Gun-control policies unleash passions. Those who advocate for firearm ownership rights argue that, in the right hands, guns reduce crime and save lives. Opponents allege that strict control is necessary to prevent access to high-powered guns that make it too easy for dangerous and perturbed individuals to kill innocent lives.
Gun ownership is a civil liberty protected by the Second Amendment of the Constitution, so it's hard to strike a balance between this right and the perils of gun violence and the rampant sale of military-style assault weapons. Approximately 100,000 shootings occur in the United States yearly.
Law-abiding citizens should be able to buy and keep firearms. There are almost 800,000 permits for concealed firearms in Florida. In these times of horrible crimes and bloody massacres, though, shouldn't new gun laws be more sensible and prudent?
One would hope. Yet three bills in the Florida Legislature aim to expand gun-ownership rights and enable more people to kill each other.
One would restrict local governments from regulating firearms. The second would restrict physicians from asking patients about the presence of firearms at home. The third one would allow people with permits to carry concealed weapons openly, even on university campuses.
None of these bills actually prevents violence. Rather, they help deteriorate the quality of life in our communities.
Is it really necessary to show off a weapon in a public place? Miami is full of narcissistic people who love to show off their car models and material possessions. They could now also turn into cowboys of sorts -- with the potential for fatal consequences.
Nearly a month ago, a 20-year-old Florida State University student accidentally killed a friend and wounded a second one while showing his rifle to a group of classmates in an off-campus facility.
Under the proposed legislation we would have to get used to seeing weapons at universities and, who knows, in the future maybe also in parks, beaches, shopping centers, churches, workplaces and even schools. It would be like living in a state of civil war.
Legislators want to prevent doctors from warning their patients about the risks of keeping a weapon in a house with children, or making notes about their guns in patients' medical records. That retrograde idea already is raising furor within the medical community because it would violate freedom of speech and compromise doctor-patient privileges.
Finally, each community should be free to guide its destiny. And if Miami, whose crime rate is higher than in Naples, decided to enact a stricter gun-control ordinance, why should the state be allowed to stop us?
The powerful National Rifle Association, the gun lobby and its friends in Tallahassee insist that these proposals and others are necessary to allow good citizens to be armed to the teeth in order to defend themselves from the bad guys. Not so.
An analysis by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research conducted for the New York Times, based on data from the 62 most urbanized counties in the United States, found that ``higher rates of gun ownership correlate with higher rates of per capita homicide, after adjusting for residents' ages,'' the Times reported last week.
A 2009 University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine study estimated that people in possession of a gun at the time of an assault were 4.5 times more likely to be shot during the assault than someone without a gun.
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, told me last week that there is no way to prevent criminals from carrying guns. Yet measures can be taken to make it difficult for them.
``More restrictions are necessary'', Helmke said. ``We need to implement strong gun laws and policies to protect our families from gun violence.''
It is ludicrous that in this country if we carry a large bottle of shampoo in our carry-on luggage before boarding a plane, it gets seized by TSA agents who are stripping us for safety. But it's becoming increasingly easier for criminals and lunatics to obtain guns.