Over the Hill

Gun debate heating up again in California

We Americans may often quarrel, but we’re still all Americans. One of our quarrels these days is about guns and ammunition and how easy or hard it should be to buy them.

That argument may heat up soon here in California. Our lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom, is proposing an initiative for the November 2016 ballot. It would require background checks on people who want to buy ammunition. It was reported in The Tribune on Oct. 16.

This initiative would also ban gun magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds, require the reporting of all lost or stolen guns, establish a proper system to ensure that felons surrender their guns, and compel the reporting to the federal government of the identities of all residents who are banned from owning guns.

I expect the National Rifle Association will oppose Newsom’s initiative, but it could still win. People are divided on the issue. The Pew Research Center said that as of July 20, 50 percent of Americans said they support gun control, while 47 percent said they support gun rights.

The election would probably be close, because another Pew Research poll last Dec. 7 found that 52 percent of Americans supported gun rights and 46 percent favored gun control. My guess is that gun control is more appealing when shooting massacres are in the news.

But background checks for private gun sales are favored both by gun-rights people and gun-control people, according to Pew Research. Expanded background checks were favored by 82 percent of the gun-rights advocates and 88 percent of the gun-control backers.

And by the way, 82 percent of the gun-rights advocates also favored preventing gun ownership by the mentally ill, as did 77 percent of the gun-control advocates.

The part of the initiative that seeks to make sure felons surrender their guns is also important. The Tribune’s story said that “more than 17,000 Californians prohibited from owning firearms currently have guns.” A felon, as you know, is somebody who’s been convicted of a serious crime.

It seems obvious to me that someone convicted of a serious violent crime or of a serious crime involving the sale of firearms should never again possess a gun, but maybe you disagree.

We’ll hear more about this initiative between now and the November 2016 election. Guns spark strong emotions. Pew Research also reported that 54 percent of Americans say “gun ownership does more to protect people from crime,” while 40 percent say “it does more to endanger people.”

So as the election approaches, it will be important to remember we are all fellow Americans who have jobs, children, car payments and much more in common. And we all would probably lend one another a hand if needed.

Phil Dirkx’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column appears here every week. Reach Dirkx at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.