Gun owner: Enforce laws, back stricter sentencing
In My Opinion WHAT'S YOUR OPINION? BY GLEN BEILER, Special to the Sunday News
The recently defeated Toomey-Manchin gun legislation appropriately titled The Second Amendment Protection Act, though controversial, was a step in the right direction toward making gun purchases by criminals and dangerously mentally ill persons more difficult while further protecting our rights as law-abiding citizens and gun owners.
As a gun owner, hunter and a member of the NRA, I become very concerned when politicians believe the Constitution is a living, breathing document with the Second Amendment little more than a historical footnote. It was not accidental that our Founding Fathers used the words "shall not be infringed" in writing the Second Amendment. As the British had attempted confiscation of their firearms, Americans recognizing the importance of the right to bear arms fought to provide themselves a government that would never perpetrate the abuses that had provoked the American Revolution.
In crafting this legislation, Pennsylvania's Republican Sen. Pat Toomey and West Virginia's Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (both with A ratings from the NRA) sought to expand criminal background checks to include gun shows and Internet gun sales, both of which have long been limited by Pennsylvania law. The only change Pennsylvanians would have faced was the inclusion of long guns. Many professions now require criminal background checks as part of their application process. Shouldn't this be required to purchase a gun?
Seung-Hui Cho (perpetrator of the Virginia Tech massacre) would not have been able to purchase the guns he used if Virginia had the same background check law that we have in Pennsylvania. Our state includes a check for history of violent mental illness. Of course, he may have found another way to obtain guns, but it definitely would have made things more difficult for him. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia agreed in the majority opinion of District of Columbia v. Heller that felons and the mentally ill may be prohibited from gun ownership. The sole reason for background checks is to make it harder for the bad guys to buy guns.
One of the greatest fears of gun owners is the creation of a federal gun registry; Toomey-Manchin strictly prohibited gun registration by any person in government, going so far as to making it a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
The legislation also simplified the background check process by allowing a concealed weapons permit to be used at the point of purchase. The current waiting period for a background clearance would eventually be reduced to 24 hours. Active military personnel and their spouses would have been permitted to purchase a firearm in the state they currently reside or are stationed in rather than their home state.
Additionally, transfers between family members or friends would be exempted from background checks. While the NRA opposed this particular bill, it contained ideas they have promoted for years. In 1999 when Sen. Toomey was a member of the House of Representatives, Congress passed a similar law with overwhelming support from Republicans and the endorsement of the NRA.
So what has changed? Primarily, the increased and often vitriolic debate on gun control since the Sandy Hook tragedy. The proposed Toomey-Manchin legislation would not have prevented this horrific event. However, enforcement of current gun laws and stricter sentencing of those who violate the laws would go further in keeping guns away from criminals while allowing law-abiding citizens the freedom that the Second Amendment promises.
Glen Beiler, of Akron, has been a courier with FedEx for the past 21 years. Involved in state and local politics since the early 1990s, he served as the Lancaster County coordinator for Pat Toomey's first run for the Senate in 2004.
Send "In My Opinion" submissions to Barbara Hough Roda, P.O. Box 1328, Lancaster, PA 17608-1328, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Columns should be no more than 600 words.