The following letter which I share with you was sent at the request of a friend seeking people’s engagement on this issue. We can, and should, do something.
TO: Senator Richard Burr,
Senator Kay Hagan, Representative Mark Meadows
United States Congress,
There are many substantive
issues facing our great country today.
One of the most vital issues is how our country will respond to its
growing problem of violence involving guns.
I am writing to you to solicit your responses, and hopefully your
support, regarding what I believe is a reasonable set of legislative changes
needed to respond to this distressing problem.
I live in a mountain community
in western N.C. I know all too well and
first hand that hunting, and the weapons used in hunting, are a long-standing
part of the mountain heritage and culture.
For some, it is a recreational sport.
But for many others in these poorer communities, it is still a necessity
for putting needed food on the table for families. There is no reason that either of these
endeavors should be prohibited, or that the culture of responsible gun
ownership should be threatened.
But the key to our going
forward is “responsible.” American
freedom conveys rights, but also demands responsibility in return. There are no absolute rights devoid of
responsibility. Every right in our Bill
of Rights has limits and conditions attached, yet Americans are still freely
able to enjoy the essence of those rights.
That same yardstick of balancing “right and responsibility” is also
applicable to our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.
I believe that a fair and
comprehensive agenda about gun violence should be passed to reset this balance
of gun rights and responsibility.
Require that ALL gun purchasers undergo a
background check, with NO exceptions.
(Supported by over 90% of Americans, including NRA members.)
Dramatically raise the penalty for those who buy
guns for ineligible buyers (“straw purchasers”) who subvert the background
check and disguise the true owner.
Limit bullet cartridges to 10
rounds. Any hunter who needs more than
10 bullets in one shooting to kill a small animal, deer or bear has no business
being in the woods. S/he is a danger to
Double the sentence for guilty persons who use a
firearm when committing any crime.
Extend that same penalty to any accomplice of a criminal whether that
accomplice was also armed or not. It is
an extension of the capital punishment concept – raise the stake of punishment
for violent crimes. Punishment, and the
threat of it, still works.
Require gun locks, and locked cabinets, for all
firearms. Guns owners must also be
accountable for ensuring that the public is protected from the unauthorized use
of their guns, just as all of us are held responsible for the unintended consequences
of our actions.
There are other proposals that
I also believe to be worthwhile. But I
recognize that they will likely go nowhere regardless of the current
overwhelming public demand for change. Nevertheless,
the above proposals are highly reasonable and supportable by much of the public
– including gun owners. They deserve
your positive and open support.
On your websites, each of you is
blatantly silent regarding your positions about specific gun legislation. Senator Hagan states that she “will fight to
ensure law-abiding citizens are not restricted in their right to bear
arms.” Senator Burr offers not one
single comment about potential gun legislation.
Representative Meadows posted an article announcing his co-sponsorship
of a House bill to replenish funds under the Clinton-era Cops in Schools
program to hire more police to be assigned directly into the schools. On an issue this important, this limited (if
not avoided) response is not at all sufficient.
Hiding behind the granite walls
of the Capitol and the firewall of the Internet is not leadership. Nor is it responsive to the public trust you
were given by ballot. True leadership
requires that you publicly address this issue and speak to the proposals being
offered, not offer bland, vague pronouncements or form letter replies. Your constituents need to know whether you
will vote based upon the next election results and political funding, or based
upon conscience, national overriding interest and the best balance of rights
and responsibilities. Because the truly
overriding Right is my right to “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of
Happiness.” None of which are to be
found at the wrong end of a bullet.
Sincerely, Randy Bell
In 1958, John F. Kennedy
introduced federal legislation to ban the import and sale of foreign guns made
for military use. The legislation did
not pass. Five years later, Lee Harvey
Oswald bought just such a rifle that would have been banned under Kennedy’s
legislation. Oswald bought it through a
mail order ad in an NRA magazine. That
November, he then used it to assassinate Kennedy.
On Tuesday, March 12, the Senate
Judiciary Committee voted to send to the full Senate a bill requiring universal
background checks for all gun purchasers.
92% of all Americans now favor such a requirement. All ten Democrats on the committee voted “YES.”
All eight Republicans voted “NO.” Who is listening to the American people?