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St. Croix County District Attorney argues for 'meaningful' gun restrictions

Guest column by St. Croix County District Attorney Eric Johnson

It's time. It's time to enact and support meaningful and effective gun control and registration. It's time to recognize that the free-for-all in guns has contributed to the violence in our society. It's time to realize that restrictions on assault weapons and limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds are reasonable restrictions.

It's time to recognize that banning armor-piercing bullets to anyone but the military and law enforcement makes common sense. And finally, it's time to stand up to the well-financed, highly organized and politically intimidating extremist views of the NRA that polls show even a majority of their 4 million members don't agree with. It's time.

Some statistics to consider: On average, there are more than 20 shootings a year in the United States with more than four victims. On average, there are more than a 100,000 people shot or killed annually with a gun in the United States. The firearm homicide rate in the United States is 19 times higher than the 22 other populous high income countries combined. A gun in the home makes it 22 times more likely that the gun will be used for a suicide (or attempted suicide), a homicide or an unintentional shooting than used in a self-defense shooting. People in possession of a gun are five times more likely to be shot in an assault. Forty percent of all gun sales are on the secondary market where background checks are not required.

Gun advocates rely on the second amendment to argue against reasonable restrictions, registration and background checks. This is an extreme and self-serving interpretation. The founders of our country and writers of the constitution did not create the second amendment to prevent reasonable restrictions on assault weapons and 40 round magazines that can be purchased by anyone for approximately $26 dollars.

It's hard to imagine that Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who disagreed on almost everything, would disagree with background checks, registration and limits on semi-automatic weapons with 40 round magazines that could kill 20 children in minutes. In addition, the Supreme Court has ruled that while the Second Amendment preserves the right of gun ownership, the Court also ruled that reasonable government restrictions are permissible and do not violate the amendment.

I have been a prosecutor for over 30 years and have prosecuted thousands of cases. I have spoken to hundreds of law enforcement officers and other prosecutors from all parts of the country. The overwhelming consensus is that the lack of regulation on firearms has made their jobs more difficult and more dangerous. We need to listen to these people who are on the front lines and paid to protect our community. We need to stand up against the minority extreme view that argues any restrictions on firearms is a restriction of their gun rights.

As district attorney, my responsibility is to make St. Croix County a safe community and prosecute crimes. Meaningful gun restrictions, registrations, required firearm training, and effective background checks can make our community safer. As elected officials and leaders in law enforcement, that is our job.

It's time.