In recent months we have watched in horror as a number of people, most often mentally disturbed people with histories of mental illness, have used firearms to kill large numbers of people. I, like any other normal person, have been appalled and sickened by these tragedies. In the weeks since Sandy Hook Elementary the gun control debate has raged anew and with good reason. I have established myself as a shooter, firearms collector, and proponent of the Second Amendment and the right to safe and responsible gun ownership.
As such I am in complete agreement that changes must be made. Those changes must be made in a way that has never been attempted before. Gun ownership has always been an issue where almost every person is either very for or very against possession of guns by civilians. A tiny number on both sides have always been aware that guns can be part of life here in the United States while still keeping us safe from their illicit use. We are not fence sitters, we believe that with compromise federal laws can be enacted that would drastically cut the number of weapons in the hands of criminals and the mentally ill while only infringing on the rights of those like me a small amount.
I am one of those people. I am looking for other such people from both sides of the argument, but to be honest it's a difficult task. As you read this the government on every level from state all the way to the White House are gathering ideas to impose new laws. If we allow the zealots from either side to have a say in this fight, everyone will loose. I'm not blind to it even on my own side of the debate.
I am a gun enthusiast. I spend a lot of time trying to teach people the difference between those like me and real gun nuts. An enthusiast does not waste time spouting slogans that end in, "...my cold dead fingers!", or have bumper stickers stating, "Keep Honking, I'm reloading!". We don't call people names or make threats. We treasure our Second Amendment rights, and we respect the tools they govern. We preach safety and respect and we practice what we preach. We try to educate rather than argue. We can have a discussion without resorting to yelling paranoid propaganda about tyranny and government agents storming our homes or witty little slogans like, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people!".
The anti-gun nut can be rooted out easily simply by introducing logical, factual topics of conversation. The moment you do so they revert to third grade name calling such as, "Well you just want to be able to kill people!", and "All gun owners are just uneducated rednecks!", or they will ignore your facts and pick apart your grammar and punctuation.
Perhaps I defy the norm as do all the people I shoot with. I hold three college degrees. I'm a successful small business owner. I may not have perfect spelling but I can assemble nouns, verbs, and a handful of adjectives well enough that I get paid to do so. I am diligent in my research so as not to pull random facts and statistics out of my backside when making an argument.
Here, let me give you an example, and in so doing set the stage for some ideas that stand a chance of addressing the real problems being ignored with feel good gun control legislation. I am aware that any statistics garnered from the NRA will hold no weight with the anti-gun nuts, so these all come from government or government sponsored agencies.
Per the Department of Justice (with statistics provided by CDC):
Between 1987 and 1992 an average of 83,000 people per year employed a firearm to deter a crime. This number has
not changed remarkably since. The latest figured I could find (2010) compiled by the CDC put firearms deaths in the
U.S. at 31,672 of which, if historical data is any indicator, over half of those would be suicides. That would mean that
more than four times the number of people were helped by guns than hurt. As a comparison more people were
killed in car accidents (33,687) and even poisoning (42,917) than by guns.
20% of those using a gun defensively were injured opposed to 50% using any other or no weapon at all.
During the same time period the vast majority of the criminals committing crimes using a gun were between 16 and 24 yrs.
Per the National Institute of Justice:
Those conducting the study openly stated that assessing the impact of an assault rifles ban on crime was nearly
impossible due to the fact that so few assault rifles were used in the commission of crimes.
1% or less of all crimes are carried out with assault rifles.
Now we have the President and legislators at every level of state government hustling to be the first to offer their grand solutions to this problem in the form or rapid implementation of gun control laws that will have only one immediate effect. It will almost guarantee their reelection. In New York, Mayor Mario Cuomo has ramrodded a bill through the state that opens the door for all manners of mischief. I am not a gun nut who is going to start mapping out the evil plan to take all our guns, but the wording of this new law cracks open the door for measures not far from it. His law redefines an assault weapon as, "...any firearm that shares even one characteristic with military style weapons...". If we look at that statement broadly, do "military style weapons" not have a barrel? Sights? A trigger? A firing Pin? It may seem drastic, but if you think like a politician...yeah. Provision 14 of the proposed new federal law dictates that all gun owners must register ALL guns, then must reregister those same guns every two years. Failure to do so will result in a search warrant being issued for your home and possible arrest if you can not prove you legally sold any firearm previously registered in your name. At the risk of sounding paranoid this is a step toward disarmament. All across the country these laws are being drafted. The horrific incident on Newtown has ignited a fury of public support for the banning of assault rifles even though an assault rifle was not used in commission of this crime! In fact it was handguns that were used. The rifle was found locked in the trunk of the mans car.
I have definite thoughts on legislation covering all aspects of the acquisition and ownership of guns, but we'll get to that in a moment. What needs to be discussed even more than how to regulate guns without violating the Second Amendment...must be all the other major contributing factors to this recent rash of wholesale slaughter. It is my opinion that the ownership of guns by those like me, who obey every law, while needing to be dealt with, is far from the top of the list.
