Sharpe to the Point: Stick Up

Jim SharpeSeptember 2019
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Responsible gun owners say you must handle firearms very carefully. That’s doubly true for U.S. Senator Martha McSally… when handling the issue of guns.

For the past five years, Guns & Ammo magazine has ranked Arizona as the No. 1 state for gun owners. “Beyond a great set of laws, Arizona has one of the most thriving shooting cultures in the nation,” the magazine cooed in 2018.

My, how times have changed.

According to a new poll from OH Predictive Insights, a majority of Arizona voters (54 percent) believe we need more gun laws. Back in May, that number was 48 percent – and in a statistical tie with those who thought our gun laws were just right, or even too strict. (Too strict?! OH’s pollsters must’ve called a few bunkers.)

What changed since last May? An unprecedented outbreak of mass shootings, is what. And now we’ll see if McSally’s position on gun control migrates in kind.

Meet The Press’ Chuck Todd told me on KTAR that McSally already knows how to walk a fine, moderate line. She did, after all, represent liberal Tucson for years as a Republican member of the House of Representatives.

She’ll win her intra-GOP cage match – otherwise known as a primary – but then she’ll have to further nuance her position on guns against a Democrat with possibly the most nuanced position of all: Mark Kelly. Kelly wants more gun control, but even pro-gun Republicans understand why – his wife, former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, survived a mass shooting. And many are willing to overlook it because he’s a veteran and gun owner who seemed very reasonable on the issue when I interviewed him last month.

But many voters are asking for the unreasonable. They want buybacks. They want sweeping changes that, truth be told, won’t change much. That’s because their opinions are being driven by a hazily understood news cycle, not facts.

Look, I’m a family man who worries about the world his kids will inherit, so I’m for more gun laws – if they actually make us safer.

Banning semi-automatic assault  rifles may reduce the number of mass shootings, as mass shooters prefer rifles. The problem: Mass shootings are a tiny sliver of our gun violence problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control, of the 14,415 gun-related homicides in the U.S. in 2016, 71 happened during the course of a mass shooting. Less than 0.5 percent. Of the homicides committed in the U.S. where we know what type of gun was used, more than 98 percent of murderers used a handgun.

Ban handguns, then? That hasn’t worked in places like murder-ravaged Chicago, where handguns are hard to get, but nonetheless used in the majority of murders.

But voters still want something done, so I do think elected officials will pass effective gun laws. Too bad those laws will be effective only to get their designers elected.

Jim Sharpe is the host of Arizona’s Morning News on KTAR-FM 92.3 (weekdays 5-9 a.m.). Visit ktar.com to find more information about his on-air work.

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