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Gun Advocates: Owning A Weapon Is A Civil Right

Those who support gun ownership rights say recent proposals to restrict weapons are misguided and unconstitutional. What do you think?

To gun rights advocates, the debate since the Connecticut school shooting is more than just a battle over who gets to own what kind of weapons.

It's a fight over freedom, misinformation and society's right to protect itself.

"Once you start regulating and banning weapons, you start going down a slippery slope," said Marc Greendorder, a San Ramon Valley attorney and gun owner.

Patch talked to an array of gun rights advocates this past week. Here's what they think in general about some of the recent gun control proposals.

They oppose California's current assault weapons ban and are against any kind of national prohibition on such weapons.

They aren't opposed to background checks, but they also aren't comfortable with a national database of gun owners.

They don't necessarily oppose a 10-day waiting period if it's only for the initial purchase of guns and not subsequent purchases by the same person.

They reject the notion the Second Amendment of the Constitution is outdated, saying the nation still needs to have armed citizenry.

"The AR-15 is the modern day equivalent of the musket," said Brandon Combs, executive director of the Calguns Foundation.

Guns and ammunition are serious business in California. Combs said there are close to 20,000 gun sale transactions on average day in California.

Since the gun control debate reignited after the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Combs said gun sales in California have tripled.

The spike is being driven, gun advocates say, by people's fear that certain weapons will soon be banned by the government.

"Whenever a serious conversation about gun control starts, the market will respond," said Combs.

The talk is quite serious among the nation's politicians.

Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to unveil his commission's recommendation on new gun laws on Tuesday, with universal background checks being a top priority.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein plans to introduce a bill this month prohibiting the sale and manufacture of military-style assault weapons.

House members, including Rep. Eric Swalwell of Dublin, plan to sponsor a bill that would ban high-capacity ammunition magazines.

State Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner of Berkeley introduced legislation last week that would regulate the sale of ammunition in California.

Gun rights advocates view these proposals as dangerous infringements. They feel there are other ways to reduce gun violence in our country.

Gun restrictions

On a basic level, gun advocates object to restrictions because they believe it violates the Second Amendment's guarantee for citizens to "bear arms."

"I don't understand why we can have restrictions on weapons when we have the consitutional right to own weapons," said Greendorfer.

He added he is not against restrictions on certain individuals such as convicted felons, but he feels the Second Amendment prohibits the ban of an entire classification of weapon.

Greendorfer, who is a hunter as well as gun collector, said there are personal reasons for his views. He is a first generation American whose unarmed ancestors were dragged out of their homes in Czechoslavakia in the 1930s by armed Nazi soldiers.

"To me, it's not so much an argument about rights. It's a reaction to what happened in World War Two," he said.

Michael Baryla, the owner of Tracy Rifle and Pistol, said citizens owning an array of weapons is the best way for society to reduce gun violence.

"It's having your destiny in your own hands," said Baryla. "Having rifles in the hands of citizens is a protection for the public. There is no correlation between tougher gun laws and a reduction in crime."

His sentiments are echoed by Jay Jacobson, the president of Franklin Armory, a gun manufacturer in Mountain View.

He said if weapons are taken away from citizens then "we have a situation where only the bad guys have guns."

"In all these shootings, the incident stopped when another person with a gun showed up," Jacobson said.

Advocates also reject claims that individuals do not need guns that fire rapidly and fire more than six shots.

First, they say the word assault weapons is a "catch all" phrase used to categorize rifles that aren't really much more powerful than standard hunting rifles.

Second, they believe there are times when you need the ability for rapid and multiple fire. Combs said if a gun owner is faced with an angry intruder or a powerful animal such as a mountain lion, they want to be able to get off more than one round.

"The number one thing is you want the ability to have a follow-up shot," he said.

Combs acknowledges weapons such as machine guns and bazookas are rightfully restricted. He believes the criteria should be what weapons are commonly used and are necessary for personal self-defense.

Waiting periods, background checks

Gun advocates don't object in general to background checks of gun buyers to make sure they aren't ex-felons or have documented mental health issues.

