Home Guns4 Des Moines rightly takes aim at high-capacity gun magazines

Des Moines rightly takes aim at high-capacity gun magazines

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The Register’s editorial Published 9:53 a.m. CT June 12, 2019



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An AP-NORC poll finds two-thirds of Americans support stricter guns laws, but a UC Berkeley gun expert says don’t expect quick changes in the U.S. AP

Editorial: Local leaders should respond to “liberal gun grabbers” allegation by saying: Yes, we will take guns from irresponsible people and do everything possible to make this city safe.

It seems no place in this country is safe from a mass shooting.

Not schools, churches, movie theaters, offices, college campuses, restaurants, nightclubs, airports, concerts and other locations where senseless gun violence has occurred. 

Now government buildings can be added to the list after a public works employee recently killed 12 people in Virginia Beach.

So the Des Moines City Council and Polk County supervisors are right to do whatever they can to try to prevent massacres here.  

They recently asked staff to explore banning bump stocks and high-capacity magazines  — accessories that make guns even deadlier.

Such restrictions are hardly a radical idea. In fact, bump stocks, devices that attach to semi-automatic rifles to increase firing speed, were banned by a change to federal rules in March, thanks to President Trump.

Anyone in possession of one must either destroy it or forfeit it at a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives field office. Iowa has ATF offices in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport. 

High-capacity magazines, which attach to guns to hold more bullets than a gun’s normal capacity, should also be banned. Virginia authorities recovered a handgun with multiple extended magazines that were emptied. 

Sgt. Paul Parizek, spokesman for Des Moines police, said officers regularly encounter after-market magazines. He mentioned a May 20 incident in which officers detained several juveniles on Des Moines’ north side. One of the three guns recovered was equipped with an extended magazine holding 30 bullets instead of the standard 14.

“We encounter those relatively often,” he said. “… There’s no need for those in an urban environment; there’s no need for those in our neighborhoods.” 

There is no need for them in the hands of any civilian, and Des Moines’ leaders should move forward with prohibiting them. City leaders believe they can work around a state law forbidding local governments from imposing gun control measures. 

The problem then likely becomes the GOP-controlled Iowa Legislature, which has never met a common-sense gun reform it supports and has lost all respect for local control. A reasonable person would not defend firearm accessories that have no use in home protection or hunting and make it easier to quickly fire more bullets at more people. 

But Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, predictably promised to push back on such a municipal effort and said he was willing to file a bill to “clarify” state law to prevent such bans.

That’s unfortunate, but it shouldn’t stop Des Moines and other cities from acting. 

Indeed, Des Moines leaders should embrace Chapman’s characterization of them as “liberal gun grabbers” by responding with this message: Yes, we will grab guns from irresponsible people. We will do whatever we can to prevent senseless deaths. We will make the largest city in Iowa the safest place it can be. 

Elected officials should use their bully pulpits to discourage residents from toting firearms everywhere. 

That means circumventing and challenging misguided laws that endanger Iowans.

It means prosecuting irresponsible gun owners like  Zakarey Gwinn, who last year was carrying a gun in his pocket when he accidentally shot a woman seeking to adopt a cat at the Animal Rescue League of Iowa.

It means criminally charging people like the Des Moines parents who left an unsecured gun in their car with their unattended 4-year-old, who shot himself in the shoulder last month.

It is a serious misdemeanor in Iowa to “make available” a gun to a minor. It is also unlawful to leave a gun unsecured (without a trigger lock or outside of a locked box or other safe location) where a child could access it. 

To send a strong message to the public, local officials should enforce that law at every opportunity.

From toddlers to teenagers, young people who shoot themselves and others did not walk into a sporting goods store with a credit card and purchase the firearm. They frequently get them from adults.

Adam Lanza, 20, used his mother’s guns to kill 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. The Colorado teens who killed one student and wounded eight at STEM School Highlands Ranch in May got the guns at a parent’s house

“Those who legitimately own guns have an obligation, as part of being responsible gun owners and adults, to secure their guns so children can’t get to them,” said Polk County Attorney John Sarcone. 

Exactly. 

The Des Moines metro is a good place to live, in part due to experienced, engaged and sensible leaders.  No one expects this step to make a major dent in gun violence. But in the interest of saving lives and preserving community safety, leaders need to try.

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