Men have been killing one another since the first rudimentary civilization was formed. One of the vast differences between then and now is how fast the news of it is disseminated, how, and by whom. We get our news today within minutes of its occurrence, and every media outlet has its own political stance. Columbine to Newtown we have the images of these killers, most of them people who suffer from some catastrophic melt down or mental illness, splashed across the front page of web, print, and broadcast media. Has it occurred to no one else that this wide spread glorification of these events is helping fuel them? A young man in Connecticut, a sufferer of depression and mental illness, already upset enough to consider his own end, watches the news and sees story after story about a kindred spirit gunning down innocent movie goers in Aurora, Colorado. He learns about a young man much like himself, alone, severely introverted, misunderstood, and now everyone knows his name! He isn't a nobody any more! If he can become a "celebrity" why can't I, he wonders. In the pre-internet days young men like these would have simply taken their own lives. Media offers them a chance to be what they never were in life...in some twisted ways, popular. He will go out in a blaze of glory, and all will know him! The media feeds this cycle, when in reality they should by burying such news in a single column inch on page six. If we let these people know that all that awaits them is a guestless funeral and obscurity they might suffice with just taking their own lives, or better yet...getting help.
You may wonder why I brought up that last statistic from the DoJ regarding the most common age group for men committing gun violence. I'm addressing something that can not, on most levels, be regulated by any law. No democracy can regulate the core values involved in raising a child.
When a child is raised to expect immediate gratification it becomes the norm. When you raise that same child with absolutely no discipline that child will reach adulthood without ever coming to understand that there are consequences to actions both good and bad. Allow that same child to believe that they are entitled to anything they wish without earning it and they will think it acceptable to take what they wish. Let them think that all they desire is theirs for the taking without also teaching them that they must work for it and you have created a young adult who thinks it totally acceptable to take what they desire. Raise a child in this manner and you have created a young adult who would shoot a teacher over a bad grade, beat a person for a cellular telephone, or kill no matter how small the slight. What I have just described is not only common, but is quickly becoming the norm. There is a vast difference between allowing a child to develop their independent character and raising a child who will grow up to take what they want with no compunction as to how they do so. You have a child who will kill his or her own parent for something as trivial as taking away a phone or a video game. You have a child who will kill a teacher for a deserved "F" or a classmate who humiliated them.
You have raised a killer.
Add to the mix how many children are medicated for nonexistent conditions, who often become addicted to those unnecessary medications, or who are left untreated for real illnesses by parents afraid to admit their kids are something less than perfect. We've become a society obsessed with raising little Kens and Barbies, young girls so weight obsessed they dread a scale before reaching puberty and boys doing crunches before they understand that a six pack isn't just Coca-Cola. They are pushed to compete academically yet have parents who buy grades and turn a cheek when their little genius cheats or plagiarizes. Until the time comes when parents want to instill real ethics in their kids, will teach them right from wrong, and that real consequences do exist more of these children will grow to be what we're seeing today from Aurora to Newtown.
So there is my first suggestion. It is not a legislation but an plea. Let's go back to raising children instead of simply feeding them until they're of age and turning them loose on the world.
As for legislation, no, I do not pretend to have all the answers. I agree with the sentiment that current laws are unenforceable, but not for lack of trying on the behalf of law enforcement. The simple fact is that there are too many laws in too many places, and often they are in conflict. Therefor it is my first suggestion that every firearm related law in every state be wiped from the books. We need a clean slate of federal laws.
First in the licensing of law abiding adults to be licensed to carry a concealed handgun. Right now if you have a concealed handgun permit in Georgia and plan to drive to, say, Idaho, you will cross at least several stated in which you can be arrested, because your Georgia CCW is only so mush toilet paper in most other states. We need a federal CCW, issues on a "shall issue" basis, so that I don't have to worry about being a criminal as soon as I cross a state line.
Then...back round checks. They are necessary and should be carried out with every firearms transfer. When I say every I refer to new sales, used, consignment, gun show, private sale, as well as bequests in a will. Any time a gun changes hands it's important to know who is receiving it. Though it will raise a huge outcry from both sides it is my firm belief that a standard back round check should include at least a valid summary of a potential buyers mental health records. It would require making changes to the Privacy Act of 1976, but so be it. I would gladly submit to such a check if doing to for every potential buyer meant saving lives.
Another contributing factor in many of these crimes is how easily these weapons are obtained. In many cases these guns are taken by their rightful owners by means of theft or violence. Hence I would see mandatory federal safe storage regulations. I am familiar with the first argument against such acts, and I agree that short of a door to door check these laws are mostly only enforceable after a tragedy occurs. The solution is simple, elegant, and some might argue, extreme, but the deterrent value is obvious. If a persons firearm is stolen due to lax storage and that gun is then used in a violent crime of any sort then the owner that can not prove adequate storage, or is found then with similarly unsecured weapons, should then face charges mirroring those against those who committed the crime.
I do not have all the answers. I am a simple man who believes owning guns is a right, but a right baring massive responsibility. I own my guns with the belief that, no, not everyone should own a gun. I keep my guns in such a manner that it would take a determined criminal a minimum or five hours, a blow torch, and a knowledge of high end electronics to even get a hand on them. I allow one person and one person only to touch those guns, and that's Sarah, my wife. I believe firmly in compromise, and that a major overhaul of the laws allowing that ownership is long overdue.
...and I am seeking those not only on my side of this argument, but those of opposing views who believe that with that compromise responsible gun ownership can exist in this great land!
I state now, for the record, that I will abide by any laws passed.
I just pray those laws do not spit in the face of those men who wrote the great document that formed the United States.
...and the many men who died so that that document could become something more than words to defy a king.