• Gun control: What we can do
     | February 22,2013

    Last Saturday I spoke at the rally in Montpelier in support of common-sense gun control legislation from my viewpoint, that of a lifelong hunter. The report in The Times Argus didn’t mention any of what I said.

    A few years back, when Bernie Sanders was up for re-election, he said, “Guns don’t kill people, carpets kill people.” These were brilliant political words, at once intimating that he wasn’t for gun control and that he was for some regulation to protect office workers from toxic fumes in carpets.

    Cars don’t kill people, either, but we have quite a few regulations on cars and driving to limit the numbers killed by accidents. There are speed limits, traffic lights, vehicle registration and inspections, air bags, mandatory insurance and vigorous enforcement of the regulations, which we may not like but we put up with to save lives, maybe our own.

    I don’t object, and I think most hunters wouldn’t object, to common-sense and effective regulations that increase safety, keep guns out of the wrong hands and lessen the number getting killed by guns.

    Here is some information on guns and cars in the United States that I collected. My conclusion is that we in the United States are both car- and gun-crazy. These numbers are approximate but will give a picture of the situation:

    n Number of registered vehicles on the road: 250 million.

    n Number of guns in private hands: 270 million.

    n Number of traffic deaths in 2011: over 32,000.

    n Number of gun deaths in 2010: over 28,000.

    n Number of hunters in the United States: under 14 million.

    n Number of guns made in the United States in 2010: 5.5 million (95 percent for the U.S. market).

    n Number of guns imported into the United States for sale in 2010: 3.25 million.

    About 30 years ago, the guns I owned when I started hunting were stolen out of my unlocked house. A couple of them could not be replaced. They were already almost heirlooms. I visited the local gun shops to see if they turned up. No luck. If there were a national gun registry for sale and resale of guns maybe I would have gotten my guns back and a thief or two nabbed in the process.

    We can and must do better. In order not to be complicit in allowing gun sales that may cause death here or elsewhere, here are some actions I feel the Vermont Legislature should take:

    n Pass the ban on sale of assault weapons. These are military weapons. They ought not be in the woods, and in my 60 years as a hunter, I’ve never seen a hunter in the woods with one.

    n Draft and pass a resolution urging the U.S. Congress to (1) ban the sale of assault weapons, and (2) set up a national gun registry and effective tracking system to keep guns from getting into the wrong hands and tracing where they come from.

    We as individuals, hunters or not, and gun owners or not, can do our part, too:

    n Lock up doors, guns and ammo (ammo separate from guns).

    n Teach gun safety. Hunters in Vermont take a hunter safety course in order to get a hunting license. Parents and teachers should teach their children and students to immediately tell a responsible adult if they discover a loose gun.

    n Everyone should be alert for persons in their communities who may be a risk, and as a community figure out how to lesson the risk. In other words, talk it up. The more people who know, the better chance of defusing a gun situation that may lead to tragedy. This is an area where we need transparency.

    I’m sure I’ve missed some things other hunters would say or do about this issue, but it seems that most hunters would be for common-sense measures to keep guns out of the wrong hands.

    Legislators, if it is fear or concern about getting re-elected, cast those aside. Garner some courage and do the right thing.

    Richard Czaplinski is a lifelong hunter who lives in Adamant.

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