Karen is a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother. She retired two ago after 31 years with NYSDOT in the Civil Engineering Field. She has been an Allegany County resident for almost 35 years and decades ago served on the New York State Board of Directors for the National Wild Turkey Federation. She’s a former hunter and skeet shooter who has shifted her focus to her family and building a better community for them. She describes herself as “Pro Common Sense, not Anti Gun.”
Hi, my name is Karen Patterson. I’m not here to today as an expert on policy or the school system or constitutional law. I’m here today as a woman who has lived in Allegany County for nearly 35 years. I’m a mother of 3, a grandmother of 10 and as of last August, a great-grandmother of one.
My kids grew up in Almond and most of my grandchildren have grown up in Alfred or Almond. They’ve attended Alfred Almond School their entire lives. My ex-husband was an avid, responsible and conservation minded hunter. He taught me how to shoot skeet, how to hunt deer and wild turkey and how to safely manage the ownership and use of a dangerous weapon. I tell you this so you understand that I am not anti-gun but I am pro common sense.
It has been frustrating to me for years to try to have a conversation around gun responsibility laws with many members of my community. The immediate defensive reactions slam shut the door for meaningful discussion. But I’m here to say that we have far more areas of agreement than the powerfully funded gun manufacturers would have us believe.
According to the latest data I could find, nearly 90% of Americans surveyed support enhanced background checks. That includes an overwhelming majority of gun owners! The current Federal system requires that Federally Licensed Gun dealers perform background checks prior to the sale of a gun. But many gun sales don’t occur in Federally Licensed Gun Dealer shops. Private sales, gun shows, even internet sales are currently not required to include a background check.
As I recently heard in a TED talk on the subject, that’s pretty much like having 2 lines at the airport – one with security and one without. We’d never go along with such a crazy idea when security at the airport is supposed to protect us all, right? Why do we accept it in our daily lives?
Another area of agreement is the nationwide support for Extreme Risk Protection Orders, commonly known as “Red Flag Laws.” 77% of Americans surveyed support having the ability to recommend that a person who has exhibited behavior that indicates they could be a danger to themselves or others have their weapons temporarily removed. This isn’t an open invitation for revenge reports as I’ve heard members in my community say. There is a court proceeding to determine if the individual meets certain criteria and it’s not a permanent removal. ERPOs provide an avenue for a concerned teacher, a frustrated parent or a law enforcement officer who has a feeling but no actual crime to charge yet to have an individual examined by professionals. This intervention alone will save lives.
A third area of agreement is on limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines. 65% of Americans polled strongly or somewhat supported limiting to ammunition magazine capacity. When the NY State SAFEAct first passed, I heard multiple, conflicting accounts of what it contained. So I downloaded the text of the Act and read all 75 pages of it for myself. One of the more contentious items was the lowering of ammunition capacity from 10 rounds to 7 rounds in NY State.
I ended up at one point engaged in a conversation at a local watering hole about the SAFEAct. As an aside, I really don’t recommend having such chats in that ummm, well oiled setting but I’ve never been that good about taking my own advice! The gentleman that I was speaking with was furious about lowering the number of rounds he could legally place into his gun. He went on and on about how he loved to rabbit hunt, it was his hobby and his passion, and this law was going to destroy the only fun he had in his life. So I asked him, “Does it often take you 10 tries to hit a rabbit?” He said “Sometimes it does!” I then shared my opinion that if he couldn’t hit the target with the first 6, maybe he shouldn’t be carrying a gun at all! That did end the conversation rather abruptly but it’s truly how I, as a responsible gun owner, feel. I’ve never known a situation in hunting, target shooting, skeet shooting or even in home defense that requires a rapid fire, high-capacity weapon. Some folks declare that they “enjoy” going out to target shoot and blowing off 30+ rounds a time. Lots of folks liked to go out and tie one on and drive home once upon a time too. And they claimed that they were perfectly safe doing so. But as a society, we decided that our safety and well being was a higher priority than one person’s “fun.” If you are going to drink, you have a responsibility to not endanger others.
That’s pretty much what I’ve taught my children and grandchildren: rights and responsibilities go hand in hand. And that’s exactly how our society has treated all the Rights enumerated to us in the Constitution.
We have the Right to Free Speech, meaning that the Government can’t persecute us for stating our opinions, even if they are negative to the Government. But the Courts have ruled that doesn’t give us the right to libel or slander others or to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Our right to free speech comes with a responsibility to use it properly and has been limited when needed.
We have the Right to Worship as we please. The Government can’t institute a State Religion and must allow various forms of worship. However, if your religion requires you to sacrifice a virgin on the 3rd full moon of the year, your right to practice it becomes secondary to society’s right to live.
We’ve even limited the Second Amendment rights multiple times in this nation. I can’t have a fully functional tank in my back yard or own a rocket propelled grenade launcher and of course, fully automatic weapons have been banned for decades. The very weapons that are at the forefront of the latest battles were themselves banned for a decade. That never led to the wholesale removal of everyone’s guns! The right to bear arms comes with the responsibility to protect our civilians. We as a Nation have always attached responsibilities to our Rights. It’s unclear to me why this Right in particular should hold some special status of not requiring responsibility.
There isn’t a single, law-abiding gun owner that I know who couldn’t pass a background check. There isn’t a single, law-abiding gun owner I know who would be more than minorly inconvenienced by a waiting period to enforce the background check prior to purchasing a gun. There isn’t a single responsible gun owner that I know who would find it burdensome to have to reload after 6 shots. And there is no legitimate, civilian use for rapid fire, high-capacity weapons.