Legal Opinion IndexHome

Atty. Ralph D. Sherman

130 West Main Street • New Britain, Connecticut 06052

tel. (860) 229-0213 • fax (860) 229-0235 • e-mail


Legal Opinion

October 1998

Opinion polls and safer guns

Current events require that I briefly interrupt my series on the Second Amendment.

Perhaps you noticed that a new opinion poll shows that most Americans are in favor of making guns safer.

Coincidentally, a new law took effect October 1 that will prohibit the carrying of handguns on school grounds by persons who hold permits to carry handguns.

What do the two have in common? Good intentions - and a complete failure to deal with the real world.

Let's start with the poll. They didn't ask for my opinion, but here it is: I am in favor of making trees safer. I fell out of several trees when I was a child, and now my own children love to climb. A tree that grows foam padding around the trunk, with child-size handholds spaced 10 inches apart, would be ideal.

Now let's talk about guns. I would support wholeheartedly the development of a gun that shoots only when the shooter is acting in self-defense. This would eliminate murders, accidents, and maybe even wars, as the gun would not operate except to protect an innocent person.

Does this sound foolish? It's no more foolish than the opinion poll about "safer" guns.

One of the things that the poll people defined as a "safer" gun is a "personalized" gun that can be fired only by the proper owner. Nice idea, except for a few details.

For one thing, the street cop is afraid that if he's issued a "personalized" gun, the computer inside may fail just when he needs the gun to save his life. (If you think that computers don't fail, then you may not find my comments about "the real world" convincing.)

As for the parent who might own a "personalized" gun, he, too, would be rightly concerned about it failing at a crucial moment. And would a responsible parent trust a "personalizing" mechanism enough to leave a gun where a child could get it? Of course not. A responsible parent would do what he or she already does: Store the gun safely and teach the child about the potential danger. Likewise, an irresponsible parent would not change any habits because of guns being "personalized." So much for "personalizing" guns.

The same goes for the "load indicator" that the pollsters claim is wanted by the public. This would be, say, an orange indicator that would become visible on a gun to show that the gun is loaded. Sounds good, but would you feel safe looking down the barrel of a gun just because the orange indicator is showing? What if the indicator got stuck? The answer is, if you own guns, you'd do what you do now - check to see that it's unloaded first. So we have another proposal to accomplish absolutely nothing.

As for the new law, it was proposed because of shootings in schools. No one disputes that schools should be safe places, or that children should not carry guns.

But no one can explain how the law - banning the carry of guns on school grounds by persons who have permits - will make schools safer.

To obtain a handgun permit in Connecticut, a person has to pass background checks and safety courses. The permit-holder who carries a handgun for protection keeps it out of sight and, statistics show, is extremely unlikely to be involved in crime. The 15-year-old gang member who carries a handgun for protection does so without a permit - and he won't obey this new law, either.

Instead, the new law will have two results. Some permit-holders will obey the law, leaving their gun in a car instead of bringing it onto school property. And some permit-holders will disregard the law - some out of ignorance, and some theorizing that no one will know the difference if they bring their gun onto school grounds, which is likely to be true, although I can't advise doing it.

Thomas Sowell, the noted economist, recently wrote that in earlier times, the proof of the pudding was in how it tasted. Today, he said, the proof of the pudding is in how good it made you feel to cook it.

Lawful gun owners couldn't agree more.


Copyright 1998 by Ralph D. Sherman

Legal Opinion IndexHome