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"Nobody Wants to Take Your Guns."

Gun rights organizations are often criticized for not "compromising" or not agreeing to "reasonable" gun controls. Gun owners are chided for being paranoid, after all nobody wants to take away their guns.

First, the word compromise in this context is a misnomer. The term "give-back" or surrender is more appropriate because no guarantee against further erosion of gun owners' rights is ever put into law. The anti-control groups never receive concessions in return for any new gun control law.

Gun owners do have legitimate cause for concern. Although a majority of Americans do not want handguns outlawed, a significant minority does. In nation-wide polls taken over the last twenty-five years around 40% are in favor of banning the civilian possession of handguns. Almost 20% are in favor of banning the civilian possession of any kind of firearm. (Source: Kleck, Gary, Targeting Guns: Firearms and Their Control, p 105, 345-46. Walter de Gruyter, Inc., New York 1997) (Civilian handgun possession is outlawed in Washington D.C., Chicago, and in several Chicago suburbs [source].)

It is this significant minority which often makes it difficult for gun rights organizations to put their faith in what may seem like "reasonable solutions". For example, many have suggested firearms be controlled by the same consumer agencies that regulate other products. However the following quotes don't exactly engender trust in such an arrangement:

My general counsel tells me that while firearms are exempted from our jurisdiction under the Consumer Product Safety Act, we could possibly ban bullets under the Hazardous Substances Act.
        --- Richard O. Simpson, Chairman, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. 1973.

Firearms are currently exempt from the health and safety laws that apply to every other consumer product in America, from toasters to teddy bears. Applying those same standards to guns is the real key to reducing firearm death and injury in America. Under these standards, handguns would be banned because of their high risk and low utility.
        --- "The False Hope of the Smart Gun," Violence Policy Center (cited March 16, 1999).
"Reasonable" Gun Control

[Emphasis original]

Handgun Control, Inc., and the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence represent the moderate position on gun safety. The misrepresentations of the gun lobby aside, Handgun Control,Inc., seeks common-sense gun policies that encourage responsible gun ownership.         --- "For Gun Owners Only," Handgun Control Inc. (cited March 16, 1999) [Source URL, http://www.handguncontrol.org/gunowner/index.htm, was removed. Copy of original available at http://www.guncite.com/gun_control_hci_forgunownersonly.html.]
We Are NOT "Gun Banners"-and never have been... Handgun Control, Inc., has never advocated banning firearms used for legitimate purposes such as hunting and recreation.
        --- "Gun Measures We Don't Support," Handgun Control Inc. (cited March 16, 1999) [Source URL, http://www.handguncontrol.org/gunowner/dontsupport.htm, was removed. Copy of original available at http://www.guncite.com/gun_control_hci_measureswedontsupport.html.]
Hopefully you noticed Handgun Control, Inc. (HCI) doesn't include self-defense as a "legitimate purpose" for owning a firearm.

Though they claim to not be gun banners, they did file a friend of the court brief in the appeal of the Morton Grove case. (In 1981, Morton Grove, Illinois was the first U.S. city to ban civilian possession of handguns. Source: Halbrook, Stephen P., What the Framers Intended: A Linguistic Analysis of the Right to "Bear Arms". Originally published as 49 Law & Contemp. Probs. 151-162, 1986.)

Further, HCI petitioned (in 1974) the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to ban, not handguns (since Congress specifically exempted firearms from CPSC jurisdiction to avoid the potential of a few regulators banning firearms manufacture), but handgun ammunition in "interstate commerce with the exception of use by the military, police, security guards, and gun clubs." (388 F.Supp 216 [1975]. Committee for Hand Gun Control, Inc. v Consumer Product Safety Commission, et al; D.C. Dist. Ct. Dec. 19, 1974. See also Petition On Hand Gun Ammunition Published In Federal Register)

Here is an example of what some congressional representatives consider to be reasonable gun control:

Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce the Public Health and Safety Act of 1993 on behalf of myself and nine of my colleagues: Mel Reynolds, Bill Clay, Jerry Nadler, Eleanor Holmes Norton, John Lewis, Nydia Velazquez, Ron Dellums, Carrie Meek, and Alcee Hastings. This legislation, first introduced in the Senate by Senator John Chafee, would prohibit the transfer or possession of handguns and handgun ammunition, except in limited circumstances. It would go a long way toward protecting our citizens from violent crime.

The need for a ban on handguns cannot be overstated. Unlike rifles and shotguns, handguns are easily concealable. Consequently, they are the weapons of choice in most murders, accounting for the deaths of 25,000 Americans in 1991.

A 6-month grace period would be established during which time handguns could be turned in to any law enforcement agency with impunity and for reimbursement at the greater of $25 or the fair market value of the handgun . After the grace period's expiration, handguns could be turned in voluntarily with impunity from criminal prosecution, but a civil fine of $500 would be imposed.

Exemptions from the handgun ban would be permitted for Federal, State, or local government agencies, including military and law enforcement; collectors of antique firearms; federally licensed handgun sporting clubs; federally licensed professional security guard services; and federally licensed dealers, importers, or manufacturers.

