It’s been ten days since a presumably deranged man shot and killed 58 people and wounded nearly 500 more in Las Vegas. I’ve waited what I consider to be a respectful period of time before taking up the topic. It’s now time to start talking about what we can do about the astronomical number of gun deaths in this country.
The first thing that needs to be done is to gather information about gun violence and deaths. Back in the 90s, a law was specifically passed that forbade the CDC from studying or gathering data on gun injuries or deaths. That’s just plain crazy making. How can any kind of policy be devised without data? The law needs to be repealed, and data needs to be collected. We need to stop the knee-jerk responses every time the gun debate comes to the fore and actually base the discussion on real data.
Next, we need to take a good hard look at the second amendment. Up until very recently, there was no individual right to carry interpreted into the second amendment. It wasn’t until a small group of extremists began making the case that it even became a thought. Now, after decades of grooming, there are jurists who have now suddenly found an individual right to carry in there.
So, fine. Let’s just agree for the sake of argument that the second amendment really does include a right for an individual to carry. None of the Bill of Rights is absolute. One cannot use the freedom of speech as a cover to incite violence or to yell ‘fire’ in a theater. One cannot use the freedom of religion to practice human sacrifice. A judge can sign a warrant for a person’s dwelling to be searched. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point.
There is no reason to believe that the second amendment is sacrosanct. Some limitations can be expected. The question is what kinds of limitations make sense without violating the spirit of the amendment. I think we can use some of the limitations found within the other amendments as a guide. Here are some I propose:
- Limit the ability of violent people to legally buy guns.
The way things stand know, most states forbid people who have committed felonies from owning or handling guns. It’s a crude way of preventing criminals from having guns. Here’s the problem with that: The vast majority of violent crimes are prosecuted or pleaded down to misdemeanors. Meanwhile, there are tens of thousands of perfectly non-violent people who have a felony on their records. From a public safety standpoint, limiting access to guns for non-violent people makes little sense.
What makes more sense is to restrict access for anybody convicted of a violent offense, whether a misdemeanor or a felony. The conviction part is necessary, because due process is necessary before a person’s rights can be stripped.
- Restrict access for severely mentally ill people who are reasonably likely to be violent.
What this does not mean is that anybody who suffers from or has suffered from a mental illness would be banned from owning guns. Most people with What it does mean is that there would be due process by which a person could be put on a list that could be checked in a background check. Somebody with simple depression wouldn’t be blocked, but somebody with psychotic depression could be. There would also be a process to get off the list if a mental illness is resolved.
- Require gun safety training for anybody who owns a gun.
Nobody should be able to use a lethal weapon without training on how to handle and store it safely. This doesn’t have to be an impediment to access. The NRA has a number of gun safety courses. I think it would be a good idea to teach gun safety in schools again. [Yes, believe it or not, some schools used to teach gun safety.] Most victims of accidental shootings are young.
- Defang the NRA.
The single largest impediment to common sense gun reform in this country has been the extremist leadership of the NRA. It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when they represented the views of all gun owners. Now, they represent the views of a small minority who care nothing about people. They only care about enriching the gun industry. The NRA needs to be taken back. How do do that? Every sane gun owner needs to join the NRA and then vote. Vote to get rid of the nut jobs running it and install a leadership that represents sane, gun-owning Americans again.
- Require people who want to own semi-automatic weapons to serve either as police officers or to serve a stint in one of the branches of the military.
There is no better training for handling weapons as lethal as semi-automatics than the US military or police forces. Given that semi-automatic weapons serve just one useful purpose, people who want to use them should earn that responsibility. If you’re bad-ass enough to shoot off a semi-automatic weapon, you’re bad-ass enough to serve as one of America’s finest. I think serving in such a capacity would teach the appropriate level of respect. They aren’t toys. They are killing machines and should be respected as such.
These are my thoughts on the subject. Please feel free to share your own.