published Friday, February 21st, 2014

Click it, cock it — stop it: Lawmakers to raise seatbelt fines, but guns are no problem

Tennessee General Assembly members are at it again. They are governing — or at least pretending to — in their clown suits.

House Transportation sub-committee members OKed 7-2 a Gov. Bill Haslam-advanced bill to double fines for not wearing seat belts. What was $10 would be $25 for a first offense, and $50 on second and subsequent offenses. The proffered reason is to "save lives." Historically more than half of traffic fatalities in Tennessee have involved individuals who do not wear seat belts.

Now, it's a no-brainer that everyone should wear seat belts, and authorities say 84 percent of us do. Tennessee has about 1,000 traffic fatalities a year, but Col. Tracy Trott, commander of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, told lawmakers that if all of us wore our car safety harnesses, 40 to 110 lives could be saved yearly. That would be great.

But here's the disconnect: This is the same General Assembly pandering to the gun-rights crowd and passing one bill after another pushing to put guns in every hand in every space across a state that's already No. 1 in the country for aggravated assaults -- the crime category where nonfatal shootings get tallied. By the way, Tennessee had 30,818 aggravated assaults in 2012, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Gun advocates will say more people died on highways than from guns, and that's true in Tennessee, where 251 of 390 murders in 2012 involved guns.

This is how gun advocates -- and note here that gun advocates is not the same as gun-rights advocates -- begin to smugly dismiss gun concerns. But here's the rest of the story:

Aggravated assaults, which are attacks that involve deadly weapons or cause extreme injury, make up the bulk of violent crime statistics. They should be viewed as seriously as homicide, according to Roger Thompson, chief adviser at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's criminal justice department.

"To be honest, those are candidates for homicide, but we were able to get [victims] to the hospital and save them due to the miracles of modern medicine. ... Multiply homicides by 10 and you get a better idea for what's actually going on out there," Thompson told a Times Free Press reporter last fall.

Nonetheless, the General Assembly clowns we voted for seem far more worried about saving 40 to 110 highway deaths because someone doesn't click their seat belt than they are about the more than 200 deaths that occur when someone cocks the trigger of the gun pulled from their pocket or their glove box or their lunch box.

Remember -- these lawmakers are the folks who've pushed legislation to tell employers that they cannot forbid employees from having guns in the parking lots on workplace property. These are the folks who want teachers to carry guns in schools. These are the folks who want to make sure churchgoers can be armed.

The truth is that few motorists, especially those who don't wear seat belts, make campaign contributions or pay lobbyists to wine, dine and entertain our lawmakers.

On the other hand, the National Rifle Association is a major donor with multi-million-dollar political action committees, and our lawmakers compete to get NRA endorsements.

The individual gun makers -- the real funding arm of the NRA -- are politically active, too. Ugo Gussalli Beretta, CEO and president of Beretta Holding, wrote in an opinion letter to the Washington Post earlier this month that he would move Beretta's U.S. facility from the Maryland suburbs to Middle Tennessee because Maryland's governor and legislature adopted new gun regulations that "unfairly attack products we make" and "demean our law-abiding customers, who must now be fingerprinted like criminals before they can be allowed to purchase one of our products."

Never mind that if those customers worked for the government -- even as contractors or part-timers -- they had to be fingerprinted for background checks.

Maybe our lawmakers should just adopt a new enforcement method for seat belt use. Click it! Or we'll cock it!

Second Amendment rights are important. But they were never intended to give people blanket sanction to carry and use a gun anywhere and everywhere.

Some of us do love our guns. But that doesn't mean we have to love them to death.

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soakya said...

"Second Amendment rights are important. But they were never intended to give people blanket sanction to carry and use a gun anywhere and everywhere"

Don't we already have laws prohibiting the use and carry of guns in certain places?

February 21, 2014 at 8:12 a.m.
cooljb said...

When an unlawful person threatens your life with a gun, you had better pray a lawful person is close by to save your life and the police are not able to be every where. So, more than likely that person saving your life would be a lawful permit holder. So before you make a blanket statement condemning everyone that has a gun, use some thought and reason first. By the way, I am 54 and owned a gun since I was 8 years old and have never harmed a person with one in my life. Get the picture?

February 21, 2014 at 2:39 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Good for you, cooljib. I'm sure you are a responsible gun owner. But it is a fact that there are also LOTS of irresponsible, foolhardy gun owners, and it is only common sense that we have laws that regulate gun ownership. Yes, we do have many laws already in place but either they go unenforced or they have glaring loopholes (gun shows, for example) that need to be regulated in ways they aren't now.

It might be true that "guns don't kill people; people kill people," but there are a lot of irresponsible people, and just plain bad asses in general, with guns out there, killing people. Just putting more guns into the hands of more people in more public places is a recipe for disaster.

