Government Technology

At Issue: Rural Guns, City Guns

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Police Chief Edward Flynn display confiscated weapons at a press conference on gun violence.

February 6, 2013 By

Americans raised on farms and in rural areas often have a comfortable relationship with firearms and use them for hunting birds or deer. Learning to shoot and safely handle a weapon is part of growing up, just like buying a fishing or hunting license, or learning to drive.

Auburn, Calif.

That comfortable reality was evident at a recent gun show in Auburn, Calif., a small community in the mountains east of Sacramento.  Hundreds of people, kids and dogs filed up and down the aisles between folding tables covered with weapons of all kinds, from muzzle-loaders to old military firearms like British .303 Enfields to WWII German Lugers and the latest hunting rifles, pistols, knives and ammunition.

Prices ranged from $100 or so for a .22 rifle, to thousands for the newest hunting rifles and gun safes. Few military-style semi-automatic weapons were on display, but business at the National Rifle Association (NRA) booth was booming as it signed up new members -- and a $50 raffle ticket put one in a drawing for a selection of new rifles.

Most people seemed cheerful, from parents walking their toddlers to teen-aged boys talking with friends, and many stopped to pet the two black Labradors sitting on pillows atop a counter full of ammunition and reloading equipment.

But there is another reality, and the conflict was apparent, albeit abbreviated, on bumper stickers in the parking lot and for sale at the show. Along with NRA logos were such signs as:

  • "Worst President Ever" with an Obama campaign logo;
  • "My Carry Permit? The Second Amendment;"
  • "Registration Leads to Confiscation;"
  • "Politicians Prefer Unarmed Peasants;" and
  • "Turn in Your Guns or Go to Jail -- Germany 1939."

And that conflict exists everywhere in America.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

In fact, one needn't go much further than a big city to find the other side of the equation, the source of that conflicting reality -- guns brandished by criminals, gang members and the mentally ill. Milwaukee, Wis., Police Chief Edward Flynn articulates that reality very well; his passion embodies someone who, every day, has officers in peril on the street in an open carry state that now also allows concealed weapons.

Flynn, who at one time served as secretary of public safety under Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, commands an agency of 2,000 sworn officers and 700 civilians, serving a city of some 600,000 residents. "Our challenge is to keep firearms out of the hands of those who should not have them," said Flynn, "and that includes the criminal, the mentally ill, and substance abusers.

Flynn notes that there are gaping loopholes in who's required to undergo a background check. "That's got to change," he said. "Communities have a right to be free from firearms violence, particularly if it could have been prevented through prudent regulation."

Milwaukee has covered three square miles of city with ShotSpotter gunshot detectors, a system that located and dispatched officers to 2,424 gunshot incidents last year.

According to Flynn, Congress is responsible for some of the gun violence on Milwaukee streets. "In one year, I had six officers wounded by guns bought at the same store. And yet, ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives] is allowed to inspect them only once a year ... Congress basically arms the enemy," he said, adding that Congress makes sure the ATF cannot inspect gun dealers who sell guns to criminals, and that same Congress that wants to investigate the ATF underfunds it and deprives it of leadership.

"Somehow, political ideology on this issue trumps public safety," he said, noting that unfortunately for our country, "all sanity and rationality seemed to go out the window as soon as one begins to confront a notion of rational regulation of firearms. It's unconscionable."

Millions of dollars are spent intimidating Congress and wooing the unwary, Flynn said. "People are making enormous profits, and thousands of people are being murdered," he added. "There is a linkage here ... I've often wondered if anything bad enough could happen to get Congress' attention on this -- and the jury is still out."

The conflict of realities is intensely political, and discussions have been inconclusive to say the least. California, which has some of the toughest background checks in the nation, on Feb. 5 followed the lead of three Eastern states and introduced a bill to require gun owners to buy liability insurance.

But will insurance stop criminals and mass shooters? Will the gun owners of Auburn, Calif., comply? Stay tuned.

For what cities and counties can do to reduce gun violence, watch for the March issue of Government Technology Magazine.

| More


Todd    |    Commented February 7, 2013

Why doesn't the Chief enforce the law regarding firearms held by criminals. The BATF was too busy giving guns to the mexican drug cartels to worry about sales to criminals in Milwaukee. Blame the gun, blame congress, blame someone else. Why is that the only response we can have these days?

