Opinion

Gun laws: Legislatures listen to the people

The pundits are still analyzing the election results and will be doing so for years to come.

Meanwhile, Americans are buying as many guns and ammunition as they can get because of the perception that the new administration is prepared to enact sweeping restrictions on what we can buy from our favorite purveyors of weaponry.

2008 is an important year in the ongoing conflict over gun rights. While 17 anti-gun bills were defeated in Illinois, eight states expanded and improved the right to carry, while several other states adopted laws protecting confidentiality of personal information related to holders of concealed carry permits.

Twenty-three states now have “Castle doctrine” laws that do away with the requirement that victims of an armed assault try to escape before deploying deadly force. Such a “duty to retreat” has never existed in Washington, which is probably why you don’t hear anyone bemoaning the lack of a Castle doctrine law in Washington state.

Twenty-six states prohibited government confiscation of guns during emergencies. The need for such laws became apparent during the reign of Hurricane Katrina when the authorities started rounding up weapons that were in the hands of honest Louisiana homeowners right when they needed them the most — i.e., when the police protection was nonexistent and thugs were looting the stores and homes in New Orleans.

Idaho strengthened its pre-emption law to ensure that local ordinances do not deny protection afforded to citizens under state laws.

Anti-gun activists in California failed in trying to repeal that state’s pre-emption law and were also stymied in attempting to enact a more restrictive ban on so-called “assault weapons.” Attempts to rid San Francisco’s Cow Palace of gun shows, restrict private sales of ammunition and to require “smart” guns that can only be fired by authorized users are just some of the proposed laws that failed in California. Several states also trounced impractical attempts to require ammunition that is “micro-stamped” for identification purposes.

Washington state voters can expect renewed efforts to repeal the firearms pre-emption law and close the gun show “loophole.” Despite the fact that buyers have to pass a background check to purchase a gun at a gun show, gun show opponents continue to allege that criminals purchase guns at gun shows.

Washington Arms Collectors (WAC) does not allow prohibited persons such as felons to join WAC. You can attend the shows without joining WAC, but you cannot purchase a gun. While it is true that a conviction takes time to show up in criminal history databases, there is always the possibility of something falling through the cracks. The only society with no “loopholes” is a prison. The truth is that groups like Washington Ceasefire want to outlaw any sales of guns but seek to do so incrementally.

In conclusion, almost all proposed gun restrictions were shunned by the electorate even in places like California. Guns are the true third rail of American politics, and it will be a costly mistake for any politician to assume that November 2008 represents a mandate for gun control. At least that is my opinion.

You may have questions about gun laws, Second Amendment issues or other matters that have been raised in this column. Please send you questions and controversies to knapp.m@comcast.net and we will try to address reader concerns in The Mirror. Please include a name and telephone number in your message for verification purposes.

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