They also don't mind a waiting period of three or 10 days for someone who is buying their first weapon.

What does bother them is waiting periods for people who are making subsequent purchases of guns or ammunition.

Jacobson said a waiting period for someone who has also already passed initial checks is a waste of time.

"That doesn't make sense," he said. "It's asinine."

Baryla agrees.

"I don't think it does anything to curb violence," he said. "It's just a restriction on commerce."

Baryla does oppose a national database of gun owners. He feels it's an invasion of privacy. He notes data can be misused as in the case of a website that has printed the names of licensed gun owners in New York City.

Jacobson prefers the current system where law enforcement agencies can ask gun manufacturers and sellers for information if they are tracing a specific weapon.

"There are other ways for the government to get what they need," he said.

Greendorfer is less adamant than the others. He thinks waiting periods are "pointless," but he doesn't have major objections to them.

He also is in favor of a national database of gun owners and believes the federal level is the best place to oversee it. 

National debate

Gun advocates are concerned by the current national debate on gun control.

They feel there is a lot of misinformation about weapons and a lot of emotional rhetoric.

"It bothers me a lot," said Greendorfer. "If there's an intelligent debate, I'm all for it."

They say they want the public to remember the overall picture and the fundamental issues at stake.

They point to Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin and Communist China under Mao Tse-tung as examples.

"The people are the militia. There is still a need to keep the government in check," said Baryla. "Guns are the first thing to go when a government wants to control people."

