NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:
David Deming’s Jan. 26 rebuttal to my Jan. 21 letter on gun safety reveals no understanding of the points I made, which are worth clarifying here.
Professor Deming begins by stating that my argument is not supported by facts, although my sources included the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Veterans Health Administration. These three organizations do not represent the “minority population of extremists who hate guns,” as Deming suggests, but rather the first two sources focus on child safety, while the third source is concerned with veteran health issues.
Indeed, my letter was about gun safety among children and the mentally ill, yet Deming concludes that I “want to end all civilian ownership of firearms by any means possible.” What? Was Deming even reading my letter?
In turn, Deming offers several external quotations without citations, facts with no documentation and one single source — www.gunfacts.info.
For shame, as a college professor, Deming should know how important it is to read carefully and to use legitimate and scholarly sources.
Deming then says “Palmer wants to disarm veterans,” without mentioning that my actual discussion focused on the dangers of mentally ill veterans who own guns. It is always important to acknowledge the full context of any argument, regardless of one’s viewpoint. This context arose in 2000, when an 83-year old V.A. hospital dementia patient shot his doctor in Salisbury, N.C., and the Veterans Health Administration created a public awareness campaign about age-related mental illness and gun ownership.
Now, if Deming knows of any single reason why someone with dementia should be allowed to have a gun, I would love to hear it. In addition, if he knows of a good reason why the 90-year old Alzheimer’s patient that I cited should have a loaded gun in her nursing home, I would love to hear that argument.
The one thing Deming correctly mentions is that although gun ownership in Mexico is tightly restricted, the murder rate there is higher than in the U.S. Deming must, however, be completely unaware of the fact that the majority of guns in Mexico are from the United States.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report in June 2009 titled “Firearms Trafficking: U.S. Efforts to Combat Arms Trafficking to Mexico Face Planning and Coordination Challenges,” which states, “While it is impossible to know how many firearms are illegally smuggled into Mexico in a given year, about 87 percent of firearms seized by Mexican authorities and traced in the last five years originated in the United States. ...” (p. 1).
Furthermore, in 2000, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) published a report called “Following the Gun” that studied more than 1,530 trafficking investigations over two-and-a-half years and discovered that gun shows are the second leading source of guns diverted from legal to illegal commerce, which totaled 26,000 firearms illegally trafficked through gun shows — a problem compounded by the fact that unlicensed gun show dealers are not required to perform background checks (p. 17).
While law enforcement in Mexico is plagued by broader issues such as corruption and poverty, U.S. law enforcement is instead hampered by the fact that weak legal venues for the prosecution of gun traffickers in the U.S. don’t realistically allow courts to convict these criminals until they have committed other crimes. This is clearly unacceptable. Careful readers may find the full text of each study online, but if Deming knows something more about this issue than the frontline law enforcement, the ATF and the GAO, I would love to hear what that is.
Finally, Deming accuses me of not providing information on how to get criminals to turn in their weapons. How about background checks to prevent felons and gun smugglers from buying guns through unlicensed dealers in the first place? Is this an “extremist” idea? I hardly think so.
Many of us already get background checks for our jobs, including me, and I don’t really understand what the fuss is about — unless, of course, one fears getting a denial letter in the mail. If Deming has any other reason besides this one for refusing a background check, I would love to hear what that is.
A much more reasoned discussion was written by Mike Barnett on Sunday, Jan. 27. As a gun owner, Barnett is concerned that a misunderstanding of the terminology for assault weapons will outlaw his deer rifle and quail shotgun. This is a legitimate fear that a lot of gun owners have that needs to be addressed so these types of guns are not outlawed. I think the vast majority of us agree with this, if only we could see our way through the extremist rants.
Barnett then highlights several common-sense ideas such as “more diligent background checks and serious required gun safety classes,” yet he also shares a legitimate hesitancy about the transparency that has been lacking in this debate. I share the same concern.
Only through honest and civil discourse can transparency be assured, and I would like to thank Mike Barnett for his ideas.
ALLISON LEE PALMER