DAVID ROSMAN: An honest dialogue about guns is needed

Wednesday, August 8, 2012 | 2:33 p.m. CDT; updated 5:16 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 9, 2012

It is Sunday afternoon as I write this. I was thinking about Tuesday’s election and this column. Because the column goes online Wednesday, I really cannot write about the election.

At 11 this morning, however, I received an Associated Press notification: There was a shooting at a Sikh Temple in Milwaukee. Later, we'd learn that seven people had died, including the shooter.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Ben Boparai, a member of the temple, as saying, "It's pretty much a hate crime. It's not an insider." Boparai believes the shooter is not of Indian descent or a member of the Milwaukee temple.

As my regular readers know, I am not against gun ownership. My partner, Kathy, used to hunt and her ex-husband was a gunsmith. I have owned numerous handguns over the years. I am also an advocate of training and responsible ownership.

J. Karl Miller’s July 25 column concerning gun ownership and past mass shootings offered little insight into the reasoning for an "absolute right" of gun ownership. There are no "absolute rights" provided by the Constitution and its Amendments.

Karl is right when he stated, "While 20/20 hindsight is used in alleging that ‘someone should have seen it coming,’ that is pure second-guessing. … I am afraid these massacres will be repeated." But this sounds like a defeatist attitude, not one of reason and humanism.

Karl is also correct when he stated "that recreational and competition shooting is not only a lawful activity but also a very popular one." There is no reason to keep handguns, long guns and shotguns away from those who hunt and compete — or use them for home protection.

However, all weapons have a single purpose: to kill. This is one reason you will not see a knife on a traditional Japanese or Chinese dinner table.

Today, the National Rifle Association is doing more to hinder the process of an open dialogue through intimidation and fear-mongering. Simply lobbying against a gun control political advocate closes all doors to a reasonable and open conversation concerning responsible gun ownership.

There are questions that Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Ariz., Aurora, Colo., and now Milwaukee have brought to the forefront that are not being addressed.

Should the state require the buyer to have training and to prove to the dealer that one’s training is current before being allowed to purchase a weapon?

Should the state require that all weapons be kept in a locked container or have gun locks when not being used?

Should the federal government restrict or eliminate the interstate sales of ammunition and extended capacity clip sales via the Internet?

This list goes on ad infinitum.

Karl’s and others’ argument is that most shooting massacres were "planned and carried out by people who were mentally disturbed." This is simply not true. The individuals who assisted the Columbine shooters and the shooters themselves were never considered "mentally ill." They were angry, yes, but in full mental capacity.

We are not sure of the mental state of the Tucson shooter because he pleaded guilty to all charges and did not take a mental deficiency defense.

We do not know about the Aurora or the Milwaukee shooters.

If conversations concerning responsible gun ownership are not made on a state and national level, I am afraid that I will have to agree with Karl; we will see more mass shootings in the United States.

If the NRA continues to block any reasonable effort to have open training, seminars and instruction of proper firearms ownership, the illegal guns used in shootings across this country will continue to be supplied by the burglars to steal the weapons from legitimate gun owners.

If our president and presumptive presidential candidates do not start the conversation with a level of openness and ethical listening skills, then there will be no conversation at all.

I urge those who won their party nominations for state and federal offices not to avoid the conversation. I urge them to forget about the money from lobbying groups and think about their constituents as real people. I urge you to demand an open conversation.

Owning more guns will not slow down gun crime, nor will eliminating all gun ownership. But there is an answer somewhere. We have to be willing to talk first.

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.

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Skip Yates August 8, 2012 | 11:31 p.m.

"If the NRA continues to block any reasonable effort to have open training, seminars and instruction........". Mr Rosman apparently knows nothing about the NRA except what he may read in the Huffington Post.

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders August 9, 2012 | 11:07 a.m.

"However, all weapons have a single purpose: to kill."

Strawman much?

To state that weapons have but a "single purpose" is to engage in idiocy to support your advocacy.

Guess what? Not all of us are that dumb. Guess what else? Most who aren't stop reading upon seeing this, as there's little point in arguing with someone who engages in logical fallacy in order to appear intelligent.

Some day I hope to actually read an entire article you've written, but so far, between the incoherence of ideology (such as doing "good" by utilizing "evil" means), and utilizing logical fallacies to support this incoherence (with the all of the flair of a modern day sophist)... well, let's just say I'm not holding my breath waiting.

(Report Comment)
David Rosman August 9, 2012 | 8:17 p.m.

Mr. Yates, I was a member of the NRA until the week after Columbine the the irresponsible words of the then president, Charlton Heston. I know the NRA and it politics as well as its training programs very well. I shot competitively and had a carry permit in Colorado while working for the state.

I also know that, per the NRA, 80% of all handgun owners have never shot their weapon. I have watched new gun owners put ammunition in the clip backwards. I have watched new gun owners play "gunslinger" with live ammunition. And still, the radicals elements of the NRA refuse to talk about universal training before ownership. That alone may have prevented the Milwaukee shootings, but we will never know, will we.

(Report Comment)
David Rosman August 9, 2012 | 8:22 p.m.

Mr. Saunders, The fact that you refuse to read an entire article of mine is indicative in the problem of which I speak; the unwillingness to have an open discussion about firearms ownership. It is unfortunate that you have lowered yourself to name calling.

My challenge to you is to read my column straight through before you formulate your response, as I do you that same honor.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking August 10, 2012 | 3:47 a.m.

David Rosman wrote:

"I also know that, per the NRA, 80% of all handgun owners have never shot their weapon."

I couldn't find a cite for this - I find it difficult to believe that legal owners would spend hundreds of dollars for a handgun and not ever shoot it. Perhaps many of them are curios and relics and are never fired for that reason?