The Public Health and Safety Act of 1993 represents a moderate, middle-of-the-road approach to handgun control which deserves the support of all members of Congress who want to stop gun murders now.
         --- Hon. Major R. Owens (Rep. NY, Introduction of the Public Health and Safety Act of 1993, Extension of Remarks - September 23, 1993. Congressional Record, 103rd Congress, 1993-1994)

More Quotes from Politicians, Periodicals, and Prominent Persons

Mr. President, what is going on in this country? Does going to school mean exposure to handguns and to death? As you know, my position is we should ban all handguns, get rid of them, no manufacture, no sale, no importation, no transportation, no possession of a handgun . There are 66 million handguns in the United States of America today, with 2 million being added every year.
         --- Senator John H. Chafee, Rhode Island (June 11, 1992, Congressional Record, 102nd Congress, 1991-1992)
Mr. speaker, we must take swift and strong action if we are to rescue the next generation from the rising of tide armed violence. That is why today I am introducing the Handgun Control Act of 1992. This legislation would outlaw the possession, importation, transfer or manufacture of a handgun except for use by public agencies, individuals who can demonstrate to their local police chief that they need a gun because of threat to their life or the life of a family member, licensed guard services, licensed pistol clubs which keep the weapons securely on premises, licensed manufacturers and licensed gun dealers.
         --- Rep. Stephen J. Solarz, New York (August 12, 1992, Congressional Record, 102nd Congress, 1991-1992, Daily Edition E2492-2493.)
Twenty years ago, I asked Richard Nixon what he thought of gun control. His on-the-record reply: 'Guns are an abomination.' Free from fear of gun owners' retaliation at the polls, he favored making handguns illegal and requiring licenses for hunting rifles.
         --- William Safire (originally from a New York Times column), Los Angeles Daily News, June 15, 1999, P. 15.
The only way to discourage the gun culture is to remove the guns from the hands and shoulders of people who are not in the law enforcement business.
         --- New York Times, September 24, 1975
There is no reason for anyone in this country, for anyone except a police officer or a military person, to buy, to own, to have, to use, a handgun. The only way to control handgun use in this country is to prohibit the guns. And the only way to do that is to change the Constitution.
         --- Michael Gartner, former NBC News President, USA Today, January 16, 1992
The goal is an ultimate ban on all guns, but we also have to take step at a time and go for limited access first.
         --- Joyner Sims, Florida State Health Dept., Deputy Commissioner, Chicago Tribune, November 7, 1993
Gun violence won't be cured by one set of laws. It will require years of partial measures that will gradually tighten the requirements for gun ownership, and incrementally change expectations about the firepower that should be available to ordinary citizens.
         --- New York Times, December 21, 1993
We are inclined to think that every firearm in the hands of anyone who is not a law enforcement officer constitutes an incitement to violence. Let's come to our senses before the whole country starts shooting itself up on all its Main Streets in a delirious kind of High Noon.
         --- Washington Post, August 19, 1965
By a curiosity of evolution, every human skull harbors a prehistoric vestige: a reptilian brain. This atavism, like a hand grenade cushioned in the more civilized surrounding cortex, is the dark hive where many of mankind's primitive impulses originate. To go partners with that throwback, Americans have carried out of their own history another curiosity that evolution forgot to discard as the country changed from a sparsely populated, underpoliced agrarian society to a modern industrial civilization. That vestige is the gun -- most notoriously the handgun, an anachronistic tool still much in use.
         --- Time, April 13, 1981
We are beyond the stage of restrictive licensing and uniform laws. We are at the point in time and terror when nothing short of a strong uniform policy of domestic disarmament will alleviate the danger which is crystal clear and perilously present. Let us take the guns away from the people. Exemptions should be limited to the military, the police and those licensed for good and sufficient reasons.
         --- Patrick V. Murphy, New York City Police Commissioner, December 7, 1970
As you probably know by now, Time's editors, in the April 13 issue, took a strong position in support of an outright ban on handguns for private use.
         --- Time Magazine, Letter to NRA, April 24, 1981
If it was up to me, no one but law enforcement officers would own hand guns...
         --- Chicago Mayor Richard Daley Federal Gun Legislation Press Conference in Washington, D.C., November 13, 1998. (Cited 3/05/2000)
The League, therefore, supports a ban on the further manufacture, sale, transportation and importation for private ownership of handguns and their parts.
         --- League of Women Voters of Illinois Gun Control Position-in-Brief (cited 3/05/2000). [The League of Illinois subsequently truncated their statement on the Web to the first paragraph of the just cited Web page: "The League supports legislative controls to stop the proliferation of private ownership of handguns and their irresponsible use. The League advocates restricting access to semi-automatic assault type weapons." (League of Women Voters of Illinois: 2001-2003 Positions in Brief (PDF) (cited 9/10/2002)]
No presidential candidate has yet come out for the most effective proposal to check the terror of gunfire: a ban on the general sale, manufacture and ownership of handguns as well as assault-style weapons.
         --- Guns Along the Campaign Trail, Washington Post, Monday, July 19, 1999, Page A18.

