Panel debates pros and cons of gun control

By Sara Bruestle | May 15, 2013

As the state Legislature goes into special session, the topic of gun control continues to trigger both pro- and anti-legislation sentiments from residents – young and old.

On May 1 at Mukilteo City Hall, a panel of concerned residents was divided in a gun-control debate on whether it would be better to pass gun law reform or increase enforcement of existing regulations. About 40 people attended the discussion.

A member of the Second Amendment Foundation, the chief of the Monroe Police Department and two students from the Kamiak High School Debate Team made up the panel.

Although no gun control legislation was passed during the last session, lawmakers may look at other changes to gun laws in a special session, which started Monday in Olympia.

Jacob Carlson, a Kamiak senior in support of gun control, said he would like to see not only universal background checks required in Washington state, but also regulations to keep firearms locked up and out of the hands of the mentally ill.

“We’ve recently witnessed some horrible tragedies due to gun violence,” Carlson said. “Many people have died, and we need to take a responsible look at how we can prevent future instances.

“We can’t fully remove threats, but we can take simple steps to prove that Americans don’t need to take extreme measures.”

David Carnahan, a member of both the Second Amendment Foundation and founder of the anti-legislation group Military and Police for Public Safety, disagreed with Carlson’s argument that adding more restrictions to gun ownership isn’t an “extreme measure.” He said the existing laws are restrictive enough.

“Under the current system there are a lot of people who are denied [gun ownership] due to false positives,” he said. “Of that large number of individuals that are flagged, the number that are actual criminals is almost none.”

He also said there are already many regulations in place to shut the gun-show loophole.

Carnahan argued that most of the firearms used in crimes are bought illegally from one criminal to another, and that although background checks work for law-abiding residents, they don’t work for criminals.

The state Senate decided not to vote on a bill during regular session in April that would have required residents who are placed under a restraining order to surrender their weapons.

The measure had passed in the House but didn't get consideration from the Senate.

Lawmakers also considered a bill earlier in the session to expand background checks on gun sales, but that measure failed to get enough votes in the House.

Under current law, checks are required when residents purchase a weapon from a federally licensed firearms dealer.

Joining Carnahan against gun control was Jacob Ball, also a senior and debate team member at Kamiak. He said a lot of pro-legislation groups like to focus on emotions – such as the Newtown massacre – instead of the facts.

“In order to make a clear-minded decision on this, we need to look at specific statistics, so that recent tragedies don’t cloud our judgment,” Ball said.

He argued that none of the Legislature’s bills would have prevented Newtown, because only a small percentage of the firearms used in mass shootings or other homicides are purchased at gun shows.

Ball is concerned that changes to gun laws won’t deter criminals, but actually increase reported instances of crimes if new regulations ban residents from keeping guns and they are unable to protect their families and homes.

“We must vote against gun control, overall, because it won’t solve the problem,” he said. “It will create new ones.”

Chief Tim Quenzer of the Monroe Police Department was also on the panel. He was there not to debate, but to clear up misconceptions and share his thoughts as a law enforcement officer with 39 years of experience.

“In order to mitigate or reduce the problems occurring, it’s not just about gun control and background investigations,” Quenzer said. “The two most important issues we need to address are mental heath requirements and that current gun owners need to accept responsibility of their weapons.”

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