Last week’s shooting at a Brookfield, Wis. spa brought the issue of gun control once again to the front of Americans’ minds.
The shooter, Radcliffe Houghton, legally purchased a handgun from a private seller two days after his wife obtained a restraining order against him. Even though Wisconsin has laws that should have prevented him from being able to purchase or own weapons, he was able to obtain them.
This is why legislation that prevents firearms and other weapons from falling into the hands of those who would use them to harm others must be created and strictly enforced.Wisconsin law requires judges to order firearms be removed when issuing a permanent protective order. This means anyone who has had a long-term restraining order filed against them must surrender any firearms they own. It is their responsibility to turn over their weapons.
While these laws should have prevented the tragedy in Brookfield, loopholes exist that allowed Houghton to legally purchase a gun after a restraining order had been placed on him.
Other individuals who are intent on committing violent acts could slip through these same loopholes.
Houghton’s violence inspired several Wisconsin legislators to draft bills that would help close them.
State Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) and Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber (D-Appleton) are working to reintroduce a bill that would demand better enforcement of weapon surrender laws. The bill was originally introduced in the 2009-10 legislative season but did not pass.
Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) has stated he would work with advocates to draft a bill that would ban anyone under a restraining order from purchasing guns, allow police to remove guns from scenes of domestic violence and allow law enforcement to know if someone convicted of domestic abuse has a concealed weapons permit.
These laws would make it easier for law enforcement to ensure that individuals who have had restraining orders filed against them surrender weapons.
If police officers can confiscate guns at a crime scene, they can be sure that those weapons will not be used illegally.
It is important that guns are confiscated from people who may use them to harm others.
Several bills that would ban assault weapons have been introduced to Congress in recent years, but none have been put to a vote.
These bills would essentially reinstate a ban from 1994-2004 that made it illegal to manufacture weapons that shared certain features with assault rifles. It also banned the possession of illegally imported or manufactured assault weapons, but did not affect weapons owned before the ban.
While these measures should reduce gun crime in many cases, someone who is set on obtaining a gun will find a way to get it.
An individual who is looking to use a weapon for illegal purposes is already willing to break the law. Not being able to legally purchase a gun will not stop them from getting one.
This election season, gun control has been and important and divisive issue. Although it has been largely ignored in the presidential debates, presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have each taken a stand on gun control.
During both his 2008 presidential campaign and his current campaign, Obama has supported Second Amendment rights while pushing for common-sense safety measures.
He believes in extensive background checks for those interested in purchasing guns. This measure would help keep guns out of the hands of people who would use them to harm others.
As Massachusetts’s governor, Romney passed a state law banning assault weapons in 2004 after the national assault weapon ban ended.
He has stated while he believes in extensive background checks and limiting the availability of unusually lethal weapons to the public, he also supports Second Amendment rights for law-abiding citizens who would use guns for legal purposes only.
No matter who wins, it is clear we need laws that will make it harder for people to commit tragic crimes like the one in Brookfield.