It’s time for a serious discussion about violence

February 16, 2013

The debate over gun control has reached a fever pitch, and I believe it is time to step back and take a look at what the problems are and if there is anything that can be done to make us a safer society.

It would be very difficult to convince a parent who has lost a child because a mentally disturbed person used a so-called assault rifle to kill that child and 19 others, that the government should not ban the future sale of these weapons. It would be equally difficult to convince Ted Nugent to stop shooting off his guns and his mouth. There is nothing anyone can say or do to change the minds of folks who have such an emotional attachment to this subject.

What I would like to see is a serious discussion of all the factors that have created a society where violence is an accepted solution to many problems. Guns, knives, baseball bats and many other items are simply tools used by people who have reached a point where violence seems to be the only solution.

Most of the violence associated with guns is caused by drugs such as alcohol, meth, cocaine and heroin. The distribution of the illegal drugs creates gangs that fight over territory, be it a street corner or the entire network. Booze has probably resulted in more murders than any other drug. While rifles may be used at times, it is the handgun that finds use in the vast majority of these incidents.

I believe we have proven beyond any reasonable doubt that stopping the drug trade is impossible. So long as there are customers willing to pay for illegal drugs, those drugs will be made available for a price. The money raised by these operations is so immense that it is possible for the dealers to find law enforcement officers and politicians who can be persuaded to cooperate for sums of money that are but pocket change to the drug businesses.

This overwhelming wealth also makes it easy for drug gangs to recruit young people from impoverished conditions to join their forces. When your life is one of misery and pain, the easy money made by selling drugs is a very effective lure.

Family disputes such as the shooting in the New Castle County Courthouse are all but impossible to stop. These have been going on since Cain and Abel and will continue so long as people inhabit the Earth.

Then we have incidents such as Sandy Hook, Aurora and Phoenix. In all of these cases, mentally deranged men had access to guns that they used to kill many people. Due to the number of casualties, the public is shocked and demands action. Politicians respond to these demands by proposing laws that most likely will have little or no effect on any of the underlying problems.

Currently, there are millions of guns on the streets of America. Most of them are owned by law-abiding people who use them for hunting, target shooting and home protection. The rest are in the hands of criminals who use them to carry out their illegal activities.

The problem is: How do we keep guns out of the hands of these criminals? The short answer is we can’t. No matter how many laws we pass, criminals will be able to get guns.

Perhaps we can make the acquisition of guns more difficult by preventing straw buyers from supplying guns to people who cannot pass a background check. We can require all gun purchases to go through background checks and set up a more comprehensive system for coordinating information between government and private agencies in an effort to find people who have mental health problems. The courts must help as well. When someone is convicted of a firearms violation, they must go to jail. When they return to society, they must be required to register as firearms violators in the same manner as sex offenders are required to do. Failure to register would be a parole violation that would land them back in jail.

I read the Enforcement Blotter from Fish and Wildlife, and almost every week there are people arrested for possession of a firearm by someone prohibited. This begs the question: If someone prohibited from possession of a firearm is in possession of a firearm, how did they get it? We need to be able to find the people who supplied the guns in these cases and arrest them as well.

There are no easy answers to violence in our society. We can create laws that my help in the short run, but we cannot create laws that will change the criminal mind or make the country completely safe. It may sound cruel, but so long as we live in a free and open society, there will be fellow citizens who will kill some of us.

  • Eric Burnley is a Delaware native who has fished and hunted the state from an early age.  Since 1978 he has written countless articles about hunting and fishing in Delaware and elsewhere along the Atlantic Coast.  He has been the regional editor for Salt Water Sportsman, Field and Stream, Outdoor Life and the Fisherman Magazine.  He was the founding editor of the Mid-Atlantic Fisherman magazine.  Eric is the author of three books; Surf Fishing the Atlantic Coast, The Ultimate Guide to Striped Bass Fishing and Fishing Saltwater Baits.  He and his wife Barbara live near Milton, Delaware. Eric can be reached at

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