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11/13/2013 9:44:00 AM
Panel says gun background checks are necessary
Retired judge Ralph Hess, standing, introduces himself during a League of Women Voters panel discussion, Gun Regulation: Too Much or Too Little, on Nov. 2. Joining him, from left, are Prescott Police Chief Jerald Monahan, Wendy Elgen and Les Elgen.
Trib Photo/Sue Tone
Retired judge Ralph Hess, standing, introduces himself during a League of Women Voters panel discussion, Gun Regulation: Too Much or Too Little, on Nov. 2. Joining him, from left, are Prescott Police Chief Jerald Monahan, Wendy Elgen and Les Elgen.
Trib Photo/Sue Tone

Sue Tone

Ralph Hess rarely offers personal opinions on subject matters because, as an attorney and former judge, he goes by the facts. So when the League of Women Voters asked him to be on a gun regulations panel, he researched statistics and recent court cases.

Wendy and Len Algen, on the other hand, are sport shooters and hunters, and are affiliated with the National Rifle Association. They, along with Prescott Police Chief Jerald Monahan, joined Hess Nov. 2 on the League's Gun Regulation: Too Much or Too Little panel at Las Fuentes Retirement Center. Panel members answered three questions before taking written questions from the audience of nearly 50 community members.

Regarding a question on the Second Amendment of the Constitution, Monahan said the Founding Fathers realized guns were vital for families' survival, but they couldn't have known of today's modern weapons.

"You can hand carry a missile launcher or a bazooka. Could they have foreseen this?" he said. "Would I want my neighbor owning a 50-caliber gun? Not without a background check."

Monahan and other panel members reiterated the importance of background checks and mental health issues in gun ownership throughout the morning.

Wendy Elgen said the changes in gun control laws in Connecticut after the Newtown school tragedy couldn't have prevented the shootings. She, too, supports background checks, but said only law-abiding citizens will follow the law. She believes the right to bear arms means just that, "no matter what you use it for."

Hess, too, agrees that the Second Amendment is an individual right. With rights, come responsibilities, however; even freedom of speech is not an absolute right - think yelling "fire" in a movie theater. He also acknowledged the presence of violence in the community.

"The reason they own is because they are afraid. That is the issue we need to address," he said.

Hess wondered whether a reduction in firearms results in a reduction in injury or death by firearms. The 1996 National Firearms Agreement in Australia shows a decrease in firearm suicides and homicides since its implementation, he said.

"So what are we trying to accomplish? If it's saving lives, I'm in agreement with that," Hess, a member of Veterans for Peace, said.

Len Elgen disagreed and said Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics prove that most reductions in crimes correspond with an increase in gun owners with a carry concealed weapons permit.

"Carry laws have discouraged violent crimes," he said. "An armed society is a polite society."

In April 2010, Governor Jan Brewer eliminated the requirement for a CCW permit, effectively doing away with training and certification.

"We know individuals all over Prescott are carrying. We don't know what training or skill level they have," Monahan said. "Thank God for those citizens who are trained and ready to defend."

He added that he appreciates the ability to use a firearm to eliminate threat, and feels keeping a weapon unloaded and locked up in his home "defeats the purpose" of owning weapons.

Len Elgen adamantly opposes more regulation, and said it makes criminals out of law-abiding citizens.

"Government is fairly useless; it's mostly corrupt. In large part, it does more harm than good," he opined.

The final question asked about violence in movies and video games playing a part in desensitizing people to reality.

"They make death very easy, and there are no personal consequences," Len Elgen said. "It's up to us as individuals and families to impress on young people the value of life."

He credits NRA's Eddie Eagle Child Gun Safety program with preventing a tragedy in his home when visiting children, ages 8 and 10, notified an adult after finding a loaded .357 in a piano bench. The Elgens called it an oversight and a "learning moment," and said they now remove all guns when children are present.

Len cited a personal family heartbreak that occurred when he was 18 months old. An older brother killed himself with a hunting rifle, he said.

"The more guns there are, the more accidents. But that doesn't speak to gun ownership," he said, adding that education is key.

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization. The next panel discussion is at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 4, at Las Fuentes, with speakers from the American Legislative Exchange Council and Common Cause.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Saturday, November 16, 2013
Article comment by: Doug Graham

Monahan uses a tired and trite argument, disproved by the fact that electronic speech is still protected by the First Amendment:
"Monahan said the Founding Fathers realized guns were vital for families' survival, but they couldn't have known of today's modern weapons."

Hess came up with this disingenuous gem: "The 1996 National Firearms Agreement in Australia shows a decrease in firearm suicides and homicides since implementation"
Note the decrease was ONLY in firearms-related suicide and homicide. The overall rates for both categories of deaths continued the same slow decline, which began 16 years BEFORE the 1996 laws came into force. In short, Australia noticed no positive effect from the draconian laws.

Posted: Friday, November 15, 2013
Article comment by: Rich Seibert

The danger of Universal Gun Background Checks..

Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013
Article comment by: Thomas Rogge

I find this obsession on an inanimate object bizarre. So we are restricting and making it more difficult for 300,000,000 people to get a gun so that a less than a dozen that have evil intent might not be able to get a gun to committee mass murder? You mean the way the war on drugs makes our streets free of illegal drugs?

This now includes one of the most common of the so called "weapons of mass destruction" now consisting of your standard pump action shot gun which the Navy Yard shooter ( a gun free zone), killed over a dozen people and wounded more?

on top of which there are so many gun free zones like shopping malls with thousands of people in a contained space that are disarmed by law so that ONE crazed killer will ignore the sign who then has free reign to slaughter dozens of innocents without their ability to defend themselves.

If there is true desire to lessen the ability of mad men to committee mass murder, allow more places that a citizen can carry a weapon for self defense gun free zones simply disarm those not intending to kill anyone and makes the GFZ a magnet for those that DO have homicidal intent.

Now that is true "common sense".

Posted: Thursday, November 14, 2013
Article comment by: jack burton

You get a bunch of anti-gunners together and you get this kind of historical nonsense. The FF knew quite well the standard bullet of the day was around .80 and not the much smaller .50 that the article demonizes. And that there was simply no law against a person owning a cannon... or in the case of a ship owner, dozens of cannons.

The FF also knew that multiple shot guns were available even at that point in history.

Posted: Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Article comment by: Joey Evans

Universal background checks are nothing but another anti-gun (government) farce to make firearms ownership more difficult and expensive for law-abiding Americans and an attempt to discourage gun ownership and will never stop a “Prohibited person” from obtaining a gun. It would only add unwarranted expense to the cost of a firearm because of the exorbitant fees charged by gun shops to process a background check when a person is not buying the gun from that store. Even the current background check requirement doesn’t work because criminals don’t go to a licensed dealer and submit to a background check to get a gun. And since privacy laws prohibit most of the reporting of mentally deficient individuals to the FBI data base, they are not blocked from a gun purchase. And then who is going to make the mental determination some nameless clerk like those in the VA who reported over 370,000 veterans as unstable because they had difficulty balancing their checkbook? Even under the current botched up background check system, the majority of “Declined” checks are subsequently approved when appealed because the inadequate FBI database can’t distinguish between people with similar names. And what I have mentioned here is just the tip of the preverbal iceberg.

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