Another Voice: The SAFE Act won’t prevent criminals from using its banned weapons - The Buffalo News

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Another Voice: The SAFE Act won’t prevent criminals from using its banned weapons

By Tim Howard

No one will be surprised that I disagree with the Feb. 6 letter that the “SAFE act was a good first step,” but I agree that people should do their own research. That requires independent thinking and questioning of the legitimacy of prior research and the application of statistical data.

On Jan. 18, 2013, a Time magazine article stated that there were approximately 30,000 firearms deaths each year in the United States, about two-thirds of which were suicides, which tells us we have a gun problem.

Those statistics are more indicative of mental health problems. Would an absence of firearms have prevented any of these suicides or just resulted in suicide by some other means? While I agree that individuals with mental illness do not make responsible gun owners, government should address the separate issues of violent crime and mental health and abandon its “shotgun” approach to public safety issues. I also doubt that the firearms banned by the SAFE Act were statistically significant in suicides.

That writer also questioned if gun ownership made one feel safer or more nervous. I don’t see those words as antonyms. Many people, myself included, believe that they themselves are the person most responsible for their personal safety. I suggest that such a belief is a necessary element of “personal responsibility.”

Gun ownership is both a right and an awesome responsibility. As citizens we have both rights and responsibilities and neither should be ignored or taken lightly. Responsible gun owners recognize the importance of safe handling and proper storage by responsible law-abiding citizens, while keeping them out of the hands of criminals and other irresponsible individuals. This can be accomplished – but not by three men in a room.

Opposition to the SAFE Act, both its content and means of passage, is not about being pro-gun, it’s about our Constitution, and not just the Second Amendment. Don’t blindly support the SAFE Act because of what others told you it will do, read it – all of it – and recognize all its implications, and then ask why criminals would comply with this new law while ignoring earlier ones. The old ones didn’t work because the government didn’t enforce its penalties and new laws are just a diversion from government failures.

The framers of our Constitution were brilliant people and we can still benefit from their wisdom. They lived under a type of government to which our county is reverting, despite the precautions they took to prevent it, that being our esteemed Constitution.

Benjamin Franklin famously (and maybe foretellingly) stated: “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.”

Tim Howard is Erie County sheriff.

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