Below is an e-mail I received (many people received the same one) from RI Rep. Linda Finn (D-Middletown, Portsmouth, Newport), regarding H5573, the gun registration bill she introduced in the Rhode Island House of Representatives. I’m going to add comments to her letter from my point of view. [In red italics like this.]
I would like to follow up with you about your recent correspondence regarding Bill 2013-H 5573. I have received many responses from concerned citizens, both gun owning and not. [Rep. Finn apparently sees the world in a bipolar format, black and white, us vs. them, gun owners and those who don’t own guns. That’s a healthy outlook for a representative of the people.] I would like to clarify a couple of items and respond to some of the criticism of the bill.
Please remember that at this point, this bill is still only a proposal. In order for it to become law, a House committee must first hear it. That hearing before the House Judiciary Committee is open to all to testify about their opinions. No date has been set for a hearing at this time, but there will be sufficient public notice for you to attend if you wish. [So we have to take a day off from our job to tell you how to do your job?] After the hearing, the committee can make changes to the bill and vote on whether it advances to the House floor for a vote there. If the bill goes to the floor and the House votes to pass it, it must also pass the Senate in the same process, and not be vetoed by the governor, before it can be enacted into law.
I want you to know that I am very open to discussion of this bill and to making changes so it works for Rhode Island. [It’s funny that you mention discussion now, only after a major backlash from gun owners.] For example, many gun collectors and owners of antique guns think the $100 registration fee is too high, and after listening, I have come to agree with them. [Just collectors and owners of antique firearms? From what I’m hearing all gun owners, most of whom are not collectors or antique firearm owners think $100 is ridiculous, and that registration itself is ridiculous.] Massachusetts has had a gun registration process in place since 1994, and its fee is $15 per firearm. [It’s funny you mention Massachusetts where, in 2011, the rate of murder (2.8) was over two times higher than that of Rhode Island (1.3).] That seems reasonable to me to cover administrative costs. I also think that current owners of large collections of guns should not be penalized and that the fee on existing guns could be waived entirely or applied only on the first few guns registered. [So we get a discount if you trample our civil liberties in bulk?] These are good suggestions and I welcome any others. [Here’s one, trash the bill.]
I grew up about 30 miles from Newtown, Connecticut, in the small town of Carmel, New York. [I also grew up in New York’s Hudson Valley, but I'm not sure what that has to do with anything.] I have a strong recollection of air raid drills we had in elementary school in the 1960s. [I am not as old as Rep. Finn, but I also experienced air raid drills in elementary school. Does that make me an expert on something?] There were yellow and black signs on the walls of the schools because they were designated as bomb shelters. [Pretty sure those signs are still there as most schools are still designated bomb shelters.]
During the drills, we were instructed to sit cross-legged under our desks and hunch over with our arms crossed over our heads to protect us. Back then, we, as children, had only a vague idea of what would happen if a bomb struck. We did not have the myriad of violent images on TV (or if we did, my parents did not let us watch them), [Wait…either they didn’t exist or you don’t know whether they existed or not. Claiming a fact and then saying you aren't sure is just poor form.] and we certainly did not have access to the web, which can stream so many images for our children to see. [Unless as you said earlier, the parents don’t let them.]
I do not think any of us were particularly concerned or scared. We knew the adults in our life, the military, and the United Sates of America, as the biggest, [Biggest? Canada and the Soviet Union were both larger, even back then.] strongest country in the world, had the power and authority to protect us. We knew the United States always won the wars it waged against tyrannical governments and enemies. [And this has what to do with registering my guns?]
Our children now have different drills in school. They are shepherded into closets by teachers and they are all too aware that one day this might be a necessity. They can sense the fear our teachers feel when conducting these drills. They see images of people being gunned down everywhere, in video games, movies and on TV. They know these things happen in our country. They know it could happen to them. [Emotionalism is never the best way to approach a serious problem. Getting everyone riled up, ignoring reality and passing a law to make ourselves feel like we did something for “the children,” will not work. But even though gun registration couldn’t possibly prevent a mass shooting you’re asking us to ignore reality and to give in to our emotions? You want to protect our kids? Hire police officers to guard them at school. We’re all concerned for their safety. Putting guardians there to protect them is the only way we can make them safer.]
Our children need the adults in their lives to protect them, and to make them feel safe. [Adults protecting. Sounds like resource officers to me.] Doing nothing is not the answer. I’m not saying that my legislation is by any means a panacea [You said it.], nor do I even expect or want it to pass without discussion and revision [Then why did you introduce it in this form?], but we have to start somewhere. I think it’s reasonable to start by considering introducing a system that would help law enforcement agencies get a handle on how many guns there are and where. [What does the number of guns have to do with stopping crime? Should we start cataloging baseball bats and claw hammers too? Those are used in crimes.] I should note that under my bill, only law enforcement agencies that need the information for a legitimate law enforcement purpose would have access to specific registration information. [And if the government of Rhode Island ever considered confiscation a legitimate law enforcement purpose, it would make it a lot easier.]
Just as if car registration does not do anything to prevent law-abiding citizens from driving, gun registration does not prevent law-abiding citizens from purchasing or owning guns. [So why are we having this discussion?] It is a tool for law enforcement officials to trace weapons that used in crimes, providing some deterrent for those who might use their guns improperly. [A deterrent? You started this e-mail talking about Newtown, and now you’re talking about a deterrent? Adam Lanza killed his mom, took her guns and then committed suicide. What deterrent would gun registration have been to him?]
There are, no doubt, many paths we could take toward curbing gun violence besides or in addition to this one, and I am interested in exploring all of them. [Please don’t, you’ve done enough harm already.] I am looking for solutions; I hope that you will join me in seeking them as well. Thanks for taking the time to write to me.