Proposed gun laws way off target

Ed note: Thanks to Bill Welch for allowing me to run this letter to the editor he had published in the Newport Daily News. 

Proposed gun laws way off target

By Bill Welch

Instead of focusing on measures that could reduce gun crime, politicians are proposing irrational laws that have no chance of making us safer—laws that in fact will make us less safe.

Which measures won’t work and which might?

            Assault rifle ban. Assault rifles, ARs, are no more lethal than guns the public has owned for more than 100 years. They just look different. ARs available to the public are not machine guns. They are semiautomatic, which fire only one shot at a time. Machine gun ownership by the public has been restricted since 1934 and completely illegal since 1986.

The assertion that an AR’s only use is to kill people isn’t true. They are extremely popular for hunting, target shooting and other competitions.

According to FBI statistics assault rifles are used in less than 4% of gun crimes.

If ARs are no different from other rifles and they are used in a small percentage of crimes, restricting or eliminating them is an irrational overreaction that is not justified in terms of increasing public safety.

Moreover, there are more than 2 million assault rifles in public hands already. Government confiscation attempts will not go over well.

Banning large magazines. Even someone with limited gun handling experience can change magazines in less than five seconds. So are we safer when a gunman has has three 10-round magazines verses one 30-round?

Reducing the number of guns. Study after study has found that in every community where legitimate gun ownership, especially with concealed carry permits, is high, crime is lower—frequently much lower. Why? Criminals say they fear armed citizens more than they do the police.

If the above measures won’t work, what might?

More concealed carry licenses. Rhode Island’s concealed carry permitting is inconsistent and restrictive. The law reads that if someone is qualified for a CCL, the municipality or the attorney general “shall issue.” But RI’s attorney general and some communities make it difficult to impossible to get a permit. RI’s permitting should follow the law and it should be far easier for the elderly and women, both of which are preferred targets for criminals, to get CCLs.

Concealed carry nationwide. A CCL is issued by each state with relatively few recognizing CCLs from other states. RI doesn’t have reciprocity with any state. So unless a Rhode Island resident has a permit from another state—usually an expensive and difficult process—he or she cannot legally carry out of state. Since CCLs have proved a huge plus for personal and community safety, they should be like a driver’s license, valid in every state.

Concealed carry in schools. By federal law, schools are gun-free zones. It appears this hasn’t gone unnoticed by school mass murderers, who in all but one case have targeted gun-free schools. Therefore, we should allow school employees who qualify and who get training to carry concealed. Studies show that in mass shootings where no one but the murderer is armed, victims average 14 versus two when someone else has a firearm.

Make it easier to confine the mentally ill. Everyone of the recent mass murders had been identified as mentally ill and potentially violent prior to the shooting. While protecting patient’s rights, we need to explore ways to get the potentially violent mentally ill off the streets before they do harm.

Don’t fall for ineffective feel-good “solutions.” An extensive study by the Center for Disease Control could not find any evidence that assault rifle bans, smaller magazines and total gun bans reduce gun crime.

Most homicides are gang related. Yet politicians—including Sen. Reed, Sen. Whitehouse, Rep. Langevin, Rep and Cicilline—are calling for more restrictions on firearms for law-abiding citizens that will do absolutely nothing to address the real problem: getting guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

America’s 80-plus million legal gun owners are not the problem. They don’t commit mass shootings, rob convenience stores, hold up people at ATMs. The media gives scant coverage to the more than 2 million times a year that citizens prevent crime by using their legally owned firearm.

We need to let politicians know we will not sacrifice our freedoms for laws that won’t make us safer, while they reduce our ability to protect ourselves against criminals and maybe a tyrannical government.

Contact information for our federal legislators is at and for state legislators at


The author received firearm training in the U.S. military and is a member of the Newport Rifle Club.