20:28 GMT06 May 2021
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    US gun experts say that while Democratic lawmakers are pushing ahead with a series of measures aimed at bringing firearms and their owners under control, gun restrictions could violate the constitutional rights of Americans.

    The US is one of a few countries in the world that enjoys a constitutionally protected right to bear arms. At the same time, the nation is facing a pressing challenge in the form of gun violence. 334 mass shooting cases were registered in 2018 alone, while a 2017 study by American Academy of Pediatrics revealed that nearly 1,300 children die and 5,790 are treated for gunshot wounds each year.

    To address the gun violence problem, proponents of gun-control legislation are pushing ahead for measures limiting the use of arms, such as the Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO), commonly known as the "red flag law", detachable firearm high-capacity magazine bans and purchaser background checks.

    The "red flag law" allows the authorities to temporarily remove guns from those believed to be at high risk of inflicting damage to themselves or others. To date, 15 US states have adopted red flag laws.

    However, these measures do not work, argue gun rights advocates, stressing that the initiatives apparently violate the Second Amendment that protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms.

    Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO)

    According to Massad Ayoob, US firearms and self-defence instructor, strict gun control measures would do no good "for the simple reason that criminals by definition do not obey the laws".

    "The only guns that would be turned in would be those of law-abiding citizens, who pose no danger", he said.

    Ayoob elaborated that "most of the proposed 'red flag' laws do not adequately provide for severe penalties for such false accusations, which would likely deter them".

    "Simply removing the guns from the premises of a person who was an actual danger does little to neutralise that danger," he said, adding that another concern is that if the confiscation takes place in the form of a no-knock warrant, it may result in tragic shootings with victims on either side.

    For his part, Jeffrey Voelkl, an American criminal lawyer, warned about "false reporting".

    "There are countless examples with other laws where a person for makes a false report of a an alleged concern or crime which results in persons being arrested, forced into counselling, incarcerated and their liberties taken away on both a temporary and permanent basis. Because of how the red flag laws are written it will be all too easy for false reporting to result in loss of property and liberty", the criminal lawyer underscored.

    High Capacity Magazines Ban

    John Lott, an American economist, political commentator, and gun rights advocate, noted that "there [were] several mass killings that were actually limited because of the use of high capacity magazines".

    According to him, "the notion that you are going to be able to stop mass public shooters who are planning these attacks 6 months or more in advance from getting such magazines just isn't serious".

    "Suppose that we were successful in stopping everyone from getting larger capacity magazines", he said. "Mass killers are going to bring in lots of magazines with them (note the Aurora Batman movie theatre killer). But if permit holders are limited to smaller magazines and they only carry with them the one that is in their gun, you will be limiting the number of rounds for the permit holder relative to the killer".

    For his part, Paul Valone, president of the gun rights and education organisation Grass Roots North Carolina, underscored that "limits on magazine capacity would serve as a significant impediment to the intent of the Second Amendment."

    He quoted US District Court Judge Roger Benitez March 2019 ruling that California's ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds imposes a burden on the constitutional rights of its citizens.

    Professor Robert Spitzer, political science researcher at State University of New York College at Cortland, does not share the stance that a high-capacity magazine ban anyhow violates the Second Amendment: "Restrictions on high capacity magazines represent a type of restriction considered that is minimally invasive and that have a meaningful effect on mass shooters bent on firing as many rounds as fast as possible".

    Purchaser Background Check

    As for the purchaser background checks, the gun control experts note that the system has its obvious flaws.

    "The main problems with the background check system aren't the questions asked but the false positives with the system", gun rights advocate John Lott said. "Virtually no criminals are caught buying guns through background checks".

    He recalled that between 2006 and 2010, when the Obama administration stopped having these reports put out, "the last period for which more comprehensive annual data on the denial of firearm applications by the background check system are available there were 377,283 denials".

    Lott highlighted that out of this number only 460 of those cases were prosecuted leading to 209 convictions "mostly on charges of providing false information".

    "The 209 convictions really didn't involve what you would call hardened criminals. Instead, they largely involved people who probably honestly made mistakes on whether they were covered", the gun rights advocate elaborated.

    For his part, Paul Valone, president of the gun rights and education organisation Grass Roots North Carolina, pointed out that although "gun control advocates routinely claim massively inflated numbers of prohibited buyers supposedly stopped by the computerized National Instant Background Check System (NICS), in truth, the vast majority of initial denials are ultimately approved".

    Meanwhile, on 7 May, two shooters attacked students at the STEM School Highlands Ranch in Denver, Colorado. The assault claimed the life of one and left eight injured. The tragedy prompted Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to call for urgently passing gun safety reform nationwide.

    ​Commenting on Omar's statement, Breitbart remarked that Colorado authorities had passed the Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) on 12 April 2019, which is due to take effect on 1 January 2020. Earlier the state imposed a ban on high-capacity magazines in the aftermath of the 2013 Aurora theatre shooting, as well as adopted purchaser background checks. Still, the measures failed to prevent the STEM School mass shooting case.

    It appears that the problem can't be stamped out by limiting the rights to bear arms, the gun rights experts say.

    "Society cannot effectively reduce crime by banning the implements of crime; it can effectively reduce crime only by reducing the number of people predisposed to commit such crimes. Which combination of fostering morals versus punishing offenders is most effective may be subject to debate, but a society which restricts the tools of crime rather than criminals themselves will eventually create a citizenry so irresponsible that it can't be trusted with sharp objects", Valone emphasised.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speakers do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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