Robert Menkemeller January 15, 2013 at 04:17 PM
I think it's important that we do not stray from the Constitution. Our Forefathers were brilliant in protecting the people and our God given rights. We've gotten away from the principles of what this country was founded on and I believe we need to get back to it, because that's what made us a great nation. Countless examples show that gun control doesn't work. <--- that's a period at the end of the sentence ;-D
Bill Hampshire January 15, 2013 at 04:53 PM
The Forefathers were brilliant, unless you were a woman, black or not a property owner. That aside, restricting military-type weapons is not a violation of the 2d Amendment. There are NO examples which show gun control DOESN'T work because there is no way to prove that the gun controls did not prevent further gun violence. What I would like to see from gun rights advocates is a push for real solutions and not silly ones like armed guards at our schools. Armed guards at schools are not realistic. It's too expensive and still doesn't address the problem. Instead, it just shifts the targets to day-care centers, playgrounds and other places where there aren't guards. There are meaningful solutions but each time one is proposed, we get the "slippery slope" argument. You want the truth, here it is: Less guns. Less gun violence.
AR January 15, 2013 at 05:09 PM
welcome to the fantasy world of the angry white male left behind by globalization. "the AR-15 is the modern day musket" this is the typical fantasy thrown about by this group - that they keep the govt "careful". really? last time i checked, i was required to strip down half naked in public to board a plane. last time i checked, every email i sent was intercepted and indexed at a govt data center in utah. last time i checked the govt retained the right to imprison citizens without a trial. if gun advocates are the sentinels of liberty, they're doing a terrible job. is there a particular kind of fascism they are waiting for?
AR January 15, 2013 at 05:15 PM
the founding fathers also suggested that the constitution be rewritten once a generation. so at least lets grant that they understood the need for society to evolve past the worldview of a cabal of 18th century white property owners.
KMD January 15, 2013 at 05:53 PM
Bravo NY for sharing law abiding citizens private information with everyone as though they were sex offenders or criminals to be protected against with the public. Guess what... now all the criminals are safe after providing them with a map of unarmed citizens. Way to go.
CJ Butcher January 15, 2013 at 06:57 PM
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." (As passed by Congress) Note the last part: "...the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." There are many reason for this amendment. It was the 2nd because it was deemed important enough to be that high. Bill, there are many examples of where Gun Control doesn't work. Washington DC, Chicago, NY just to name 3, all very strict gun control laws, ALL THREE among the leaders in gun violence in the country for many years. There are many examples of what *CAN* and has happened with Gun Control. Couple of examples: Germany 1935, Hitler banned guns to anyone not in the Nazi party, we all know what happened there. North Korea 1950, we all know about that. Here is one a little closer in time: Australia 1996, immediate raise in ARMED ROBBERIES...73%, many other crimes rose as as well anywhere from 17 to 38%. Yes, people out there use guns to do bad things, they also use other thing to many to be named here to do bad things, but I don't hear anyone demanding hammers be outlawed. People have been doing bad things since the dawn of time, they have committed mass murder since way before guns were invented (Some were even mentioned in the Bible). Since guns were invented many mass murders have happened without a shot being fired.
Brian Hickman January 15, 2013 at 07:44 PM
"I don't understand why we can have restrictions on weapons when we have the constitutional right to own weapons" - Hard to believe that this was said by an attorney. Everyone should know, and especially every attorney, that no right is absolute. For example, the 1st amendment does not give you the right to slander, incite a riot, yell "fire" in a public place, or dance naked in a public park. It is correct that the argument is about Constitutional Rights, but more specifically it is about policy considerations about what restrictions on the right to bear arms are reasonable, and which are not. I agree with Bill that the "slippery slope" argument is not an argument. It is what you fall back on when you lack a better argument. However, Bill's bashing of the Founding Fathers is not only irrelevant to the discussion, but it shows a complete lack of historical perspective. Look at what they created, when they created it. They were both brilliant and inspired.
AR January 15, 2013 at 08:29 PM
you're missing the any mention of all other modern stable democracies that have substantial gun control laws and have virtually eliminated gun violence. the US is the lone significant outlier in the industrialized world for incidences of gun violence.
Jill Birmingham January 15, 2013 at 11:06 PM
That is not the truth. There was always and a lot of violence before the gun was even invented. Millions of people have died in mass and barbaric ways without the use of a gun so if you think the absence of a gun causes people, especially mentally unstable people, to find inner peace and learn how to handle their transgressions in a peaceful manner, you're sadly mistaken and misinformed. They will just get more creative. By no means do I see a need for myself to have a military assault weapon or magazines of ammunition, but what I will say is that those women & children at the Newtown school were sitting ducks. It does not matter if you follow safety procedures & go on lock down when there is an armed madman shooting his way through doors. I firmly believe that in that split second before the gunman had them in his crosshairs, those teachers & administrators were gun advocates and wished they had a fair fight.
Don Wolf January 15, 2013 at 11:45 PM
1/3 of public schools already had armed people at the schools before Connecticutt and non-of those schools have been hit by mass murders and non-has had a fatal accident involving guns. Those silly people, who value their children most, have found the cost to be minimal. In most cases, simply allowing teachers and other employees with proper training and skils to carry concealed weopons, hardly increases the costs at all. However, those silly people think it not so silly when others want them to lock up their children without defenses so that a deranged killer can take their time and kill without opposition.
AR January 16, 2013 at 12:13 AM
Don Wolf - you are wrong. there were armed staff at Columbine.
Irene Aida Garza-Ortiz January 16, 2013 at 04:32 AM
Again, it's not the guns, it's how the people decide to use them.
Super Clare January 16, 2013 at 06:39 AM
Personally I don't like guns. I don't want them in my house, I don't want my children to have guns either. That being said - I am not about to put my views on those who own and allow guns in their homes. I would however like to take a look at true statistics over that last 15 years. How has crime changed? Killings? Robbed at gun point? Have the numbers increased or decreased? I'm sure we could collect the citable references regarding unbiased true figures for Santa Clara county. I don't believe the hype until I know the facts.
AR January 16, 2013 at 07:03 AM
google: "santa clara county gun violence statistics". the first link is a pdf providing all the data you want for 2012
Sharron Helmholz January 24, 2013 at 10:55 AM
Owning guns makes some people feel safe, and makes criminals happy since legal gun owners are their prime source of weapons, but the cost of feeling safe (as opposed to really being safe) is a rising body count. BOTTOM LINE: my right to stay alive trumps the "right" to own guns. Guns don't kill people, but people with guns do. Let's get over our John Wayne swaggering and restrict guns to the military and police. If England can do it, so can we.

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