(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 10, 2012 | 5:13 a.m.

@ Mark Foecking:

One category of weapons owned but seldom fired would be those acquired from the enemy in a military combat zone. Finding ammunition for such weapons could be a problem; also, I'm not certain we'd want have Korean War vets test firing Chinese-made sub machine guns (so-called "burp" guns, due to the sound they make when fired). There goes the neighborhood! :)

I wonder whether Mr. Rosman and others understand that a firearm is a mechanical device (with varying degrees of sophistication) and that when a key member of the mechanics (say, the firing pin) is removed, the weapon will not fire. My recommendation for all seldom-used complex firearms is that this disabling move be made. Store the removed part(s) separate from the weapon(s), but where you KNOW where they are stored. You can always reassemble the weapon if you need to, and if you can't manage that, you didn't need the weapon in the first place.

PS: I am not an NRA member. I was a weapons training and qualification officer for the 521st U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Group in the 1950s.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking August 10, 2012 | 6:07 a.m.


Right - that's why I mentioned the curio and relics - you may know that is a type of federal firearms license that lets collectors own weapons (like the Chinese burp guns you mention) that they ordinarily couldn't because they were full auto or otherwise would require a Class III license.

C & R licenses are sometimes criticized for being a loophole for allowing people to skirt the extensive background check required of Class III licensees. However, I don't believe there has ever been an instance of a C & R gun being used in a crime by its legal owner.

Some guns fire from an open bolt (I believe the Thompson and Uzi are two) and the firing pin is part of the bolt and can't be removed. There are collector Thompsons that are made with special non-firing bolts. I'm sure there are other ways to render such guns temporarily non-functional.


(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller August 10, 2012 | 9:11 a.m.

David, I have made it a point, as a professional courtesy to other columnists, not to offer criticisms. However, I am troubled by your "If the NRA continues to block any reasonable effort to have open training, seminars and instruction of proper firearms ownership" comment which is simply not true.

As evidence, I offer the following
"In civilian training, the NRA continues to be the leader in firearms education. Over 55,000 Certified Instructors now train about 750,000 gun owners a year. Courses are available in basic rifle, pistol, shotgun, muzzleloading firearms, personal protection, and even ammunition reloading. Additionally, nearly 2,800 Certified Coaches are specially trained to work with young competitive shooters. Since the establishment of the lifesaving Eddie Eagle® Gun Safety Program in 1988, more than 21 million pre-kindergarten to sixth grade children have learned that if they see a firearm in an unsupervised situation, they should "STOP. DON'T TOUCH. LEAVE THE AREA. TELL AN ADULT."

Additionally, in 1956, the NRA became the sole trainer of law enforcement officers with the introduction of its NRA Police Firearms Instructor certification program in 1960. Today, there are more than 10,000 NRA-certified police and security firearms instructors.

I expect progressives to attack the NRA--it is their right to do so. However, journalistic accuracy must guide the published word.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams August 10, 2012 | 5:43 p.m.

JKarl: All that you said about NRA efforts at education are correct.

However, Dave said "If the NRA continues to block any reasonable effort to have open training, seminars and instruction of proper firearms ownership..."

It's apparent that, to Dave, "reasonable effort" means "forced" or "required by law".

Fact is, David adopts a definition of "reasonable" based upon his own mental dictionary as applied to something he wants.

With that definition, Dave's sentence is him. He used a rather neat trick of rhetoric; to agree with his sentence, you have to adopt his definition of "reasonable effort".

Hey, he's a writer; rhetorical tricks are a dime a dozen.

And, given his obvious critique of YOUR column, I'd have to say he doesn't share the extent of your professional courtesy.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 11, 2012 | 6:44 p.m.

David, please do let us know how proper gun training might have prevented the Milwaukee shootings. Would the shooter have decided at the last moment that it was wrong to shoot people and head back home? I seriously doubt it.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz August 11, 2012 | 6:48 p.m.

Mark, my reading of Ellis' comment about vets and old guns is that he was talking about guns brought back from the battlefield and not purchased through a C&R license. I'm not sure if a C&R license would allow purchase of an automatic weapon (I'm guessing no), but will try to check with a friend of mine who held a C&R license for several years and purchased many old semi-auto (and fun to target shoot) guns with his license. I have new respect for our WW2 Russian allies who shot Mosin-Nagants (the sniper gun from Enemy at the Gates) since they kick like a son of a gun.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 13, 2012 | 4:33 p.m.

@ Everybody who was posting on this:

Sorry for the delay, but I was out-of-state since Friday morning. Yes, I was talking about genuine "battlefield trophies," not sales by dealers. However, it is always possible that someone who brought back such a trophy might privately sell, pawn or give that trophy to another party, or pass it on to their relatives. If you collect guns (as some people do stamps, coins, etc.) solely for the purpose of admiring the weapons there is NO excuse in my opinion for not making them incactive, but you don't then throw away the removed parts.

I have yet to hear of a group of people gunned down at a university or shopping mall with someone using a "burp gun," but that doesn't mean it couldn't happen.

Dandy WWII Eurpoean Theater battlefield sourveoirs were parabellum pistols (Lugers). Knowing this, the Germans used to leave such pistols where GIs would discover them, but there would be a trip wire involved that set of an explosive charge (booby trap).

Lastly, the NRA isn't the only organization that sponsors firearms safety training. My niece's husband is a wildlife biologist (East Carolina Univesity, Clemson University) for National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF); they sponsor training for all ages through their chapters but make it open to the public. However, they tend to lean heavily on training involvoing shotguns (for what should be obvious reasons).

(Report Comment)

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