Gun-rights advocates shoot blanks when it comes to responsibility |

Gun-rights advocates shoot blanks when it comes to responsibility

George Boardman

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly was in town earlier this week in his bid to become the Republican Party's sacrificial lamb … I mean candidate for governor against Gov. Jerry Brown in November.

Donnelly was fresh off a successful appearance at the party's biannual convention in Burlingame, where he wowed the majority of delegates with a call for tax cuts, reduced regulations and "a moratorium on all new laws that contain restrictions on our constitutional civil rights …"

Those words resonate with the pick-up truck faction of the GOP, and Donnelly repeated many of them in an interview with The Union and then to a group of Nevada County Republican women at the Alta Sierra Country Club.

The fact that Donnelly was in Nevada County for the second time in recent weeks, looking for votes and money, reflects the long-shot nature of his campaign. He's raised less than $500,000 in his campaign for the nomination, half of the money raised by his main opponent, former U.S. Treasury official and Wall Street investment banker Neel Kashkari. (Brown has $18 million in his re-election fund and won't have to spend any of it before Labor Day.)

Donnelly's favorite right is the right to bear arms, and he seems to be on track to visit every firing range in the state as he hunts for votes. He's a former Minuteman who won't discuss how many guns he owns ("it's none of the government's business") but says everything he owns is legal.

Registration is another matter. "I find gun registration to be offensive," he told the Sacramento Bee. "I think that gun registration is simply so that someday the government can confiscate it."

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That meshes with Donnelly's general view that you can't trust the government to protect individual rights, saying government agencies "repeatedly abuse their power by … trying to silence citizens through intimidation."

Donnelly seems to have a cavalier attitude about some aspects of gun ownership, such as carrying a loaded, unregistered gun into Ontario International Airport in 2012. He pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges and is currently on probation.

Then there's his brother, who was arrested for reaching for a gun while being questioned by police in 2000. The brother, who had drug and alcohol problems but was allowed to own a gun, committed suicide in a jail cell.

Guns in the hands of irresponsible or unstable people are a persistent problem that gun advocates like Donnelly prefer to ignore. Outfits like the NRA won't discuss the issue, but they'll fight any laws that try to curb the problem.

Gun advocates are big on cracking down on criminals who illegally possess weapons, and nobody can argue with that position. Left unsaid is how many of those criminals acquire their weapons.

In a study conducted in the 1980s, two sociologists asked 2,000 men convicted of gun-related crimes how they got their weapons. Half of them said the guns were stolen, and another 20 percent said they were "probably" stolen.

Things haven't changed much since then. An estimated 500,000 guns go missing every year and end up in criminal hands, but police get little help from the victims.

Author Dan Baum reports that owners hate reporting stolen guns to police and consider it tyranny if they even have to admit they own guns. As a consequence, only seven states and the District of Columbia have laws that mandate the reporting of stolen guns.

There are other tragic consequences to careless gun ownership. Accidental child death is one of the few gun statistics that has grown since 1990, and almost half of the teenagers who kill themselves do it with a gun.

Then there are the people who aren't criminals until they pick up a gun. Tempers flare, a gun is nearby and tragedy ensures.

The obvious solution to these tragedies is to make sure guns are properly secured, but just 27 states and DC require guns to be locked up, trigger-locked, stored separately from ammunition or some combination of the three. In most states, punishment is mild for those who ignore the law or use haphazard security.

As Baum, a gun enthusiast and author of "Gun Guys: A Road Trip," wrote recently:

"We gun guys are operating under a double standard. We want to be left alone to buy, use and carry guns because, we say, we understand firearms better than any bureaucrat. But at the same time, enough of us behave so carelessly that thousands of people are needlessly killed, injured or victimized by guns left laying around."

People like Donnelly constantly push the boundaries of their Second Amendment rights. They forget that with the right comes great responsibility.

George Boardman lives at Lake of the Pines. His columns are published Mondays in The Union.

Observations from the center stripe: Free publicity edition

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