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Gun Debate Ignites: Will New Laws Have Bite?



By Lucy Carmel, THELAW.TV

After the horrific events in Newtown, Conn., a town is grieving, and the country is grappling with another tragic shooting.

How could this have been prevented? How do we keep it from happening again? And who’s to blame?

Fingers have been pointed at everything from pure evil to mental illness.

More than anything, readily available legal firearms have taken center stage as the leading culprit of the crime, and the debate over gun control has been reignited.

As details emerge, we learn that the crime was carefully planned and coordinated.

The gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School not only prepared himself for this attack by having a tremendous amount of ammunition and fully loaded weapons, one of which was an automatic rifle, but he also destroyed his own hard drive and computer systems in an effort to conceal the window into his thoughts and strategies.

“Based upon the way he prepared for the crime and conducted the crime, it indicates that mental illness may not have played as big a role as originally thought,” says Andrew M. Coffey, P.A., and president of a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based law firm in his namesake.

The bottom line is that the guns used in the mass shooting were acquired legally. A troubled child had access to them, and it resulted in a horrible tragedy.

“Too many shootings happen through relatively legal means,” says Coffey.

Straight-shooting gun control laws

Meaningful gun control legislation would, first and foremost, regulate which weapons are legally available to average citizens.

“Semiautomatic weapons and automatic weapons don’t need to be in our citizens’ hands,” says Coffey. “Professionals should have those.  Military should have them. Law enforcement should have them. But not the average citizen.”

Additionally, a federal gun control law should stipulate background checks, mental health evaluations and waiting periods for those who are acquiring sanctioned weapons. Stricter, streamlined laws across all states could prevent firearms from ending up in the wrong hands.

“Even if it prevents five deaths, it’s worth it,” says Coffey. “It’s worth all the legislation in the world to the family of those who have been saved.”

Could banning firearms backfire?

Weapons will always be available on the black market, so regardless of the law of the land, some people will still be able to access the weapons they want.

There’s always a fear that outlawing a product will only make it more heavily traded in a place where it’s unregulated. But this concern isn’t an excuse for inaction. Reasonable steps can be taken to deter these foreseeable tragic shootings.

The limitations of legislation

Other countries have tightened their gun control laws, and they still have violence.

“Crime won’t just go away. There have been tragedies throughout the history of human civilization,” says Coffey. “It’s just ridiculous to have it so easily done.”

What strengthened gun control laws can do, however, is limit easy access to weapons of mass devastation.

The second amendment and gun control can coexist

Law-abiding citizens will still claim they want to be able to defend against criminals.

“For protection purposes, a hand gun is sufficient,” says Coffey. “We don’t need citizens having access to guns where they can kill dozens of people in less than 30 seconds.”

After all, the destruction in Newtown happened in just 10 minutes. The gunman killed 26 people in such a short amount of time.

If the founding fathers of the U.S. could see more than 200 years into the future, where citizens would have access to such dangerous automatic weapons, would the Second Amendment be what it is today?

“Back when the Constitution was written, you had musket guns that were being loaded one at a time. They weren’t capable of multiple shots,” says Coffey.

In the early days of American independence, the only weapons that could have caused relatively mass devastation were cannons. One can only speculate as to how the founding fathers’ views on the right to bear arms would be different if they could have seen what it meant for this day and age.

Regardless of the circumstances around the amendment’s creation, people to this day who wish to own guns look to the Constitution, which clearly states that citizens have the right to bear arms without any hindrances or prohibitions.

But over the years, the original amendments have developed certain limitations.

“You can’t yell ‘fire!’ in a crowded movie theater,” says Coffey. “Yet that’s an allowable restriction on someone’s First Amendment freedom of speech.”

Laws such as this one have set a precedent of restricting amendments.

“We certainly have the right to restrict the second amendment,” says Coffey.

The questions that linger are: Will we see new gun control legislation in the near future? And will it pass?

Coffey predicts we’ll see some proposals, but any legislation with bite will likely be watered down. Lobbyists from the National Rifle Association, or NRA, and other organizations will knock on the doors of legislators they’ve monetarily supported. And the timing of emotional fervor for gun control is unfortunate as higher priority battles surrounding the economy and the fiscal cliff rage on.

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