HARRISBURG, December 17, 2012 – State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) today released a statement about the tragic events that unfolded Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Sen. Leach said:
“As we reflect on the awful tragedy of the elementary school shooting in Sandy Hook, our thoughts turn to the pain and anguish that community, and the parents of the children lost, are feeling. As the father of young children and as a human being, I can’t imagine what they are going through.
As a policymaker, I think hard on what we can do that could possibly prevent this sort of thing from happening so frequently in the future. Some in the public and in the punditry have said that we don’t pay enough attention to and put enough resources into the detection and treatment of the mentally ill. Others have blamed our society’s lack of devotion to one religion or another. To me, the biggest problem is that it is simply too easy for evil or disturbed people to get their hands on military-grade weapons. In short, we don’t do enough to control access to guns.
I want to be clear. Nobody is talking about taking away everyone’s guns. I am not advocating for policies that deny people the right recognized by the Supreme Court for people to own a firearm to hunt, target shoot, or protect their homes. Too often some of the gun-access advocates paint any attempt to regulate guns as the beginning of a slippery slope to a total ban, followed by the inevitable descent into fascism that comes with it. This is nonsense.
There are some simple gun safety laws we could pass that would not impede the legitimate rights of law-abiding citizens. Further, we often hear that gun safety laws are ineffective because “criminals won’t obey them.” The laws I am about to suggest do not depend on criminals deciding to comply. They will stop criminals whether they wish to comply or not.
Specifically, there are two bills we need to pass right away if we are serious about stopping the slaughter on our streets and in our schools, malls and movie theaters. The first is to limit the number of guns a person can purchase to one per month. Too many bad people get guns from “straw purchasers”. These are people who buy 10 or 20 or more guns at a time, and sell them on the street for profit. If we limit them to one gun per month, it will no longer be financially worth it for someone to be a straw purchaser, and in any event they will have far fewer guns to put on the streets.
This bill would have a negligible impact on law-abiding gun owners. Under the law you and your spouse can buy one gun per month, every month. This means you as a couple can buy 24 guns per year. Most people would think that is sufficient. Is the opportunity to buy a 25th gun in a given year worth the carnage resulting from having no effective impediments to straw purchasers?
The second bill would require people who buy guns legally to report, within 48 hours, if their gun is lost or stolen. Straw purchasers buy guns legally and then sell them illegally. But when the gun they bought is later found at a crime scene, they just claim that the gun was recently lost. If they had to report a gun lost within 48 hours or face a penalty, this feigned ignorance would no longer be feasible.
We don’t yet know all the facts about what happened in Sandy Hook, and it is unclear if these bills would have addressed this specific shooting. Certainly, these two bills wouldn’t solve all of our problems, but they would greatly reduce the number of illegal guns available on the street. And criminals don’t have to obey the laws for them to work. Only law-abiding gun dealers would have to obey the law, which they are already doing. These laws won’t end gun violence, but they will reduce it and save lives and, over time, go a long way toward making our streets safe again.
I know there are some individuals and groups that oppose any legislation with the word “gun” in it. But it is well past time for this sort of extremism. We need reasonable, common sense, compromise legislation that makes us safer while respecting legitimate rights. I will be pushing for such legislation in the next session. I hope you will lend your voice to supporting sanity and reasonableness on this critical issue.”