Straight from the Mouth of a U.S. Government Attorney

The U.S. government argues in federal court (U.S. v. Emerson information page) that there is absolutely no right of an individual to own firearms!

Judge Garwood: "You are saying that the Second Amendment is consistent with a position that you can take guns away from the public? You can restrict ownership of rifles, pistols and shotguns from all people? Is that the position of the United States?"

Meteja (attorney for the government): "Yes"

Garwood: "Is it the position of the United States that persons who are not in the National Guard are afforded no protections under the Second Amendment?"

Meteja: "Exactly."

Meteja then said that even membership in the National Guard isn't enough to protect the private ownership of a firearm. It wouldn't protect the guns owned at the home of someone in the National Guard.

Garwood: "Membership in the National Guard isn't enough? What else is needed?"

Meteja: "The weapon in question must be used IN the National Guard."
(Excerpt of oral arguments in U.S. v. Emerson, 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, June 13, 2000)

Recognized Public Health Professionals and Sociologists

The United States should follow the example of every other industrialized country by placing substantial restrictions on the manufacture, sale, and possession of handguns. Semiautomatic weapons that have the capacity to fire dozens of bullets in a manner of seconds should be banned for sale to private citizens. Permits for the possession of handguns for sporting purposes should require that the guns be kept at a licensed firing range. Other than that, laws should limit handgun possession to police officers and licensed private security guards.
         --- Webster, Daniel W., C. Patrick Chaulk, Stephen P. Teret, and Garen J. Wintemute, "Reducing Firearm Injuries," Issues in Science and Technology, Spring 1991, p.78.

"The last doubt as to the real intentions of at least certain influential members of the Commission, with regard to privately-owned firearms, was dispelled by our Research Director of the 'task force on gun control,' Mr. Zimring. While we were discussing the polls which ask people about their weapons, and the 'downard bias' so invariably encountered, we asked Mr. Zimring why people were so suspicious.

"He replied quite promptly, and with a frankness he will no doubt be made to regret: 'It's because we're coming to get their guns.'"
         --- Huck, Susan L. M., "The Gun Grab: Watching The New Violence Commission," American Opinion, October 1968, p. 24.

More Zimring:

[T]he choice in handgun control is between two unpalatable alternatives. Gun Control in the twenty-first century will either be an expensive, unpopular, and untested attempt at bringing the U.S. handgun policy to the standard of the rest of the developed world, or it will consist of minor adjustments to current regulations that will all but guarantee persisting high rates of death. It is likely that this hard choice will amount to the definitive referendum on lethal violence in the United States.
         --- Zimring, Franklin E., and Gordon Hawkings, Crime is Not the Problem: Lethal Violence in America, Oxford University Press, 1997, p.201.

More Quotes

The following quotes are excerpted from, "Under Fire: The New Consensus on the Second Amendment", by Randy E. Barnett and Don B. Kates (Originally published as 45 Emory L.J. 1139-1259, 1996).

Recommending that federal law limit ordinary citizens to "ownership [only] of sporting and hunting weapons,"
         --- Taming the Gun Monster: How Far to Go, L.A. Times, Oct. 22 (editorial)
Under our plan individuals could own sporting weapons only if they had submitted to a background check and passed a firearms safety course. Other special, closely monitored exceptions could be made, such as for serious collectors.
         --- Taming the Monster: The Guns Among Us, L.A. Times, Dec. 10, 1993 (editorial).
My own view on gun control is simple. I hate guns and I cannot imagine why anyone would want to own one. If I had my way, guns for sport would be registered, and all other guns, would be banned.
         --- Deborah Prothrow-Stith, Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health
Mutual protection should be the aim of citizens, not individual self-protection. Until we are willing to outlaw, the very existence or manufacture of civilian handguns we have no right to call ourselves citizens or consider our behavior even minimally civil.
         --- Garry Wills [historian/writer], John Lennon's war, Chi. Sun-times, Dec. 12, 1980.
Wills has also written "Every civilized society must disarm its citizens against each other. Those who do not trust their own people become predators upon their own people. The sick thing is that haters of fellow Americans often think of themselves as patriots."...
         --- Or Worldwide Gun Control?,Phila. Inquirer, May 17, 1981.
The only reason for guns in civilian hands is for sporting purposes.
         --- Sarah Brady, Jackson, Keeping the Battle Alive, Tampa Trib., Oct. 21, 1993 (interview with Sarah Brady).
Denouncing defensive gun ownership as "anarchy, not order under law--a jungle where each relies on himself for survival," and an insult to government, for "[a] state in which a citizen needs a gun to protect himself from crime has failed to perform its first purpose.
         --- Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General, Crime in America 107 (1970)
A Web page by Prof. Eugene Volokh, UCLA Law School, features more quotes from gun control proponents grouped by politicians, media figures & institutions, and advocacy groups.

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