Wisconsin ranks near middle for gun control laws

2012-12-19T09:45:00Z 2013-03-22T11:03:15Z Wisconsin ranks near middle for gun control lawsDOUG ERICKSON | Wisconsin State Journal | derickson@madison.com | 608-252-6149 madison.com

Wisconsin has few gun laws on the books but still ranks somewhere near the middle among states for strictness because so many other states do even less.

Last week's mass killing of 20 children and six educators at a Connecticut elementary school put a renewed focus on state and federal gun violence prevention laws, leading some to call for more gun control.

Wisconsin requires a 48-hour waiting period on handgun sales from licensed dealers — a modest measure, gun control advocates say, but tougher than 39 states that have no waiting periods.

The state also imposes some regulations on licensed handgun dealers and performs its own background checks on handgun sales at licensed dealers, rather than relying on the FBI. Those requirements — stronger than many states — led the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco to give Wisconsin a C-minus grade in its state-by-state report card this year.

"It's not a good score," said Lindsay Nichols, a staff attorney with the nonprofit law center. "The reason it's so high is that most other states have done next to nothing."

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, using slightly different criteria, gave Wisconsin only three points out of a possible 100 in its 2011 report card, although nine other states scored even worse.

Wisconsin makes no attempt to regulate person-to-person sales by private, unlicensed sellers — a huge loophole, critics say, because it allows unregulated sales on street corners, at gun shows and over the Internet. About 40 percent of all guns sales occur outside of licensed dealers, Nichols said.

Anyone who sells more than the "occasional" firearm is supposed to become federally licensed, Nichols said. However, "occasional" is not defined and the federal government has limited resources to monitor the matter, she said.

NRA silent

The National Rifle Association has been largely silent following the Connecticut shootings, declining media requests, deactivating its Facebook page and halting its Twitter feed. Late Tuesday, it said it is "prepared to offer meaningful contributions to help make sure this never happens again" but will not be commenting until a news conference Friday in Washington, D.C.

Jeff Nass, president of Wisconsin Force, an NRA-chartered organization, said Tuesday his group "is not going to propose or oppose anything until things have settled down and people have a chance to mourn and recover at least somewhat from the horrendous thing that happened."

Larry Wipperfurth, an NRA member and manager of Wilderness Fish & Game in Sauk City, said he thinks Wisconsin's gun laws are adequate and should not be altered. The Sauk City store has been in business 61 years and is a federally licensed firearms dealer.

Wipperfurth, 50, said the debate over gun control following the Connecticut shootings often has been frustrating because it ignores numerous variables that may have contributed to the tragedy.

"You've got to look at all aspects of personal responsibility in life," he said. "What about these violent video games that have become baby-sitters? What about a TV show like 'The Walking Dead,' where you have people shooting each other for the whole show? I know that's a First Amendment issue. But I feel as strongly about the Second Amendment as the First or any other amendment."

No registration

Wisconsin does not require firearms to be registered, making statistics on gun ownership hard to come by. This isn't unusual. Only Hawaii and the District of Columbia require registration of all firearms, although six other states have partial registration requirements covering some firearms.

Polls by the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, a Milwaukee nonprofit organization, suggest Wisconsin has a high rate of gun ownership, with a little less than half of Wisconsin households having guns. The national average is about one-third, said Jeri Bonavia, the group's executive director.

That aligns with a report by USA Carry, a gun rights organization, which ranks Wisconsin 12th highest for gun ownership, with 44.4 percent of the state's population owning firearms.

Last year, Wisconsin had 2,830 licensed firearms dealers, according to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Only 14 states had more.

Figuring out what kinds of firearms Wisconsin residents own is nearly impossible, experts say, due to the lack of registration, the number of unlicensed gun sales and the NRA's efforts to keep gun ownership data private. For instance, Nichols, the law center attorney, said she is not aware of any document listing the number of assault weapons owned nationally.

Police have said the Connecticut shooter used an AR-15, a popular style of semiautomatic rifle. Two years ago, the NRA estimated that at current levels of production, the total number of AR-15s in the U.S. would exceed 2.5 million some time in 2010.

State latitude

A federal ban on certain kinds of semiautomatic firearms, including some models of AR-15s, expired in 2004. States have great latitude to regulate firearms on their own, but few do, Nichols said.

Wisconsin has no ban on assault weapons or large-capacity ammunition magazines. California, which gets high marks from gun control advocates, bans most assault weapons and prohibits the sale or transfer of large capacity ammunition magazines.

Both measures improve public safety, Nichols said. Wipperfurth disagrees and does not support an assault-weapons ban or curbs on magazine capacity.

