We don’t need more guns in Delaware’s state parks

    A group of “concerned citizens” is doing something about guns in Delaware’s state parks – suing for the right to carry them.


    Gun violence is an epidemic our country needs to get serious about. Every year, over 30,000 people in this country die needlessly due to guns. To put it another way, every 10 years we lose about a third of Delaware’s entire population to gun violence.

    So it’s only fitting that here in the First State, a group of concerned citizens is stepping up to do something about guns in Delaware’s state parks. Unfortunately, they think the problem is there aren’t enough guns being allowed into parks these days to keep people safe. 

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    Is this really the fight we need to be having?

    Just this week, President Obama’s very modest plan to help curb the increasing problem of gun violence was met with overblown howls that “Obama wants your guns” and that he’s “obsessed with undermining the Second Amendment.” To hear conservatives foam at the mouth about it, there’s not a corner of this country that isn’t threatened by dirty liberals wanting to take their guns away.

    But those guns are a problem. Civilians in the United States own over 280 million guns, 200 million more than any other country in the world (and nearly a gun for every man, woman and child in America). We account for a third of all global public mass shootings, despite having just 5 percent of the world’s population. And our current laws are so weak, we can’t even prevent potential terrorists from buying a gun.

    “We can prevent terror suspects from boarding an airplane, but the FBI doesn’t have the power to block them from buying dynamite or an AK-47,” former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said back in 2010. Nothing’s changed since them.

    We also know that states with the most guns laws see the fewest gun-related deaths. So it is in Delaware’s state parks, where common-sense restrictions on guns not used for hunting seem to have been a non-controversial way to balance the rights of hunters with maintaining the overall safety of park users.

    Wilmington attorney Thomas Shellenberger, a spokesman for the Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association (one of the groups suing the state), admitted as much, telling the News Journal that no particular incident prompted the lawsuit. 

    So why sue? To push an twisted idea promoted by the National Rifle Association that our Constitution places no restrictions on an individual’s ability to possess a firearm, be it park, school or your mother’s dinner table.

    Sadly, if these faux patriots would stop professing their undying love for the Founding Fathers and actually read the Constitution, they’d find there’s only one place it outright bans the government from regulating an individual’s rights – the First Amendment.

    “Congress shall make no law…” reads the amendment. The second amendment, along with all the rest, are regulated. Always have been. By contrast, the notion that the “right to keep and bear arms” is a guarantee of the personal right to have a gun is just seven years old, pushed by a conservative Supreme Court stacked with Republican nominees through their District of Columbia v. Heller decision.

    So here in Delaware, despite what these gun-toting loonies want to say about our personal rights to own weapons, it’s the government’s responsibility to put in place restrictions that balance personal rights with the safety of the community, something I feel they’ve successfully done in our state parks.

    “We allow appropriate firearms and archery equipment during seasons for those using these lands for recreational hunting, but do not believe it is appropriate to allow deadly weapons that are not associated with hunting in Delaware state parks,” Deputy Environmental Secretary Kara Coats wrote.

    Unfortunately, it seems impossible to satisfy gun nuts, whose paranoia apparently won’t be satiated until every corner of our state is blanketed by guns. I know those seagulls and chipmunks can be annoying, but has it really comes to this?

    If my gun-toting friends out there are so afraid to go to a state park unarmed, here’s a simple suggestion – stay home.


    Rob Tornoe is a cartoonist and WHYY contributor. Follow Rob on Twitter @RobTornoe.

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