Don't ban guns; toughen penalties
To the editor: As the debate over gun control rages on, permit me to offer some thoughts on this emotional and controversial issue. I would begin by offering an analogy, based on my experiences as a police officer.
During the Clinton administration, there came a time in which the drunk-driving "crisis" became the hot-button issue. Enormous pressure was placed on members of Congress and the president to do something about this "epidemic." In typical knee-jerk reaction, Clinton mandated a national standard of .08 percent as the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle. Hurray! The menace has been eradicated!
Except that it wasn't. I can say with confidence that lowering the legal limit from .10 percent to .08 percent didn't save one life. Every accident I investigated in which drunk-driving was a factor, not one involved an operator that was between .08 and .10 percent. I had the misfortune of having been involved in the investigation of several DUI fatalities, and in each case the alcohol percentage was .18 percent or greater. I once investigated a triple fatality in which both drivers and a passenger were all above .20 percent.
The lowering of the standard, in my opinion, did nothing to lessen the impact of the drunk driving. It served only to criminalize the person who has perhaps two to three drinks with dinner. What did work, however, was the fact that, in conjunction with the lower standard, the penalties associated with a DUI conviction were greatly increased.
Today, a drunk-driving arrest can land the offender in jail, along with facing a hefty fine and related costs. People now have a genuine fear of driving while intoxicated, and thus we now enjoy safer roads.
What does this have to do with gun control, you may ask? In the same way that lowering the DUI standard did not make the roads safer, additional gun restrictions will not make our schools and communities safer. Why? Because laws apply only to the law-abiding. A criminal, or a sub-human such as the Sandy Hook shooter, will pay no heed to the gun laws, no matter how draconian they become. Such laws will only, as in the case of the lower DUI standard, serve to criminalize the law-abiding citizen. As was the case with DUI offenders, increasingly severe penalties imposed upon perpetrators of gun-related crime will be far more effective than penalizing the lawful gun owner.
My late father-in-law was an avid hunter, shooter and gun collector. At the time of his passing at age 83, he owned more than 200 guns, including the dreaded AR15, and the AK47, both of which would be considered "assault weapons" under the proposed laws.
This same man, at age 17, lied about his age, joined the Navy, fought for our country in World War II and was wounded in battle. After his military service, he returned to his hometown, married, raised eight children and was employed for more than 40 years with the Bell Telephone Co. During this time, he never had so much as a traffic citation.
Should this responsible, hard-working husband, father and military veteran be labeled a criminal because he owned these alleged "assault weapons?" I think not.
Let's start advocating for real solutions: Harsh penalties for gun-related crimes, the death penalty (which is actually carried out, instead of allowing the scumbags to wallow in prison for 25 years) and sensible mental health laws that allow the authorities to commit (and not for only 72 hours) those individuals whose words or actions have shown them to be a threat to society. Finally, do not allow our government to dictate to us what we "need." Today it's our guns, tomorrow it will be our four-wheel-drive "gas guzzlers," our six-ounce hamburgers and our 300 horsepower automobiles. Not possible, you say? In New York City, liberal Mayor Bloomberg has already decided that his residents don't "need" large soft drinks. It can happen, and with your continued apathy, it will. Start calling, writing or e-mailing your congressmen and senators. Tell them you will not tolerate the trampling of your constitutional protections.
The unique and cherished freedoms we enjoy here in the United States of America have been won and preserved with the blood of many thousands of courageous patriots, such as my father-in-law. Do not allow their sacrifices to be in vain.
Charles H. Shuey