"In this situation out East, it wouldn't have mattered if he'd had 10 rounds or 30 rounds," he said. "With practice, you can reload in about 10 seconds. He had no opposition in that situation, so it goes back to why he walked into that school and killed a bunch of innocent children."

Unregulated sales

Gun rights advocates note Connecticut has some of the strongest gun laws on the books, yet those laws did not prevent last week's tragedy.

Bonavia, of the Milwaukee anti-violence group, said no piece or set of legislation can necessarily prevent a mass shooting. But gun violence is not limited to mass shootings, she said.

"We also must look at the day-to-day shootings that occur and the policies that could reduce those tragedies," she said.

Her organization's top priority is requiring background checks for all guns purchased nationwide, not just the ones through licensed dealers. Wipperfurth said he's hesitant to back this idea, even though unregulated dealers don't have to jump through the legal hoops his store does.

Unlicensed dealers at gun shows, for instance, have their role, Wipperfurth said, in that they offer an interesting array of firearms not always available through licensed dealers. "I'm real careful about putting blanket regulations on things," he said.

Copyright 2015 madison.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(48) Comments

  1. Retoother
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    Retoother - December 19, 2012 4:50 pm
    I would bet the majority of the Ar-15's (223 Cal) are used for hunting. Mostly coyotes.

    So before you post get your facts straight. The 223 caliber is a very accurate round out to long ranges. Most people like the looks of them so that is why they buy that model. You can get the same type weapon that looks just like a hunting rifle.
  2. spooky tooth
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    spooky tooth - December 19, 2012 4:25 pm
    Can you say Benghazi? And month after month of Fox propaganda?
  3. letsberealaboutthisshallwe
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    letsberealaboutthisshallwe - December 19, 2012 4:20 pm
    Lionhear -

    While the commentator is looking at a split screen view, one shows the person they were interviewing and the other, a scene of a father holding his very young daughter's hand, walking away from the elementary school that day, she says "There's one of the lucky ones, those who get to go home tonight and explain to their kids why their classmates were gunned down today".

    Fox News respect at its finest.
  4. Vorbutt
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    Vorbutt - December 19, 2012 3:57 pm
    I think most of us do. And... if you have an AR-15 or similar weapon, what in the world do you want it for? It's not for hunting, or self protection. It is made to kill a lot of people very quickly. Too many people are dying just so arms manufacturers can make money and macho men (and women) can have their killing toys.
  5. Retoother
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    Retoother - December 19, 2012 3:42 pm
    You shouldn't start drinking at noon.
  6. mic check
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    mic check - December 19, 2012 3:40 pm
    Do we cry when our Drones kill innocent kids halfway around the world ? That being said, if guns kill people, then the ones I own are defective.
  7. Vorbutt
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    Vorbutt - December 19, 2012 3:21 pm
    It is clear from the comments that Wisconsin has more than its share of members of the American Death cult. We can regulate damn near anything in society, except for guns. Funny, because the 2nd amendment calls for a "well regulated militia". Well, get out there with your muskets to go with your tricorner hats, my patriotic tea partier pals. But the adults need to confiscate the assault weapons. Or, maybe you want to up the ante and make rocket launchers and tanks legal, too. I am sure the "patriots" also claim to be followers of Jesus of Nazareth. Ask yourself, in this Christmas season, what kind of military grade weapons would Jesus have in his sacred collection of man toys?
  8. DarkStar
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    DarkStar - December 19, 2012 3:05 pm
    Look people, we need a little common sense these days. Its not a a gun problem, its a societal problem. We are raising a bunch of de-sensitized psychos. Parents are NOT parenting anymore, too interested in being their kids best friend than a parent. You know what? Your parents probably had it right for the most part, though you hated it at the time and swore you would never be as strict. You turned out ok, right? So stop being a friend and be the parent. Guns are not going anywhere, they are here to stay and you better be able to adapt to that. You don't have have to have a gun but you and your children had damned well better know and respect them. And am sorry to say, that if your kid is showing psychotic tendencies, they need an institution, not hugs. It is what it is, move on.
  9. Retoother
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    Retoother - December 19, 2012 2:46 pm
  10. Retoother
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    Retoother - December 19, 2012 2:43 pm
    If approved if I am not mistaken.
  11. midwestguy
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    midwestguy - December 19, 2012 2:35 pm
    This essay from the NYT pretty much nails it:

  12. mic check
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    mic check - December 19, 2012 1:44 pm
    My comedy channel is Fox News and my News channel is Comedy Central.
  13. 196ski
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    196ski - December 19, 2012 1:43 pm
    No, it did not.

