Gun Control Debate Heats Up in Missouri
Newman, Curtman Offer Opposing Viewpoints
(St. Charles, MO) – Columbine, Aurora, Newtown/Sandy Hook.
These are among the recent examples of violence that have supporters of stricter gun control laws renewing their call for changes. They want more background checks and more limits on what firearms can be owned.
Opponents of the proposals point out that guns are used thousands of times a year in self-defense, often without a shot being fired. Those instances rarely get media attention.
That debate isn’t limited to Congress. It’s happening at the State Capitol as well.
What does the Second Amendment mean and how much leeway is there for lawmakers to track and regulate the possession of guns?
On “Missouri Viewpoints”, Democratic State Representative Stacey Newman says she wants to start with requiring paperwork from anyone who wants to own a gun, regardless of where they get it. Her proposal would “…make everyone who purchases a weapon go through a federal background check. It’s non-controversial.”
Republican State Representative Paul Curtman doesn’t agree. He understands why the discussion is happening right now but doesn’t want lawmakers to pass legislation based on emotional pressure. To him, there’s a bigger concern.
“I’m really, really careful when we get to a place in America where we force people to prove that their innocent before they are allowed to exercise their rights.”
Gun purchases made through licensed dealers must include that background check. Newman says that accounts for an estimated 60% of all known gun purchases. Sales at gun shows and purchases made online typically do not involve a background check being run.
Newman argues that both public safety and public opinion support this beginning step to more gun regulations.
“I think, now, that we know what weapons are there. We know what’s being used. Assault rifles [with] high-magazine clips allow you to shoot a lot of people really, really quickly without reloading. People now want to make sure those background checks are done.”
No one questions the capacity of guns and what they can do once they are in the hands of criminals. The debate centers over whether more restrictions will keep the guns out of those hands and, even if they did, if it’s right for government to add those restrictions on those who have never committed a crime.
While there has been a proposal made in the legislature to criminalize ownership of some types of guns by another Representative, Newman says the efforts she supports would not disarm Missourians.
“We’re not talking about taking them away. That’s the big misconception.”
At the same time, Newman says she hopes to someday see a limits on the ownership of so-called “assault weapons” and on high capacity magazine clips.
“What we’re talking about is saving lives. It’s common sense. It’s not taking away anyone’s weapons. If you want to purchase a weapon, just do so legally.”
Any gun control legislation, including a background check requirement, is unlikely to get the green light from Missouri’s Republican-dominated Legislature and that’s just fine with Representative Paul Curtman.
“It’s important to separate emotion from the law. And separate emotion from the principle of the laws we have.”
Curtman, and most conservatives in the Legislature, see the debate as one about personal freedom while gun control advocates see it as a public safety matter. Curtman disagrees with the idea that restricting what he sees as a personal right to self defense will make anyone safer.
“You can have as much gun control as you want; criminals are still going to be criminals. They’re going to find a way to find a way to get their hands on the guns.
“Law-abiding citizens, we ought to have the right and the freedom to carry a firearm and protect ourselves.”
Curtman’s solution is to hold those who use guns illegally to a harsher accountability. He says the courts aren’t always tough enough on those who commit crimes with guns and punishing illegal actions is more of a deterrent than prohibitive laws when it comes to guns.
Gun control laws are a very long shot, at least this year, at the State Capitol but the debate is far from over. While Republicans generally oppose new gun control efforts and Democrats generally support them nationwide, gun control advocates lose some Democratic support in Missouri’s more rural areas, where gun rights are often a bipartisan belief.
On the web:
Rep. Stacey Newman: http://staceynewman.com/
Rep. Paul Curtman: http://www.paulcurtman.com/