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Gun Advocates: Owning A Weapon Is A Civil Right

Those who champion 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 Greendorfer, a San Ramon Valley attorney and gun owner.

Patch talked to an array of gun rights advocates in the last week. Here's what they think about 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.

Patch commenters

On the Martinez Patch Facebook page, one commenter stated: "I do believe we need new gun laws but mostly about how guns are stored. We need to keep them away from people that are on crazy, dangerous drugs."

Another stated: "While we outraged screechers pick up our pitchforks, light our torches and wail for "action now!" we might want to step back and think about what sort of unintended consequences we set in motion for those who will follow us.

"It's easy to demand that fewer liberties be granted to us. It's even easier to demand the end to liberties of other people. It's satisfying to be part of a movement, especially when it might involve the thrill of vanquishing the faceless, despised opposition we have been coached so well to loathe. Those in DC are always happy to oblige. There's nothing magical about America that keeps us free. Freedom is messy and unsafe. Never underestimate the delusional self-importance of politicians once they arrive in the magical kingdom of Washington."

Gun advocates

Gun rights supporters reject the notion the Second Amendment of the Constitution is outdated, saying the nation still needs an armed citizenry.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 an 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 driven, gun advocates say, by people's fear that certain weapons will soon be banned. "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 on Tuesday to present his commission's recommendation on new gun laws, with universal background checks being a 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.

Gun restrictions

On a basic level, gun advocates object to restrictions because they believe they violate 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 constitutional 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, a hunter and 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 Czechoslovakia in the 1930s by armed Nazi soldiers.

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."

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.

Combs acknowledges weapons such as machine guns and bazookas are rightfully restricted.

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.

Baryla said waiting periods for someone who has already passed initial checks don't curb violence. "It's just a restriction on commerce," he said.

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.

Greendorfer is less adamant. 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 feel there is a lot of misinformation about weapons and a lot of emotional rhetoric.

They point to Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union under Stalin and Communist China under Mao as examples of gun control regimes.

"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."

Patrick J. McNamara January 20, 2013 at 02:17 AM
It's been an interesting thing to see the slow transformation of all those progressives who stood up against their government, willing to look into the eyes of assembled National Guardsmen, putting flowers into M-16 barrels to defy government policy. Had Presidents Johnson or Nixon abused executive fiat power, a million Birkenstocks would have marched on the mall in Washington. Now these same progressives cheer on the curtailment of liberty, as long as their political opponents are joyfully vanquished. I agree with Dan that tyranny or outrageous government acts need not be met with armed resistance, but the threat of said resistance helps ensure that such a terrible decision will never need to be made. The moment that the United States lost its monopoly on nuclear weapons, the threat of nuclear war was greatly reduced. Now, just having those nukes in the silo ready to go if needed, ironically, curtails the risk of needing them. Please remember that passive resistance in India was not met with introspective withdrawal by the British until lots of passive resistors were mowed down by machine gun fire. "Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest." - Mahatma Gandhi
Patrick J. McNamara January 20, 2013 at 02:36 AM
I too disagree. If the AR-15 is not a good close-quarter in-home defense weapon, then why are they issued to police assault teams for close-quarter in-home assault duty by SWAT and other similar tactical uses? Some people feel they over-penetrate and could pass through too many wall spaces and kill innocents. Again, not true. The round is barely larger in diameter than a .22 (.223) and quickly deforms when it encounters walls, floors or flesh. The AR-15 itself is ideal for women and younger shooters due to its adjustable stock length and very low recoil (No sexism intended). As to magazine length, I agree with Chris. In the unthinkably frightening and stressful event of having to defend your family against multiple attackers, 30 rounds will not seem like nearly enough. The Sandy Hook shooter's mother, who owned the guns, failed miserably in her duty to secure them against unauthorized access. Had she done so, she and those school kids would be alive today. Had she not been killed and the children were, she would be in jail for unlawfully failing to secure those arms in the type of gun safe I am confident you guys have for your handguns, shotgun and rifles. Finally, I am bothered by the fact that Sandy Hook is being used to push a ban on assault weapons that are so seldom used in criminal deaths, and were not used to kill a single child at Sandy Hook. http://www.ijreview.com/2013/01/30208-nbc-admits-no-assault-rifle-used-in-newtown-shooting/
Chris J Kapsalis January 20, 2013 at 01:44 PM
Try stopping a home invasion with a 6 shot hand gun or a deer rifle? Good luck. Yes there is more people can do, like locking the door and being careful who you let know what you have inside or where you live I guess. But some people live in areas this is more common. It can happen anywhere though. If someone feels they need an assault weapon to protect their family then I feel it should be their right. Or right not to. We are letting the criminals take away law abiding peoples right to defend their homes from criminals. One tragedy take away peoples right to defend themselves form a home invasion? When in fact the vast majority of murders are done with hand guns? Thousands, compared to maybe hundreds with assault weapons. If we really want to save lives we would ban hand guns maybe not assault weapons. And I am not in the least worried about a law abiding person with an assault weapon who knows how to use and keep it safely. I do think people should need a drivers license of sorts to won any gun though. Why not?
MIKE ALFORD January 20, 2013 at 09:09 PM
Are You All BrainDead ? If You Give Me A SIX shot As You Say Chris --- YOU Had Better Believe That they Will Find What ever Or Who ever That Bust Through MY door into My house That The Police Will not Have A problem Finding The S.O.B.s they will Laying Right Where They Drop ! What Are You Thinking ? What or how would you do Chris Without PROTECTION Call a time out so you could call The POLICE ! Do whatever It TAKES Its Your Famely & Your Life ?? What The Hell Are You Thinking ---- Ive Seen What These People Can do --- Never Give These Creeps A Chance ! Its Your Life Protect IT !!!!!!!!
Chris J Kapsalis January 20, 2013 at 09:32 PM
You completely misunderstood my post if you are talking to me Mike. I do wish you would reply below the post you are replying to so att least I could know what you are talking about. There are some cases I would shoot to kill, other cases I would yell out and say I have a weapon and police are on the way, some cases I would split out the back and call 911 and so on. someone throwing gas on my house I would shoot them dead. But a door shuts in the basement I would yell out, and if they are friendly they would yell back who they are. Every case is different, but like I said, wihtout knowing what you are replying to exactly I also have no clue what you are talkign about.

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