  14. mic check
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    mic check - December 19, 2012 1:40 pm
    Anyone legal to own, can own automatics with application, tax stamp, letter to sheriff.
  15. mic check
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    mic check - December 19, 2012 1:36 pm
    FYI, Fast and Furious began during the Bush presidency
  16. Retoother
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    Retoother - December 19, 2012 12:41 pm
    Red fister...........now I know you are full of it...........digital needs a special antenna............your baby killer will not work.
  17. Lionhear
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    Lionhear - December 19, 2012 12:17 pm
    Can we please stop and at least bury the children before everyone starts peddling their political agenda. And if you don't know the difference between semi-auto and full auto, find another topic to spiel on. ABC, NBC, CBS, and CNN were all yawping last Friday, the day of the shootings, about more gun control. When national networks have to bring in "experts" to explain the difference between auto and semi-auto, they lose all credence. FOX and NPR were the only national networks that showed respect for the victims. And red-fisted dickweed, get some anger management.
  18. 196ski
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    196ski - December 19, 2012 12:06 pm
    Then do something that works.
    Either stop sales and go door to door and pull these guns out of peoples hands or address the problem at the root cause. Mental disease and psychotic breaks.

    Stopping sales will make people feel better but does not fix the problem, there are thousands of these guns on the street, both legal and illegal.

    It's no different than our "war on drugs". We spend billions, stop 10% of drug trafficking, pat ourselves on the back, and watch lives be ruined.
  19. array1
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    array1 - December 19, 2012 11:55 am
    What more reason than these regular tragedies to spur a movement for change?? We know more are coming. No one affected by these mass killings is going say it's too late and just give up.
  20. AdiosScott
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    AdiosScott - December 19, 2012 11:04 am
    Couldn't be because of the fact that the FAUX station is the only one that much of rural America, along with poorer Americans have accesss to?
    And we musn't forget all the Rednecks Retrans (redneck retransmitters of FAUX) who can only receive FAUX with their littlle coat hanger antenna.
  21. 196ski
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    196ski - December 19, 2012 10:31 am
    This is a non-starter.

    The government is not going to take guns from citizens, isn't going to happen. Banning new sales does nothing because the guns are already in the hands of citizens in overwhelming numbers. Obama? If he really gave a crap about guns he would have FIRED Holder over Fast and Furious.

    This is using an unimaginable tragedy to promote a political agenda. Not cool. Spend some energy and do your homework on the root cause of this incident and others. In the end it won't be guns but a complex social issue with zero EASY fixes.

    Wouldn't it be easier to just ban Psychotic Breaks? Gun legislation will be just as effective as that would be.

    How has gun control worked out in Mexico? Chicago?
  22. array1
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    array1 - December 19, 2012 10:24 am
    Kinda what I thought about the children in Newtown that were slaughtered.
  23. array1
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    array1 - December 19, 2012 10:22 am
    Don't worry gun lovers, you'll still be able to own firearms!! Just not ones that can mow down dozens of people in seconds. If you need a gun to protect yourself you'll still be able to have one.
  24. milton's fried man
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    milton's fried man - December 19, 2012 10:19 am
    As I recall the old assault rife ban had a great deal of lobbing support from Colt and Sturm Ruger because it removed competition; especially foreign competition from the market place. AR15s and Mini 14s without flash hiders/bayonet lugs continued to be legal. the main thing the AWB did was decrease the amount of hi capacity magazines in circulation. Any legislation likely to come down the pike will grandfather in the millions of military style rifles in circulation along with the hundreds of millions of hi cap mags. in many ways the genie is out of the bottle because no one is going to have the gonads to try and confiscate anything. none the less I don't think that its unwarranted to control who gets military style weapons or at least make sure they are "seen" by officialdom the same way people are seen before being issued a driving permit. I love g=my guns but I don't have any problem with having to get a permit to own them if it will help.

    Beyond that the issue is a social one. It's not guns, its americans with guns that are the problem. we live in a deeply sick society where all to often the only feeling of power our lost and crazy denizens of the fringe can find is by obtaining gun that looks like the ones in the video games and TV-Imaginry places where it appears that a person can solve their problems with weapons. No surprise the crazed and idiotic gravitate in that direction. As far as this crime being unpredictable and unstopable as our own JB Van Hollen would like you to believe, thats far from true. There are experts such as Gavin Debecker who are quite good at predicting these things and even better at showing (sadly in the aftermath) how easy it was to tell that such things were going to happen. Sadly all the evidence of this predictable attack was hld by the perpetrator's mother. the fact that she thought she could bond with her troubled bedbug of a son by sharing an interest in shooting was pretty stupid. I blame her more than anyone.
    Report Abuse
    GOOD DOG HAPPY MAN - December 19, 2012 10:16 am


    You are absolutely correct, in that more restrictive laws against the @nd Amendment will do nothing to prevent gun crimes.

