Locked & Loaded: Gun Rights Outweighing Public Safety

Since guns don’t kill people and more guns equal safer communities, Arizona has decided it plans to be the safest state in the nation by arming as many individuals as possible.

In the last year, we’ve eliminated permits for concealed weapons, stripped the requirement for training, allowed guns in parks and bars and are now working to put guns on college campuses and erase enforcement of random gunfire.

What’s more, we have gun policies that allow individuals who can’t pass a background check to get a second chance at owning a semi-automatic. All a felon needs to do is attend one of Arizona’s many gun shows, and he/she can walk away with armloads of weapons secure in the fact that law enforcement will never get wind of it. Yes, really.

The gun show loophole, as it’s called, seems to have a stronghold in this state even though the majority of Arizonans would like to see it end. Our state leaders have bowed to the special interests that fill their election coffers and insist that nothing criminal takes place at gun shows. And technically, they’re right.

There is no law requiring private sellers to do background checks at gun shows, no law ensuring criminals don’t have easy access to their weapon of choice. And while our representatives may say they wish to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous felons, they turn a blind eye when law enforcement documents these sales are indeed happening.

Recently, a sting operation captured on video the sale of guns to undercover law enforcement officers who stated they probably wouldn’t be able to pass a background check. Considering this happened shortly after the Tucson shooting and attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, one would think this would cause outrage at our state capital. And it did. Except the outrage wasn’t directed at the gun show loopholes but rather at the agency responsible for the sting.

State Republican leaders were infuriated that a police agency from New York would dare meddle in our affairs. Never mind that New York is dealing with our and other states failures to control the sale of weapons to criminals.

What was heard from our state capital was ranting and raving over the audacity that other states believe they have a national interest in keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally unstable. Once again the standard line that spewed forth was that this was an attempt by liberals to embarrass our state and strip away our Second Amendment rights.

Well, I for one am embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that Arizonans haven’t spoken up and demanded that these gun show loopholes be closed once and for all. And I’m embarrassed that we seem too afraid to put any restrictions on guns because we’ve fallen for the line that any and all gun regulations are an assault on the Second Amendment.

I’m a gun owner. I understand the thrill of hunting and the sportsmanship of target shooting. I grew up in rural North Dakota where the first day of deer hunting season was treated as a state holiday and an excused absence from school. Many of my family members and friends are gun owners, too.

We do not want the government to restrict our ability to buy rifles or pistols. We have no intention of giving up our weapons. We have a constitutional right to own and enjoy our guns.

But we also have a right and indeed a responsibility to public safety.

Democracy isn’t perfect, but what sets our nation apart from others is the constitutional mandate of balance. Balance between state rights and national rights. Balance between our executive, legislative and judicial branches. And balance between individual rights and public safety.

We are free to yell obscenities on a street corner, but we are not free to yell fire in a crowded movie theatre. Why? Because it threatens public safety.

We are free to hunt with rifles and put antique pistols on display in our living rooms, but we are not free to shoot warning shots at a crowd of people who have pissed us off. Nor should individuals be able to purchase semi-automatics after serving time in prison or failing a psychological evaluation. And yet, the lack of oversight and enforcement at gun shows makes that very scenario real.

When loopholes exist that put our citizens in harms way, we should take immediate action to end them. When elected officials claim the Second Amendment takes precedence over all else, we have cause for alarm.

It may be true that guns don’t kill people. Unfortunately, the people who want to kill people are buying the very tools that make the rest of us an easy target.



  1. Tiffany

    Julie, I had the chance to meet you when I was working for the Mayor. I am so happy to see that you have found a voice and purpose in speaking up against the crazy thinking in our world. Keep it up!

  2. scott phelps

    I cannot think of a single Right that is absolute, in spite of what the gun lobby thinks the Second Amendment says. The founders always expected a reasonable regulation of rights. For example, laws against libel and slander are nothing less than a reasonable regulation of free speech. But we don’t protest it, we embrace it. Reasonably regulated rights are necessary in a society like ours. And that absolutely includes the Second Amendment. Allowing everyone to have a small nuclear weapon won’t make us absolutely safe….it will make us absolutely vapor.

  3. Chris

    I own a variety of firearms. I carry concealed and have a permit to do so. As a firearm owner since I was 13 (I’m in my 50’s) it is not the existence of background checks that bother me but what we do with them. I oppose them because they are misused, or at best are toothless against crime.

    First, all record keeping on what law abiding people do should be kept to an extreme minimum – ALWAYS! Yes I know that’s a pipe dream, but the principle remains valid.

    Second, ask yourself this question: When a prohibited person attempts to buy from a licensed dealer and is stopped, what do we do?

    Nothing, mostly.

    In most jurisdictions we let the prohibited person walk out the door and that’s that. From time to time a dealer will be suspicious and will call 911 themselves. I appreciate those dealers greatly!

    What the background check system should do is send an instant alert to the 911 dispatch center. Officers should be sent to investigate whenever a prohibited person is stopped trying to buy a gun. Maybe it’s a mistake in the system, needing to be found and fixed. Maybe it’s a dangerous nut case or a known felon. Why aren’t we automatically going after those stopped buyers and finding out what the truth is?

    A painful case in point was the horrific shootings in Tucson recently. Loughner’s gun purchase was a Federal crime, he did not buy legally as is so routinely and incorrectly claimed. He lied on the ATF form 4473 about his habitual drug use and there was no record of that drug use in the system to catch his lie. That lie is punishable by up to 10 years in Federal prison and a $250,000 fine, says so on the form. Even if he had been stopped what would have happened? He would have walked out the door with no authorities alerted, free to try again elsewhere.

    Criminals and the crazies among us always seek ways around laws. The law abiding simply look at the law, say “Oh, okay” and do as they are told. If we want to stop criminals our systems need to be focused on the behavior of criminals, not on the behavior of the law abiding.

    1. Post
      Julie Erfle

      Chris, you make an excellent point. Your argument to notify authorities when a prohibited individual attempts to buy a firearm seems like a no-brainer. It won’t end crime or the determination of someone hell bent on committing violence, but it certainly would give law enforcement another way to be on the offensive.

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