I have a gun myself but I keep it at home where it belongs. In all my 63 years I have never had a desire to carry one on my person for protection and never felt that I needed one. I like living in a society where we can go shopping or dining out or camping or to our place of work or church or to the park or the movie and not have to think about packing heat for protection, and I prefer to keep it that way. If we have to resort to everyone carrying a gun as a remedy for escalating gun violence, I don't consider that a solution to the problem. That is called living in a perpetual war zone. Gun fetishists and wannabe Rambos might like that but most truly peace loving people find it abhorrent.

February 21, 2014 at 3:17 p.m.
soakya said...

roo you maybe 63 years in age but you, like most progressives think like a preschooler.

February 21, 2014 at 4:43 p.m.
Rickaroo said...

Soakya, your insults are childish in themselves, not to mention repetitive and unoriginal. It's gotten to the point that they/you are hardly worth dignifying with a response.

February 21, 2014 at 5:11 p.m.
Ki said...

coojb said: "When an unlawful person threatens your life with a gun, you had better pray a lawful person is close by to save your life "

However the above is rarely the case. What is usually taking place now is the lawful person with the gun is the one who ends up shooting, maiming and even killing innocent citizens; children included. Some of those children have been the victims of their "lawful" parents and other family members.

February 21, 2014 at 5:34 p.m.
conservative said...

"Aggravated assaults, which are attacks that involve deadly weapons or cause extreme injury, make up the bulk of violent crime statistics. They should be viewed as seriously as homicide,..."

Well perhaps, but you lenient, soft on crime Liberals won't allow any such thing.

You soft on crime, turn them loose Liberals have been the problem and will continue to be the problem.

February 21, 2014 at 6:39 p.m.
soakya said...

yet like most children you cant help yourself .

February 21, 2014 at 6:53 p.m.
Pass_it_on said...

The problem today is there is a protected class that transcends race, economic class and social position. This protected class has clearly defined rights and privileges that supersede everyone else's rights.

That class respects no law or rule of law, yet more laws are legislated to control the majority that are not the problem and effectively making it easier to join this protected class.

That class, if you haven't guessed it by now is the criminal, gang member or thug. They are responsible for the overwhelming majority of the aggravated assaults, homicides and other serious crimes. Not one member in this protected class will conform to stringent gun laws ... not a one. So now we have the victims that have no say or collateral in the process. We have the liberal media broadcasting emotionally charged headlines demonizing the evil firearm culture and their fanatical followers.

The problem is not firearms, it is the inability to enforce existing laws, funding of correctional facilities and most importantly the lack of effective mental health care. Every mass killing was committed by mentally ill people. So now, the media is screaming for the abolishing of firearm ownership of two hundred million law abiding CITIZENS.

Do you know who the "evil powerful NRA" is? It is the hundred plus million people like myself who fear the loss of our rights and the tyranny that will ensue. It is your neighbors, friends, coworkers that joined this organization because we fear the irrational legislation that followed every manufactured crisis based on some horrific event cashing in on the blood of the victims. Totally ignoring the root cause of the problem because the fix is too expensive, not politically expedient and it allows lots of money to be made by the media.

We as a group have never been convicted of a crime. We obey the laws to the best of our ability ... even seat belt laws! We work hard at making a living in these difficult economic times. We hold ourselves personally accountable for our actions and do our best to instill these traits in our children. We educate ourselves on the responsibility of firearm ownership.

The best you can come up with is this irrational fear that gun owners will crack and run amok totally ignoring the fact that we are not like that. We as a group will do whatever it takes to restore balance. It is happening now in the courts, legislative bodies and our society as a whole. Is it a coincidence the areas with the most restrictive firearm laws have the highest crime rates? I think not.

You want to fix this problem? Focus on the root causes.

February 21, 2014 at 9:01 p.m.
moon4kat said...

Gun owners believe they are responsible. However, many are not because they do not or cannot commit to the care and vigilance required -- to repeatedly practice with the gun, to repeatedly review safety requirements, to clean the gun, to store the gun safely, to store the ammo safely, to teach young people to respect the dangers, or to get psychiatric treatment for unhinged paranoia.
I recently encountered hunters on a rural road. The adults struck up a conversation while a teen in the group kneeled on the ground. While talking, I realized the young man had his shot gun pointed right at me. Not intentionally, just negligently. And, negligence with firearms often causes death. The adults didn't notice the kid was pointing his gun at me until I did. I'm sure they would all regard themselves as responsible gun owners, even if I had been (accidentally) shot. We hear gun owners ranting a lot about their rights, but doing very little to curb irresponsible management of their deadly toys.

February 22, 2014 at 10:01 a.m.
aae1049 said...

The number one killer of all times is Democide.

February 22, 2014 at 8:58 p.m.
PlainTruth said...

roo you maybe 63 years in age but you, like most progressives think like a preschooler.

February 23, 2014 at 7:48 a.m.
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