Saturday, May 2, 2015

Gun lobby big on rights. Not responsibilities.

The gun owners’ lobby is big on their rights. Not so much on their responsibilities.

It’s only a matter of time until tragedies like those we’ve witnessed in other parts of the country happen here. In various parts of the U.S. there have been, for example, numerous children killing children when a gun-owning adult carelessly leaves a loaded weapon lying around the house. To date, we have “dodged a bullet,” but the good luck can’t last forever.

In December of 2011, a Cheyenne man and other customers barely missed being killed when a 17-year-old girl dropped her purse at Starbucks. According to newspaper reports at the time, after the gun fired, the girl said, “I think my purse went off!” Inside the purse was a loaded double-barreled .38 special Derringer pistol. The safety wasn’t on and the gun went off. The bullet missed a customer by about a foot, hit the west wall of the store, bounced back to the east, and rolled under the coffee counter. Whew!

The girl’s father allegedly said he had given the teenage girl the pistol to carry while traveling. It was for her protection. Apparently he wasn’t worried about protecting anyone else. According to reports, the girl said she had never taken a hunter safety class, nor did she complete any kind of formal firearms training.

In January 2014, it happened again. This time an innocent bystander was seriously injured. A customer at Lowes brought a small caliber gun, with its safety apparently off, on a shopping trip. The gun fell and discharged. The bullet hit a young woman. Thankfully, her injuries were not life threatening.

Now we have reports of a stray bullet hitting a vehicle and narrowly missing its occupants in the Medicine Bow National Forest west of Cheyenne. Irresponsible gun owners were target practicing. One of their stray shots missed its intended target. The Albany County sheriff acknowledged this is not an isolated incident.

These are just three examples of tragedies barely avoided.

What have we heard from the NRA? Nothing. The Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms but is silent about the responsibility to do so safely.

The NRA and other gun rights activists are always eager to create false fears about government plans to take away their guns. They are not so creative when it comes to advocating for responsible gun use. I know they conduct gun safety classes but they should be asking the legislature to make certain that gun owners take them.

Gun advocates should also demand that cases like these be fully investigated and prosecuted. The former Laramie County District attorney, for whatever reason, declined to prosecute the Lowes case as egregious as it was. You would not have to be much of a cynic to take note of the fact that the decision was made just a few months before a tough primary election. Who wants to take on the NRA and other gun rights proponents before an election.

That is why it’s imperative for these organizations to support prosecution of those whose irresponsible use of weapons threats innocent citizens. The NRA and Gun Owners of America have struck fear into the hearts of many a politician. They have demonstrated a political ability to end the careers of those politicians who seek even minimal restraints on gun ownership. They command legions of members who vote as they are told and millions of dollars to use in negative campaigning against perceived enemies.

Alright already. You’ve won the war. In spite of claims that President Obama is coming after your guns, even he has shown no inclination to engage that battle. You showed state legislators there will be consequences when several Colorado legislators were recalled after voting “yes” when told to vote “no.” Your message has been received.

Now we’d like to ask your help. If the NRA and other gun lobbies would only make gun owners’ responsibilities as high a priority as their rights, the tragedies could be significantly reduced.

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