Thursday, August 25, 2011


By Bob Confer

It’s quite the procedure to become licensed to own and carry a pistol in New York State. I was required to take a course about the safety and use of handguns. I was fingerprinted. I underwent a background check. Acquaintances were interviewed by the police regarding my mental stability and character. I had to pay the government a pretty penny for the permitting process.

Pit bull owners don’t face such challenges. They need only get their dog licensed for a small fee with their municipal government. That’s odd considering pit bulls are deadlier than my gun. My pistol is not dangerous by itself. It is not freethinking. It cannot act on its own. It just sits inanimately, a danger to no one or no thing unless I take control of it. Pits bulls are quite the opposite. They behave or react as they see fit. Depending on their temperament or how they were raised, they can pose a threat to both foe and friend, ready to turn at a moment’s notice, using their powerful jaws to maim or kill.

Despite that, anyone can own a pit bull. Take the example of the twenty-year-old who attended the same birthing class I did last month. During the “pets and your baby” portion he asked the teacher, “What should I do with my pit bull when the baby arrives? He’s already bit 10 people.” He then pointed to his girlfriend and said, “She wants me to get to rid of him. I don’t want to. He’s such a nice dog.”

Obviously, the kid is too ignorant to see the danger in his dog. His baby doesn’t have a chance with a father like that.

That brings us to licensing.

Pistol permits were introduced to theoretically promote public safety. Despite there being many good gun owners, there were a few bad apples who, through gunplay and murder, gave guns a bad name. So, the government devised a system whereby only good people can own pistols and the bad ones are left to break the law if they want a handgun and are punished severely when found in possession of one.

Likewise, there are some good pit bull owners out there. But, unlike good gun owners they’re actually outnumbered by the bad ones, the countless souls who use the dogs to fashion a sense of power, protect themselves from a dangerous lifestyle they chose to participate in or hide their own insecurities. In many cases, their dogs are a weapon: They are more conspicuous than a gun and serve as a signal that they are not one to be messed with.

Remember that pistol permits were also created to inhibit carelessness with guns. Supposedly, a trained and licensed individual would not be reckless with the gun in his home and the care he would take with it would prevent accidental shootings. Where is that litmus test for pit bull owners? How many people loosely control their dogs and think they’re a swell pet for families or neighborhoods? Think back to the father-to-be; is he someone who should have a pit bull in his home? Ponder the numerous attacks by free-roaming pit bulls that happen on innocent victims, from mail carriers to small children (most recently, the 10-year-old boy in Lockport who had his face ripped open by a pit bull as he was going door-to-door selling candy). Where was the care necessary to restrain such animals? No one should be put at risk by such a canine, especially one that was originally bred for capturing or fighting other creatures (including fellow pit bulls).

The answer is regulation. The animals and their owners should be heavily-regulated (extensive owner licensing and training, mandated insurance, limited ownership and more). Ohio is a perfect example of a proactive state, it having implemented law in 1987 that identifies pit bulls as vicious dogs and requires their owners to maintain $100,000 in liability insurance.

Even though it chooses to regulate everything under the sun, New York does not regulate pit bulls, even though they account for a third of all dog-bite fatalities and a similar amount of serious dog attacks. As a matter of fact, New York is one of just 13 states that actually prohibit breed-specific legislation. That has to change; if New York can have the gall to heavily mandate a Constitutional right (the right to bear arms), there’s no reason why it shouldn’t control dangerous breeds of dogs.

Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. E-mail him at


This column originally ran in the 29 August 2011 Greater Niagara Newspapers

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