    But that style of weapon sure is scary to the paleo-libs. 223. NATO round sure goes fast. It's muzzle velocity only slightly higher than my .22 caliber. It is the fifth most common deer hunting rifle in Wisconsin.

    The Armalite 15 is a military style "assault" rifle similar to the M-16,but not full auto. Time to get in the weeds and explain some detail to the gun grabbers.

    Report Abuse
    GOOD DOG HAPPY MAN - December 19, 2012 10:06 am

    Anyone seriously interested in this issue should read the best. Yesterday's "Invincible Ignorance" by Dr. Thomas Sowell.

    Never let a crisis go to waste. ----Rahm "God is with us" Emanuel, mayor of gun crime central, most restrictive gun laws, City of Chiocago and former chief of staff to President Urkel.

  27. Walleyemaniac
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    Walleyemaniac - December 19, 2012 10:02 am
    I noticed James Hoffa was calling for a civil war over in Michigan the other day.How on earth does one fight a war without guns! lol If you libs think for a minute that the repubs would be without guns you ALL got another thing coming! Good luck with your gun laws.And also remember,the NRA has 4 million members strong and are more powerful than the tavern league in Wisconsin so again, GOOD LUCK!!!!
  28. Mr_Deeks
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    Mr_Deeks - December 19, 2012 9:58 am
    Whatever it takes to protect my right to CC. One armed citizen in the theater or the school would have saved lives.
  29. Walleyemaniac
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    Walleyemaniac - December 19, 2012 9:52 am
    So there are roughly 640000 deer hunters I this state.Say half of them have semiautos, and at least half of those have at least another two semiauto shotguns, or handguns.And then many many many people have semiauto 22s .So a good estimate is around 2.5-3 million semiautos in this state alone.Are they gonna go door to door?I don't think so.And guns don't have to be registered unless you have a CCP.Thank you anyways but I will keep my guns!
  30. Retoother
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    Retoother - December 19, 2012 8:56 am
    Automatic weapons are illegal..........some people have attained permits to own one but they are on the FBI's list.

    I have seen people with pumps and bolt actions that can shoot just as fast and more accurate then people with semi-automatics.

    Banning semi-automatics will not solve this problem.

    Reading all these posts on here really shows how people take the hook, line and sinker from the media.
  31. robertsthc
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    robertsthc - December 19, 2012 8:22 am
    If it's not murder why can a third party be charged with murder for killing a fetus? As in an assault, drunk driving, etc....
  32. spooky tooth
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    spooky tooth - December 19, 2012 7:06 am
    Dode, IF you think General Electric, Disney and Westinghouse are liberal news organizations, you are in the bubble.
  33. spooky tooth
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    spooky tooth - December 19, 2012 6:59 am
    If we don't make semi automatic and automatic weapons illegal to own get ready for some serious security. Want to visit a school, go to a movie and maybe even church, get ready to pass through a full body scan.

    If you need a semi automatic weapon for hunting you've taken the sport out of. If you want to shoot these weapons for fun, join the National Guard, a well regulated militia.

    We have a choice, get rid of these weapons or have airport type security every place you go.
  34. Cheezer
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    Cheezer - December 19, 2012 6:08 am
    What person is more innocent and more dependent upon the good will of society than an unborn infant?
  35. rod44
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    rod44 - December 19, 2012 5:23 am
    I am with Scorp on this one as far as the media and big money is concerned. We also have to start working on the mental health issues. Time to start worrying less about patient rights and more about the sane portion of our society.
  36. WI_Expat
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    WI_Expat - December 19, 2012 12:38 am

    Wrong, there are revolvers that advance to the next chamber in the action of firing another round. They are by your definition semiautomatic as well.

