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Gun Rights...And Wrongs!
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Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee hosted the first of public hearings on the issue of gun control. Among those making an appearance before the somewhat contentious hearings were shooting victim former Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords, and Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Giffords’ presence was intended to put a public face on proposals to curtail open-ended gun availability. Among the limitations that Giffords and others are proposing is a banning on various kinds of high-powered assault rifles with high capacity ammo clips.
LaPierre spoke out against with lawmakers “pushing for new gun control measures, and warned darkly that enacting a universal background check on all weapons purchases would be a ‘nightmare’ come to life for law-abiding gun owners” (“LaPierre Fights To Stop The 'Nightmare' Of Background Checks"). More to the point, LaPierre conjured up the hyperbolic scenario to counter a proposal by the Obama Administration to close the so-called "gun show loophole," gaps in gun purchasing laws that don’t require criminal background checks on gun purchasers at dealer shows. LaPierre and other gun-rights advocates cite the lack of enforcement by authorities of current gun-related crimes is the reason why so many high-profile shootings have occurred in recent times.
Now, I am as in favor of the right of an individual to defend themselves against threats as anyone—real threats, not imaginary threats like “tyrannical governments” “oppressive regimes,” or a unspoken plan by “authorities coming to get our guns.” And yes, I do believe that gun ownership in a society where the police simply cannot be everywhere as fast as we would like them is a necessary evil (in fact, I wouldn’t feel safe living in a house without a gun). And yes, I have witnessed instances where penalties for gun-related offenses seem lightly-punished. However, there are other instances where the application of gun laws is so subjective, that criticism by gun owners that they “should be enforced” becomes laughable.
Consider Florida’s “stand-your-ground” law, which came to national recognition in light of the Trayvon Martin shooting by George Zimmerman. More than a few instances have come to light of the inconsistent way this law, as well as other gun-related crimes, as prosecuted. The case of a Florida woman highlights this inconsistent application of gun laws that gun proponents often cite as why shootings occur. In May of last year, a 31-year-old mother was sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a “warning shot” at her abusive husband…a shot which resulted in no injuries, maiming, or deaths (“Fla. Woman Marissa Alexander Gets 20 Years for 'Warning Shot' : Did She Stand Her Ground?”).
One has to ask why wasn’t the Stand Your Ground law applicable to this particular case? How could a 31-year-old woman in a relationship with a man with a history of domestic violence (and whose actions did not result in any physical injury) be sentenced to two decades in prison while Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed Martin, is out on bail? As an African-America, I find myself asking, where are the protests and calls for “equal justice” by the Reverends Sharpton & Jacksons in this? In our media-savvy world, it’s hard for me to imagine either of them missing such an opportunity for highlight this injustice. I suppose some gun crimes are worse than others.
This case is something that gun rights advocates might want to remember the next time they invoke the mantra of “enforce the gun laws already on the books” in their efforts to justify why they feel that should own so many weapons.