Have been arrested for DUI more than once within three years.

Have voiced threats to kill yourself or another person and are on record with the police as such.

Are under a doctor's care or taking prescription medication for depression, bipolar condition, schizophrenia or another recognized precarious mental illness.

Have voiced threats to overthrow the government or harm law enforcement personnel or a civic official, elected or appointed.

Are subject to repeated bouts of rage.

I would oppose a national assault weapons ban, simply because citizens in states such as Montana and Idaho may live on ranches or farms far from easy reach by law enforcement and may need such weapons for defense against a band of marauders. Individual states should nonetheless be free to ban such weapons through legislative action.

Similarly, I think limiting magazine clips for automatic or semiautomatic weapons to no more than 10 rounds is too severe. I like Colorado's magazine limit of 15 rounds, however. That's a sensible limit. Several of the horrific massacres in recent years -- in Tucson, Ariz., Aurora, Colo, and Newtown, Conn -- were committed by young shooters using 30- or 100-round magazines.

I cannot imagine a reason to go against the wishes of 88 to 90 per cent of Americans surveyed who support legislating universal background checks that would, in effect, close the gun-show loophole. Private sales should also be subject to these checks. It would be all too easy for someone to sell an AR-15 assault rifle to a neighbor who, unbeknownst to the seller, might fit in one of the categories above (people who should not own guns).

Finally, we could use especially strong legislation to combat so-called "straw purchases."

That is, buying a gun legally while passing a background check but with the intention of selling that weapon to someone who would fail a background check and who, therefore, has no right to own the firearm in question.

More and more states are expected to follow the lead of Connecticut and Colorado and pass tough gun-control measures.

The question is: Will senators and representatives in Washington have the courage to do likewise? Or will they cave to pressures from the National Rifle Association and "back off?"

There's a ton of misinformation out there. Students I spoke to recently at the Huntington Junior College on 5th Avenue mostly thought the legislation in D.C. was aiming "to take all our guns away." And a member of Huntington City Council told me, as we discussed the issue, that "there's a lobby out there that's seeking to take everybody's guns away."

Really?

It must be a pretty clandestine lobby. I've never heard any reporting on its whereabouts or membership. The truth: There is no such lobby. There has not been a single voice in Congress that has come anywhere near advocating rounding up the nation's three million guns. Not one.

John Patrick Grace formerly covered health care and religion for The Greensboro (N.C.) News and Record. Prior to that he was an Associated Press reporter, editor and foreign correspondent. He is now a book editor and publisher and teaches the Life Writing Class.

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