Guest Column: A wake-up call on crime, guns in the U.S.

01/19/2013 8:00 AM |

In the wake of the horrific Newtown, Conn., mass murders on Dec. 14, a recent but nonlethal event occurred Dec. 29 in Riverhead. A 24-year-old man and his 19-year-old girlfriend were robbed at knifepoint after leaving the Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center. The response to events like these should be to loosen, not tighten, concealed handgun carry license laws as we proceed down this rather dangerous road. Not only the road traveled by pedestrians along East and West Main Street in downtown Riverhead, but roads across America.

When Donna and I first applied for our pistol licenses, the matter was, and still is, in a proverbial “gray area.” One faction of law enforcement stated that the licensee could carry concealed from home, stop to pick up a container of coffee, a sandwich or pizza at a deli or some such eatery, go to the bathroom if need be, then proceed to the shooting range for practice. Another faction of law enforcement stated that this in-between stopover on the way to the range or upon return is not allowed. Without getting into specifics, the Pistol License Handbook, Office of the Sheriff, County of Suffolk is, for all intents and purposes, ambiguous.

It is a fact that a faction of law enforcement officers wish civilians did not have carry type licenses, period, be they Sportsman’s Carry or Full (Business Type) Carry licenses and regardless of the applicant’s passing a thorough background check. The word “Carry” carries the connotation and denotation that you can carry, and we’re back to the “gray area” of ambiguity cited above.

Conversely, there is a faction of law enforcement that feels quite differently, realizing that a properly trained civilian with a concealed legal handgun license and a loaded weapon on his or her person has the ability to diffuse a potentially volatile situation, such as a perpetrator brandishing a weapon and/or exhibiting deadly force. There is a big difference between these two examples, and a responsible armed citizen must know the difference.

Keep in mind that New York State’s handgun license screening is among the most thorough and strictest in the nation. Here is my thesis: Licensed handgun “Carry” holders should be allowed to carry concealed, 24/7.

If a licensed handgun holder was picking up a pizza after dark (let alone at 4 p.m., when Nick Galioto and his girlfriend had just left the Long Island Aquarium and were robbed at knifepoint of both their wallets and cellphones) it doesn’t really matter if it’s in a dangerous downtown Riverhead area or the affluent, tranquil town of Newtown, Conn., where 26 lives were claimed by mass murderer Adam Lanza. Here is my underlying motif: It’s not purely a matter of more gun control that we need in this country. There is the need for government agencies via law enforcement to effectively work with mental health agencies to control potential threats. This is, of course, easier said than done because the present laws surrounding these issues are the laws that must be changed and then monitored. We are at war on several fronts in this great country. The best we can do as responsible citizens at this moment in time is to protect ourselves by arming ourselves. The police are not omnipresent. The police could not help Mr. Galioto and his girlfriend on Long Island. The police could not help 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Take the time to look up a website called Front Sight. They’re all about firearms training. They are the very best in this country. If you know Donna and me, you know we impart sound advice. Law enforcement agencies throughout this country working in concert with Front Sight could, and would, properly train and prepare citizens to protect themselves as well as responsibly defend and take back this nation that we are gradually losing on several fronts. Next, take the time to write your legislators and tell them to wake up — fast.

Riverhead resident Robert Banfelder is a thriller novelist, outdoors writer and co-host of Cablevision TV’s “Special Interests with Bob & Donna”