It's really a 'violence problem' A local sportsman's view on gun control
Mike Topping should be either a sportsman or environmentalist. He lives at the far end of Saucon Park, surrounded by a sea of green, even at the height of winter. As luck would have it, he is both. He is chairman of Northampton County's Open Space Committee and the president of the county's "Federation of Sportsmen," which consists of 17 clubs and over 7,000 members. His opinions are his own. He warns 7,000 sportsmen will have 14,000 opinions. In a wide-ranging interview over good coffee at his Saucon Park home, he spoke about the Second Amendment and the need for gun control.
According to Topping, the Second Amendment is the foundation of all of our individual freedoms. "They can all be set aside if we don't have the power to forcibly resist a government action we feel is wrong and illegal," he stated. As an example, he noted that the KKK would pass by the home of someone who possessed a shotgun.
Topping is also mystified by the clamor to ban assault rifles, i.e. semi-automatics. Those are rifles that will fire when the trigger is pulled without pumping or reloading. He points out that real assault rifles, i.e. fully automatic guns, are already illegal.
He also noted that it is illegal to use a semi-automatic rifle for hunting in Pennsylvania. They may only be used for target practice and personal protection.
"There's a certain amount of Madison Avenue behind these assault rifles," Topping states. "But if you take the mechanics out and put them into a nice wooden stalk, it will look more like a hunting rifle."
"That's a tough one," Topping said. He noted that the seven-bullet limit imposed by a recent New York law is completely unworkable because most gun manufacturers sell 10-bullet magazines with every type of gun.
"Ten is the magic number," Topping noted. "What they did in New York was done by people who don't know anything about guns."
The Obama proposal limits magazines to 10 rounds.
Gun show loophol, background checks
"We don't have that in Pennsylvania," says Topping, noting that a background check is still needed when guns are purchased at a gun show.
He supports increased scrutiny.
"Background checks should be as intrusive as possible," Topping said, noting that the "mental area" needs the most work. "Society has a right to be protected from persons who should not carry firearms."
A 'violence problem'
According to Topping, what people identify as a gun problem is really a "violence problem" that extends to video games and even toy guns.
"Personally, I don't think toy guns that look real should be sold," he said.
Topping noted that women are joining sportsmen clubs more than any other group precisely because there is a violence problem.
He would support increased penalties for gun law violations and agrees that more protection most be offered at any large gathering of people, from schools to hospitals.
Help for teachers
Although numerous details must be worked out, Hellertown Sportsmen want to offer their facilities to provide free training to Saucon Valley teachers.
"Any large institution should have people who have security training," Topping said.