    In addition, traditional long guns as well as pistols used for hunting and target all fall under your definition. We have not even touched self defense and you have just proved you are in reality attempting a total gun ban....something that has never worked anyplace anytime.
  37. Dode
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    Dode - December 18, 2012 11:57 pm
    If by faux news you mean BSNBC, BSABC, and BSCBS, you are correct. Fox News is the highest rated news channel. Sorry to burst your bubble.
  38. IndependentinWis
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    IndependentinWis - December 18, 2012 11:47 pm
    To WI_pat, A semiautomatic is a weapon that fires each time you pull the trigger without the need to physically move to the next chamber. A revolver is not considered a semiautomatic as it is the physical pulling of the trigger that moves the weapon to the next chamber. There are also automatic weapons that contiue to fire as long as you hold back the trigger and selective weapons. An M-16 is a selective weapon as you can choose to use it in automatic mode or a Semi-automatic mode by the push of a lever.
  39. Tricolor Dog
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    Tricolor Dog - December 18, 2012 11:36 pm
    If abortion was murder, it would be called that and it wouldn't be legal anywhere in the US. The Supreme Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment extended the rights of privacy for women and their own reproductive functions apart from government's intervention in that decision. I agreed with that. The Supreme Court has also held that the Second Amendment pertains to individuals and not to what some people believe was intended to be reserved for a "well regulated militia", a necessity at the the writing of the Constitution because the new republic had no standing army. I'm no lawyer, but the words "well regulated militia" are right there and not an accident. The Roberts Court also said that the Second Amendment was not absolute, that restrictions on gun ownership was indeed constitutional. Therefore, Congress can regulate away whatever notion you think you have a right to with regards to your toys.
  40. Tricolor Dog
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    Tricolor Dog - December 18, 2012 11:28 pm
    So you'd be putting FAUX News out of business......fine with me.
  41. WI_Expat
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    WI_Expat - December 18, 2012 10:27 pm

    Have you fired a weapon?

    What do you call a semiautomatic gun?

    Is a revolver a semiautomatic????
  42. scorp
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    scorp - December 18, 2012 10:02 pm
    Don't blame the "journalists" for claiming erroneous opinion as facts , they still call all weapons "automatic" . They are clueless that automatic guns have been outawed since the 1930 s. Their incompetency is reflected by the lack of trust the public has in the media..
    The correlation between the rise of shootings and the rise in violent "computer games' and other Hollywood entertainment signifies the need for control of the Hollywood ghouls , not the law abiding gun owner. But the dems receive too much money in campaign contributions to tackle the real cause of the massacres. The "journalists " strive to be a part of the entertainment industry ,therefore , one cannot expect them to defend some unfortunate kids.
  43. River
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    River - December 18, 2012 9:55 pm
    Ban semi-automatics. What's the problem?
  44. WI_Expat
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    WI_Expat - December 18, 2012 9:31 pm
    I have a proposal for a law that could garnish bipartisan support....

    Punish media outlets for repeatedly publishing opinion articles under the false premise it is hard news.

    I'm fine with opinions in their proper context but when the journalist ceases reporting fact in a news article and infuses it with opinion and bias, that is crossing the line!!!

  45. IndependentinWis
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    IndependentinWis - December 18, 2012 9:29 pm
    I think a good law would be to make pople responsible for the use their weapons are used for. In Newtown and in Oregan the weapons used were taken from their owners. Owners who do not secure their weapons so they can't be used by someone else should be treated just like drunk drivers, with fines and even jail time. It would not stop many of the killings, but it would be a start and owners of something as dangerous as a gun should insure they are secure from those would use them for their deadly purpose agains the owners will.
  46. Cheezer
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    Cheezer - December 18, 2012 8:38 pm
    The weapon used in the Newtown murders was a semi automatic rifle or carbine that was legally purchased in Connecticut and was intended to be used for target shooting and defense. It would be legal under the older "assault weapon ban" that ended in 2004. More gun laws will not end murder. Each year 1,000,000 babies are murdered in their mother's womb. Perhaps we can end the culture of death by banning abortion.
  47. WI_Expat
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    WI_Expat - December 18, 2012 8:16 pm
    Define with certainty what is an "assault weapon"????

    Even the definition in the old ban was ambiguous and could not define with certainty what make and models fell under description.

    When you have a workable definition...then start a reasonable discussion.

    Start with proof these bans actually did something to cut the very crime you claim to be targeting too.

  48. tasman
    Report Abuse
    tasman - December 18, 2012 7:53 pm
    A regualtory rationale will not work this time either. Only the young yet to experience the gradual stifling grip of more regulations will buy the phony arguments presented by the left.

    How's this:
    - Jack the Ripper's crimes would have been prevented by abolishment or registration of all kitchen knives.
    - When "assault" weapons were banned years ago, no increase nor decrease in crimes committed with guns was experienced.

    Now, it is human nature to seek a reason to justify a tragedy. Lets deliberate carefully,else some politician might suggest that the key association with gun deaths in schools is the fact not that guns were involved but SCHOOLS were involved and they should thence be regulated more.

    "There ought to be a law that prevents more laws."

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