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Answering Violence With More Guns

Hawaii’s gun laws are among the strictest in the country. They require licensing of gun dealers, registration of firearms with law enforcement, background checks on all gun sales, and a waiting period for gun purchasers. Hawaii laws do not allow open carrying of a weapon, and they limit carrying concealed weapons to people approved by the chief of police. Historically, few gain his approval.

Only 10 percent of Hawaii’s households own a firearm, the least of any of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Hawaii also boasts the lowest rate of gun violence among the 50 states: 3.2 incidents per 100,000.

There would appear to be a correlation between strict gun laws, limited gun ownership and little gun violence.

“In a country where 310 million guns already circulate, the NRA holds that only more guns and fewer restrictions on their use will deter their being used to kill, injure or maim.”

Spokesmen for the National Rifle Association deny it. They point to states like New York and Illinois, where strict gun laws prevail but gun violence rates are high, never mentioning the proximity of those states to others where gun restrictions are few or nonexistent.

In the wake of yet another massacre, this time of 20 first-graders and six teachers and administrators at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Conn., by a young man named Adam Lanza, NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre offered that new laws requiring universal background checks and restricting the ownership and magazine size of guns would do no good. Only packing more heat would help.

Said LaPierre in his post-Newtown press conference: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” He went on to propose that the federal government put a heat-packing security guard in every elementary, middle and high school in the country.

In a country where 310 million guns already circulate, the NRA holds that only more guns and fewer restrictions on their use will deter their being used to kill, injure or maim.

For what? According to a Time/CNN poll, of those people who own a gun, 41 percent said they used it for “sport,” 32 percent for “protection” and 8 percent for “other.”

Adam Lanza’s mother may have bought her weapons for the first two purposes. She and Adam’s father had divorced; she may have felt a need for weapons to protect her home. She and her troubled son are said to have enjoyed the sport of target shooting together.

But her son had another purpose for his weapon, one that goes under the polling rubric of “other.” Adam wanted to commit suicide, and he wanted to take some elementary school kids with him – target shooting of sorts by a mentally unstable young man.

Putting semi-automatic weapons in the same house with Adam Lanza doesn’t make much sense, save in America. According to the United States Supreme Court and its current 5-4 conservative majority, the Constitution’s Second Amendment supports a citizen’s right to own a weapon to defend himself within his own home. Nevermind that the weapon may be capable of 30 to 45 rounds a minute, able not only to hold off an intruder but to slaughter the neighbors on every side as collateral damage.

In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, President Barack Obama’s modest proposals – universal background checks, limiting magazine clips to fewer than 10 rounds, and a ban on assault weapons – endanger no one’s liberties.

But none – save, perhaps, universal background checks – stands a chance of becoming law. Instead, the gun lobby, the $11 billion-a-year gun and munitions industry, a generation of bought-and-paid-for politicians and a cowed public will answer gun violence with more guns.

Hopefully, not in Hawaii.