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Pirates abroad, murders in U.S. bring gun concerns into spotlight

Thursday, April 16, 2009 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

Three words dominated the news this last week. Pirates, guns and money. Sounds like a song by the late Warren Zevon.

A great debate is afoot, generated from two sets of criminal acts — the pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia and the string of mass murders we have seen in the United States in the last year.  

We are too familiar with what is happening off the Somali coast. The Maersk Alabama was hijacked by Somali pirates. Not a lot of pirates, mind you, but they were armed and the crew was not. The good news: all were rescued, unharmed. The bad news: pirates still ply the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

On April 11, an American-owned tugboat flying an Italian flag was hijacked with 16-crew members reported on-board. The Italian navy sent its warships to do what they could. Tuesday morning, ABC News reported four more hijackings by Somali pirates.

Then there are the mass murders reported across the nation; disgruntled workers killing co-workers, a man walking into nursing homes and murdering innocent patients, a father killing family members and then suicide.  

What do these have in common? Guns. Do not get me wrong, I am not for a complete ban on firearms, but there has to be an understanding what is and is not “common sense.” No one has ever explained to me why someone must own an assault rifle if all you plan to do is hunt deer. Assault rifles are designed to kill people, the “enemy.” Deer are not the enemy, nor criminals, nor al-Qaida. Deer is either food or trophy.  

The history surrounding gun control dates back to 14th-century England as a religious issue; Catholics were prohibited from owning guns after the Protestant English Reformation. The 1689 English Bill of Rights’ seventh provision, giving Protestants the right to own guns, is the foundation of the Second Amendment.  

The argument concerning “gun control” is, in my mind at least, interpretation of life then and now. The Second Amendment says, “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.” In 1776, every able-bodied male (OK, free white male) was a member of the local militia. Farmers and merchants took up arms and stood shoulder to shoulder to fight along with free and slaved blacks.

So what does this have to do with crimes on the high seas and at home? The two incompatible arguments are simple: we need to arm our Merchant Marines to protect them from pirates, and we need to control the sale and ownership of guns at home. It is not hard to see the conflict presented or the emotion generated by these two opposing needs.

The problem is enhanced by the knowledge that many of the pirates are not old enough to shave and there is essentially no government or law in Somalia, and that the guns used in the sensationalized crimes at home were, for the most part, legally purchased.

So where do the liberals and conservatives go from here? Both sides are arguing from Maslow’s second level in his hierarchy: fear of crime, of uncontrolled violence, of civil uprisings. In a word, chaos.   

The argument that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” is true, but the weapon of choice is usually a firearm. Another argument is that anything can be used as a weapon and kitchen knives can be used to kill. True, but if Seung-Hui Cho had a 10-inch cooking knife, 32 would not have died at Virginia Tech. Yet hunting, sport and home protection are all legitimate reasons to own a weapon. So where is the balance?

The NRA need not worry; gun ownership will never be prohibited in this country. However, the lethality and technology incorporated in the modern handgun, shotgun or rifle could not have been imagined 300 years ago. And no one has ever answered my question — why own an assault rifle to hunt deer?

David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. Besides the Missourian, David is also a featured columnist for MissouriTribune.com and TRCB.com. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.


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Comments

David Miller April 16, 2009 | 9:43 a.m.

I can give you a reason to won an "assault rifle". They make excellent self-defense weapons. Think they are never used for self defense? Well, read about this case:

http://feeds.learnaboutguns.com/~r/Learn...

There is nothing inherently wrong or bad about semi-automatic rifles. While they were used in some of the recent mass shootings, they have legitimate, lawful purposes as well.

(Report Comment)
Random Foo April 16, 2009 | 1:02 p.m.

Why do these people think we need to answer them when they ask us why we need/want something. I wonder how they would like it if I wandered through their house asking why they need anything I happen to pick up. I am not subject to their approval of my needs or wants. That is the whole point of freedom. A "legitimate purpose" for owning anything is subjective and irrelevant. As long as you aren't out killing people it is nobody's business but your own. Are these people so content with their lives they now feel the need to start regulating others? Sorry Bub, isn't going to work that way. And why you ask? Well, because we have the guns! Now do you understand?

(Report Comment)
John Schultz April 16, 2009 | 4:07 p.m.

Mr. Rosman, do you own a car that can exceed the 70 MPH speed limits? Is that reasonable to possess? Should the government take it away because you have the ability to go faster than is reasonable?

Find some gun-toting friends, head to the range with those so-called assault rifles (which are not as similar to military-issue rifles as some try to claim), and plug some targets. You just might have some fun and come to a new understanding.

I have a friend who owns several of the evil, scary guns that our armed forces and some allies used in World War 2. None of them are automatic weapons and all are over 50 years old. I have been to a shooting range with him where many paper targets have met their doom. Never has he used them for crime. Seems like he is already exercising the common sense you call for.

I would also be curious to know just what you think we should do "to control the sale and ownership of guns at home."

(Report Comment)
chance lemons April 16, 2009 | 11:30 p.m.

How can the majority of gun owners be blamed and rights to own this legal arms for hunting, personal defense or what ever reason we have for owning them be held in punishment for those people who could buy a firearm legally or illegally do something that is sad and tragic due to some unknown mental, or life issues they are dealing with.
Someone made a point about owning a car, well what about owning a car the legal purchase of alcohol used in illegal way which causes a large number of deaths, wounds, and tearing apart of families. So why do people not call for the closing of all the huge alcohol companies, bars, resturant in the country that serves it and then there is nothing to worry about right?
Prohibition did not work if I remember correctly because people who are willing to break the law do not care about the law. Someone who has decided to kill in a premediated fasion no matter what is used has made a decison that falls outside the the norm of society so why get rid of guns or ban them when those things do not work. Example Chicago and DC both said no handguns allowed but yet both have very high handgun crime rates, so like stated earlier prohibition is only good for those who obey the law and can allow those who obey to be overran by those who are willing to break it.

(Report Comment)
Bo Hrad April 17, 2009 | 12:47 a.m.

In America during Colonial times, when everyone had a weapon for security and sustenance, no one went around shooting people because they had a bad-hair day. The firearm of the day then was the equivalent of an assault rifle for their times. Fast-forward to the Wild West days......everyone had guns. More modern ones too. Only bad guys shot it out with the good guys in the white hats. It wasn't as lawless as everyone thinks. In the roaring 20's and the Depression 30's, everyone had access to firearms. There was still no firearm registration, heck, anyone could go and buy a submachinegun if they wanted to. Yet, rapes and robberies and "gang" murders of innocent people were still non-existent then.

Fast forward to the year 2009; and we are amazed today at lawlessness, robberies, gang-violence, such little respect for human life. And we say that guns kill people. And we are worried that "assault rifles" are a problem and need to be banned.

How about we ban criminals? How about we make sure people who need their meds are taking them? How about we stop bombarding our youth with violence in every form from movies to sport to television?

(Report Comment)
david alayon July 19, 2009 | 11:52 a.m.

you know something, if i want to own an assault rifle its my god damn right to. what next? you're gonna tell me i cant own a sports car because the heavy horsepower is dangerous. crimes involving assault rifles makes up for 5% of those involving firearms. and you guessed it, the majority of those are illegally purchased. so you wanna take away my legally purchased AR-15 because of the local thug that doesnt respect the laws in place? what the hell? thats like putting a rape victim in a room full of violent sex offenders. what the hell is wrong with you liberals? the wrong people are paying for such small percentage of crimes. and im sure you dont own any firearms or you wouldnt be spewing such ignorant babble

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