Too far on guns?

There was a time when neighbors were neighbors; people spoke, shared stories of their kids, their lives and even a cup of coffee now and then. Today, however, it seems that we are a “me and only me” society. If I don’t like what my neighbor does, I might just decide to call the Governor’s Hotline and blow them in if I think they have an unlicensed gun, and make a cool $500 doing it.

Is that where we are today in America? Really?

I believe in universal background checks. I do not believe the Second Amendment is in jeopardy, and I do not believe the government is coming to take away any legally owned firearm. Let’s take a step back and try to understand how gun safety legislation came about.

The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 was enacted due to the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in which James Brady was shot and seriously injured. The original law required a background check for anyone purchasing a handgun from a dealer with a federal license, and a maximum of a five-day deadline for that check to be completed. The five-day waiting period expired in 1998. Spring forward to today.

Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook, the gun lobbyists, the NRA, the Moms Against Guns and the members of congress have been embroiled in the controversy over what to do about the violence as a result of guns in our society. We have children shot and killed daily across this country, but it wasn’t until 20 of them were mercilessly torn apart by bullets firing at them in multiples of 10s and 20s per minute that we decided to take notice – really! But have we GUN too far?

As horrible as this was, we should not lose our sense of reasonableness. Was the SAFE Act pushed through under the darkness of night in New York state the right way to get tougher gun laws? This Act is now under attack by many of our New York county legal teams. While the passing of the Act may have been done with good intentions, and while it may contain some of the right language, sometimes we just need to take a step back, if for no other reason than for pure caution.

I understand the motives of the SAFE Act. I, too, would like to stop criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from buying a gun. I agree with universal background checks as well as increasing penalties for people who use illegal guns. I can get on board with that, what bothers me, however, is the “Gun Tip Hotline” that the governor has put into place.

Over a year ago, Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a hotline that not only allows, BUT ENCOURAGES, individuals to report others whom they believe to be illegal gun owners in exchange for a $500 reward? He claims this will reduce gun violence in urban communities; I beg to differ, people who feel threatened just might shoot someone they believe to be threatening them. According to Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin, “This initiative seeks to turn neighbor against neighbor and use their own tax dollars to pay for the $500 reward,”

And then we have the school teachers and administrators taking things to a totally different level. When you were a child, did you not play cowboys and indians, cops and robbers, super-heroes, and find yourself fighting off the bad guys with fingers pointed and yelling “bang, bang, I got you!” Well, you better not let your children play that way today.

In Talbot County, Md., two first-graders were suspended while playing cops and robbers during recess and using their fingers to make imaginary guns.

And then there is the little boy who was eating a Pop Tart. His initial attempt was to make his Pop Tart into a mountain, but when it looked more like a gun, young second-grader Josh said the key words, “bang, bang.” His actions were considered to be a “threat” and he was suspended for two days.

We are truly a nation that has GUN TOO FAR! Just stop any police officer and ask them how criminals get their guns and the likely answer will be, “They steal them.”

So just how many guns are finding their way into the hands of our neighbors, law abiding citizens, and yes, criminals and the mentally impaired? Government data shows that there are approximately 310 million firearms in the U.S., including 114 million handguns, 86 million shotguns, and 110 million rifles. How many of the latter are “assault-style rifles” is uncertain, but some analysts have estimated that the number is about 4 million. There’s no doubt that sales of assault-style rifles are booming: Smith & Wesson’s sales of its M&P15 assault rifle exploded from 4,600 in 2006 to 100,000 in 2010. “That category of firearms has been a primary growth engine and profit driver for firearms companies for the last seven or eight years,” said industry analyst Rommel Dionisio. I have to ask why?

Sandy Hook still haunts me, I have nightmares about those children. But that does not mean that a child pointing his finger or Pop Tart and saying those two menacing words, “bang, bang” is sufficient cause for suspension. And it certainly does not mean that calling the Governor’s Hotline and blowing in a neighbor is right either. We need to stop, think and find the reasonable thing to do – because if we continue the way we are going none of us will be safe from the guy across the street or in our backyard, paranoia will set in and we will fall victim to fear and isolation, we will truly have Gun too far.

Have a great day.

Vicki Westling is a Dunkirk resident and author. Send comments to