First, let me clarify something. Every law-abiding, competent American has the inviolable and constitutionally guaranteed right to own a firearm(s). There is no realistic scenario in which this country should ever deprive its citizens of this right.
I, and many other Americans, own weapons. I keep them in a responsible manner. As a retired police officer, with a simple qualification through my agency, I could carry a concealed weapon in most of the US (with some exceptions.)
I choose not to. I weighed the potential for interceding in a criminal act to defend myself or others against the possibility of worsening the problem for responding Police Officers and decided the weapon is best left at home for self-defense.
This is my personal decision. Others feel differently, and they can hold that position if they accept the consequences of their actions.
In this latest flare-up of the gun debate, there is ample blame to go around for each side. The Republicans and Democrats are equally complicit in the inertia of meaningful solutions.
Fringe organizations, with well-organized public relations campaigns, impose an inordinate amount of influence on the public discourse when measured against their membership. They funnel money to the most influential politicians to ensure inaction on effective gun legislation.
Reducing the effect of lobbyists in government would go a long way to restoring faith in the broken system. Decisions like Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010) have taken away the will of the people and placed it in the hands of those with large amounts of money to buy a government of their choosing. Both Democrats and Republicans stand with their hands out and their souls for sale.
This influence leads to the demise of rational discourse and fosters moronic public position pronouncements.
The cry of “why punish law-abiding Americans when this is a mental health issue?” is a convenient mask to the reality. “If we take guns from law-abiding citizens, only criminals will have guns” is the other favorite.
Both are disingenuous.
One because any attempt to impose more restrictions on gun sales is blocked by the same groups and the other because the Parkland Florida shooter, like most of the others, had no criminal record.
Keep in mind that Dylan Roof, the church shooter in Charleston, SC, was judged competent to stand trial. While he clearly has mental health issues, he was still capable of knowing the difference between right and wrong.
Finding a balance between regulating access to firearms with adequate control over those with “mental health issues” and due process is no easy task. Which is not to say it is impossible.
We already have regulations that control handgun sales; age requirements, background checks and waiting periods. Each of these may need improvement in their effectiveness, but they have a demonstrable effect on keeping guns out of the wrong hands.
Laws prohibit most from owning fully-automatic weapons. These restrictions are in place because of the inherent deadly nature of such firepower. There is a measurable difference between a bolt action rifle designed to hunt and a weapon that fires with each pull of the trigger from a high capacity magazine.
Both are deadly, yet differ through the inherent nature of their purpose and capability.
The law can both recognize the need to restrict access to a specific type while protecting access to others. Just like we do with automatic weapons or short-barreled shotguns.
Both sides block any meaningful progress in their extreme positions. Some would like to ban all weapons, and some would relax all regulations. One side sees disarming all citizens as the solution, and the other sees arming them as a protective measure.
Millions of Americans, myself included, have been around guns our whole life and never once considered killing someone at random. With 300 million guns in civilian hands, outlawing guns would just create more criminals through no fault of their own and tear this country apart.
To say we can place no restrictions on the type or capability of firearms available or require licensing, registration, and demonstration of competence to have such weapons is equally foolish.
This is more than an issue of banning guns or restricting rights. It is a complex social issue. One element is the decline of personal responsibility for our actions. We’ve assigned a psychological cause to unruly behavior and medicated ourselves out of personal responsibility. That is a problem that will take decades to correct.
Another tendency is to use the “what about…” argument to derail the discussion. Some argue a quantity issue; drugs and cars kill more people than guns. Or they inflame the issue by tossing in other social issues i.e. abortion.
The argument that the relative number of deaths by guns is somehow less deserving of our attention is ridiculous. Or that we are ignoring other issues and focusing exclusively on guns. More nonsense.
And, since most supporters of gun rights wrap themselves in the Constitution, they forget that the law is well-settled on abortion rights. Why is one constitutional aspect inviolate and the other subject to review?
Those who would ban guns are no better. They trudge out gerrymandered statistics to support their cause. The number of shootings in schools is inflated to include incidents on school property when no students were present or those that occur near schools. Why? Isn’t one incident of a single death in a school shooting enough to spark action?
Our immediate problem is obvious. There is a fire raging in this country. We are nothing but paralyzed spectators to a blaze consuming our fellow Americans. We stand around looking for who started the fire, rather than putting it out.
Prevention, our long-term goal, is more elusive than most would admit. And more critical. Addressing this problem will take a combination of immediate, yet measured, actions and working toward long-term prevention.
We have a choice. Fight the fire and save lives, or wait until there is nothing left and we’re all firing Kalashnikovs in the air to celebrate.