“We still have a gun problem in this country,” said Paul Helmke at the National Press Club Newsmaker event on Friday. Helmke, former CEO & President of the Brady Campaign/Center to Prevent Gun Violence and former Republican mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana, emphasized that even if the numbers are decreasing, there is still a serious problem.
He indicated that 32 people are murdered with guns every day, 80 daily gun deaths if self-inflicted incidences are included. Helmke stated there are three to four times as many gun injuries as deaths.
The decrease in deaths reported may be the result of better medical care and not a result of decreased gun violence, Helmke said, adding that healthcare professionals indicate gunshot incidences today are equal to those 10-to-20 years ago.
Helmke believes the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court case, Heller v. District of Columbia, opens a door of opportunity to find common ground between gun control and gun rights advocates because it defines Second Amendment rights. “The Supreme Court ruled that an individual may own a gun for defensive purposes, at least in your home,” he said.
Helmke pointed out Justice Scalia’s court opinion that stated, “These rights, like other rights, are not unlimited.” Helmke also mentioned the restrictions enumerated by the court, which includes who may own a gun, how it is sold, stored and carried, and even what kind of guns may be owned.
He believes the court’s defined rights and limitations allow discussions on where to draw the lines within those categories. He emphasized a need to address what he and others believe to be a “broken” background check system. There also needs to be a review of states’ registration and permitting procedures with an attempt to find at least a minimum national standard to facilitate reciprocity between states on conceal carry permits, Helmke said.
Issues where he thinks the parties may agree, include limiting the types of guns and number of bullets that may be used without registration and limiting those who may own guns, such felons and those with established mental illness. “We should be able to draw some lines,” Helmke said.
While he wants to pursue finding common ground among interested parties, Helmke said negotiations must begin with groups like the National Rifleman’s Association (NRA) and similar organizations because gun violence issues are blocked in Congress. He noted that members of Congress think gun control is “radioactive” and fear criticism against those who address it.
Helmke emphasized that with the Second Amendment better defined by the Supreme Court, there is now an opportunity to work together to fix a major gun problem that has gone unchecked by political leaders.