Casperson, Benishek weigh-in on gun control

MARQUETTE – Federal and state Republican lawmakers representing the Upper Peninsula have taken recent actions on proposed gun legislation.

State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, introduced a bill – now on its way to the full Senate for consideration – that would exempt information collected from registered gun owners and concealed pistol license holders from being made public under terms of the Freedom of Information Act.

“This is a step in the right direction for the privacy of gun owners,” Casperson said in a news release. “This bill closes a loophole so that personal information cannot be released in Michigan as it has been in the eastern portion of the country recently. Such disclosure is not only a threat to public safety and an invasion of privacy, but it serves no legitimate public service.”

In December, a New York newspaper published the names and addresses along with an interactive map showing the locations of permitted gun owners in several New York counties. This sparked outrage from gun owners who felt their privacy was violated and that they had become the target of anti-gun factions.

“This legislation will strengthen measures in Michigan’s current law to ensure that all gun owners’ personal information is not jeopardized by those looking to infringe on our Second Amendment rights,” Casperson said.

On the federal front, U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, was among 77 House Republicans who wrote a joint letter to President Barack Obama opposing new gun control measures.

Benishek said he is concerned “the viewpoints of America’s many law-abiding firearm owners were not taken into consideration in the president’s plan to pursue sweeping new control measures.

“I oppose the Obama Administration’s plan to limit the Second Amendment rights of law abiding gun owners in northern Michigan. Attacking our constitutional rights will not make our society any safer. We must ensure that citizens in northern Michigan – and throughout this nation – have the ability to protect themselves and their families.”

Benishek said he is an avid sportsman, gun owner and lifelong resident of northern Michigan.

“Like many Americans, I believe we need to have a national conversation about ways to prevent violence in our society. But I don’t believe this is done by disarming good people,” Benishek said. “As a doctor, I believe we need to look at mental health issues in this country. I think we can make important steps to stop criminals from hurting innocent people without taking away anyone’s Second Amendment rights.”

Obama’s “Now is the Time” plan states: “Most gun owners are responsible and law-abiding, and they use their guns safely. The President strongly believes that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to bear arms. But to better protect our children and our communities from tragic mass shootings like those in Newtown, Aurora, Oak Creek and Tucson, there are four common-sense steps we can take right now.”

Those steps included closing background check loopholes to keep guns out of dangerous hands, banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and taking other common-sense steps to reduce gun violence, making schools safer and increasing access to mental health services.

“While no law or set of laws will end gun violence, it is clear that the American people want action. If even one child’s life can be saved, then we need to act. Now is the time to do the right thing for our children, our communities, and the country we love,” the plan states.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.