Jonny Reb    |    Commented February 7, 2013

Gun Control - Steady Hand, steady eye, commitment to preservation and sanctity of life and liberty.

Sean Smith    |    Commented February 7, 2013

What -- there are no regulations in place NOW on gun ownership? PLEASE! Just look at Chicago (also known as Obama's hometown). They have some of the strictest gun regulations in the country, and they are LEADING the NATION when it comes to murder (nearly 40 just in the first month of this year)and other forms of "gun violence". Why is it so hard for liberals to understand this one simple truth: Regulations on the ownership and use of firearms will affect ONLY those who OBEY THE LAW; they will do NOTHING to inhibit those criminals who -- BY DEFINITION -- ignore the law. It's not that complicated, folks!

Rick    |    Commented February 7, 2013

As far as the mental health issue you can thank the liberals for letting the mentaly ill back onto the streets. Do not penalize the law abiding tax payer you work for. As far as insurance. That is the biggest scam ever invented. The insurance companies make huge profits and the first thing they do when you file a claim is deny it or undercut the amount of damage. KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF MY GUNS!!

Mike Case    |    Commented February 7, 2013

The article completely misses the point. Law abiding citizens in rural communities are the same as those in the cities. Maybe the cities are a breeding ground for gangs, crime, and mental illness, and have nothing to do with guns. As usual, the liberal press makes this about guns and not about criminals. The Constitution applies to all law abiding citizens, in the cities or in the rural areas, period.

Mark    |    Commented February 7, 2013

Sean, "Regulations on the ownership and use of firearms will affect ONLY those who OBEY THE LAW; they will do NOTHING to inhibit those criminals who -- BY DEFINITION -- ignore the law". If Adam Lanza's mother had not been able to legally purchase a semi-automatic assault rifle with extra capacity magazines, Adam Lanza wouldn't have had access to that type of weapon. Many people who have guns illegally got them from people who did have them legally. So yes, it IS that complicated!

RealOscar    |    Commented February 8, 2013

You sure can tell the republicans here. They scream about liberals having put out enough laws, yet they do nothing to support the enforcement of them. They yell about their right to tote arms, yet howl when folks get killed. One yutz had the gaul to tweet that "It's that simple". Another putz spoke about it being about criminals and not guns. Adam Lanza was not a criminal, neither was the Colorado shooter. Start listing off the particular Americans who won't be allowed to have guns. 1) Adam Lanza,2) Colorado shooter. 3) NRA Pres. La Pierre...

alice    |    Commented February 12, 2013

I think gun insurance is a bad idea. It will just make people think it's OK if something happens with their gun, so that they will be less likely to take proper precautions.

John    |    Commented February 12, 2013

With the ShotSpotter Milwaukee has probable cause to search anyone "hanging around" on the street near where the shot was fired. I believe if the police would detain and pat down as many people as possible in an area where a shot was fired, you would get many guns off the street from people do not have a right to carry and for those who maybe felons and are carrying throw the book at them. Word gets around quickly. AND you will quickly see a change in the community. Strictly enforce the existing laws and then see what happens. Use the example of New York City in the days of Rudy Giuliani - same issues as Milwaukee and Chicago today. Before passing new laws that will not be enforced - Enforce the laws that are on the books today. Finally wasn't it last year the the ATF in Milwaukee tried to do a sting and bought and sold a bunch of guns on the streets of Milwaukee as I recall they paid more than the market price for the guns and then sold them at a loss. As I recall newspaper reports said areas where the drug dealers and gun issues were forced out by the residents were reintroduced into the area because of the ATF sting. Oh ya one orther thing I recall a fully automatic machine gun was stolen out of the ATF undercover car and has not yet been found. Chief Eddie can complain all he wants about gun shows and the "loopholes" but he does nothing to stop the ATF bondogle, nor does he encourage the strict enforcement of existing laws.

owen    |    Commented April 8, 2013

The BATF is far too strong. They have so many resources they have resorted to arming forging gangs and busting down airsoft retailers.

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