Stu Bykofsky: NRA-member lawyer says gun laws must make sense

Mirowitz
Mirowitz
Posted: January 15, 2013

AS PART OF the ongoing discussion of guns, gun ownership and gun violence that I've started, today I give the platform to local lawyer, NRA member and gun-law expert Jon Mirowitz. I asked him to comment on several suggested ideas to reduce gun violence.

I have put on the table that I am a gun owner, that I have a carry permit, that I support the Constitution, and yet I can live with what I see as commonsense restrictions, while acknowledging that they will not end gun violence. They may reduce it only around the edges.

Because of the tragedy at Newtown, Conn., Mirowitz says, "Gun control is back in the news, but exploiting a tragedy is not a good way to make good law. Pennsylvania tried to separate the histrionics from the facts and revised its gun law in 1995. That revision was supported by both gun-control and gun-rights advocates. It has valuable lessons for us today."

Mirowitz's take on several frequently mentioned proposals:

Assault-weapons ban. From the U.S. Supreme Court rulings in the Heller and MacDonald cases, we know that absolute bans go too far and are unconstitutional. Some regulation is permitted, but these require careful, critical and strict scrutiny.

The very term "military-style assault weapons" is murky and could include any gun ever made - the flintlock, the percussion cap, the single-shot and repeating-cartridge rifles and shotguns were standard military issue; some still are. Many of the current proposals are just as overly inclusive.

High-capacity magazine ban. "Why would anyone want a high-capacity magazine?" The honest citizen and the police officer share the same need for a high-capacity magazine because neither knows what is in store for them beforehand.

Universal background checks. We have background-check proposals that would require prequalifying to get permission to buy, own or possess a gun. Some even include requiring mental-health evaluations and in-home inspections before approval. These are "good-guy" lists: Unless you are on it, you have no rights. This is a totalitarian-regime approach dispensing a privilege to a chosen and favored elite.

The current background-check practice is not perfect and is designed to be overly cautious. It "delays for research" or "denies" in error too often, as shown by the frequency of its reversals. The databases are far less than 100 percent accurate. The system crashes too often, halting all sales. But it is a "bad-guys" list. If you are not on it, you are presumed to be a "good guy." The present system needs attention, but it balances everyone's interests fairly well.

Tracking gun sales. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is very good at tracing guns using the reports, information and databases it has. It does it now. The new tracking proposals seem more like gun-registration schemes, which do not reduce violent crime.

Straw purchasers. It is already a felony under federal and Pennsylvania law to illegally transfer a gun to another person. The man who provided the guns to the gunman who killed Plymouth Township Police Officer Brad Fox in September is being prosecuted under these very provisions.

"The core of the right to keep and bear arms is the right of self-defense," Mirowitz says. "Having a gun is better than simply waiting for 9-1-1 to respond, or begging for mercy from the merciless."

Citing John Lott's book More Guns, Less Crime, which uses U.S. government statistics, Mirowitz says, "Guns are used thousands of times every day in self-defense, far more frequently than criminals use them in crime."

"Reasonable gun control" sounds like a warm and fuzzy puppy, but when you delve into the details, it can turn out to be a skunk, says Mirowitz.

You may agree or disagree with Mirowitz's analysis, but his concerns - like yours - should be addressed.


Phone: 215-854-5977

On Twitter: @StuBykofsky

Columns: philly.com/Byko

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