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Article:   Too Many Ill-Suited to Owning Handguns

By Janet Pfeiffer
Daily Record
July 1, 2008

I understand the Supreme Court's recent decision to uphold the right of American's to own handguns. And I understand that many fought for this right as a means to protect themselves from potential danger. However, I am deeply concerned that this was a wise decision.

The day that article appeared in the paper, a mother was murdered (with a gun) at the Montclair YMCA by her ex husband. Even with a restraining order, he killed her while their 11-year old witnessed this violent crime.

An eighteen year old girl stabbed a 12 year old because she posted derogatory remarks on My Space. A promising young woman was shot and killed hours after graduating from a Newark high school because of an argument with another girl. Granted, these two cases involved those who were too young to legally own handguns but they are an accurate representation of society's arrogance and lack of respect for human life. Acting out violently when one is angry has become, for too many, an acceptable method of behavior.

We live in a society where people are ill equipped to resolve their disputes peacefully or intelligently. Too many believe that they have a right to physically assault someone who offends them even if the other party is not posing a physical threat to them.

You only need to look around you: angry drivers of motor vehicles cause tens of thousands of deaths each year. Every day, irate spouses physically assault one another causing serious injury, even death. Parents with over-inflated egos attack coaches and umpires at children's sporting events and face assault charges; in some instances, homicide. Most of the time, no actual weapons are involved yet severe damage or death occurred just the same. And we want to put guns into the hands of individuals like these simply because our constitution, which was written hundreds of years ago, guarantees our right to do so? Where does common sense and good judgment come into play? Guns that are acquired under the guise of being necessary for self-protection can too easily be misused in non life-threatening situations.

We as a society cannot even properly respect and practice the right to free speech! We arrogantly believe that our right to curse, degrade, embarrass, humiliate or tell someone off is protected by the second amendment. We spread vicious rumors that destroy reputations, careers and lives every day of the week. We have devalued human life and appointed ourselves judge and jury in determining another's right to fair and humane treatment. Imagine the carnage these same individuals could cause if guns became their weapon of choice rather than words?

Mix in self-righteousness, poor impulse control and bad tempers with the right to carry a firearm and you have a formula for disaster. Don't be fooled into believing that society is responsible enough to consistently practice common sense and good judgment under highly emotional situations. Some are but the news is filled with too many stories of those who have made critical errors in judgment. It only takes one bad choice to completely change a life forever.

Even law enforcement officials, trained professionals who undergo rigorous and continued firearms training, sometimes make catastrophic errors in judgment. The unmonitored citizen with a firearm, in my opinion, runs a much higher risk of impaired thinking under duress and possibly committing a tragic error.

And don't forget those who are suffering with undiagnosed emotional and mental health issues. Many go undetected by society and might possibly pass any tests needed to legally acquire and carry a firearm. Is there a system in place to thoroughly screen out unstable individuals?

I am a survivor of domestic violence. Had my abuser owned a handgun, I would not be alive today. Those with anger issues and poor judgment are living in your communities and families. You may not be aware of who they are but put a gun in their hands and the whole world will know of them.

Is it our constitutional right to bear arms? Yes. Is it an intelligent choice? In this day and age, I don't believe so.

There are so many alternatives to protecting ourselves that don't involve firearms. They are non-violent in nature and while not 100% effective (but neither are guns) can be highly successful when properly used. I vote for using those and leaving firearms in the hands of the professionals.

Janet Pfeiffer is a columnist for the Daily Record.

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