Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Gun Laws - Some More Thoughts

We have a problem in our country. Well, we have lots of problems, but the one I want to address is the problem we have with people being killed as a result of gunfire.

In this country, since the Sandy Hook school massacre, there have been by some counting methods over 900 mass shootings. Of course, some will argue that we should use different counting methods, which gives us a number between 140 and 150.

During that same time period, there are by some counts over 32,000 people killed in this country by gunfire.

Those numbers are too big. No matter which numbers you use, those numbers are too big. Too many people are being killed by gunfire in this country - the statistics are comparable to some countries that are experiencing armed conflict (war).

I'm not interested in parsing the numbers. Maybe the ones I found online are off, and maybe you have better data. If we're going to parse numbers, the first questions I'm interested in asking would be, "How many people being killed by gunfire in this country is acceptable?"

Now as soon as we start talking about how many people die by gunfire, the conversation moves to the second amendment to the US Constitution (the assumption being, apparently, that government is planning to take away everyone's firearms). Of course, we'll have disagreements on the interpretation of the second amendment, particularly whether the right to keep and bear arms stands on its own, or whether that right in inextricably linked to the establishment of a well-regulated militia.

Then what happens is that individuals and groups seem to get entrenched in their position, calling for either more restrictions on firearm purchases and ownership or stating vehemently that we already have enough gun laws.

Fine. We disagree with each other. This is not the first time that's happened in anyone's life. Remember kindergarten? Remember learning how to negotiate the use of that one particular toy that two of you wanted? Some of us simply learned how to get the toy we wanted by yelling about it, or by simply taking it. On school playgrounds, those children are crybabies or bullies.

Those of us who learned conflict resolution in healthy ways learned how to listen to each other, and how to talk with each other. Surely by the time we get to be adults, we've discovered how to talk and listen, instead of whining and bullying (though to observe Congress, you might not think so).

So, no matter what the numbers are, I think we would all agree that something needs to change in our country in relation to how many people are killed by gunfire. If you don't think thousands of people being killed every year is problematic, you probably didn't read this far anyway.

I would propose the following:

1) Tighten the gunshow loophole. Set a limit on how many guns an individual is able to sell before they are categorized as a dealer. Maybe the number is 5 guns per month. Maybe it's 20 guns per year. Maybe it's a different number, but let's put a number to it so that the law actually has some teeth.

2) Restrict the sale of assault style and military style weapons. Unless a person is part of an assault team, or is in the military, I don't understand what reasonable use they'd have for that kind of weapon. And since we already restrict what kinds of firearms a person can own (I don't think it's legal for me to own anti-aircraft weaponry), this restriction is simply one of degree, not kind.

3) Restrict the size of ammunition magazines that citizens are permitted to own. If a person is truly and honestly worried about nine rounds not being enough to deter an intruder into their home, they either need better training in the use of firearms, or they have a reason to need police protection.

4) Require licensing, registration, training, and insurance for all gun owners. We do it for automobiles, we should be able to do that for firearms. Obviously some people wouldn't be able to pass the training. Some people don't pass driver's training either.

We don't allow those people to drive because we, as a society, have determined that they're not able to do so safely. If a person can't pass the training, they probably can't safely own a firearm ... and so probably shouldn't.

Obviously the simple fact of passing laws isn't going to force everyone to follow them. However, the reason we pass laws (ideally) is for the betterment of our society. In this case, I'd propose that we pass these laws in order to keep people safe.

Will everyone follow them? Of course not. We have laws on our books regulating the use of child safety seats in automobiles. Does everyone follow them? Of course not. Did the passage of those laws decrease the number of child deaths in car accidents? Yes it did. And for that reason, the laws are worthwhile.

If passing laws regulating firearms decreases the number of people who die from gunfire, then they're worth passing.


Some people, and maybe even some of you my seven readers, may disagree with me. That's fine. In fact, that's encouraged. I'm not so bold as to think I have thought through everything I need to consider. And I'm not so arrogant as to think I'm always right.

So please disagree with me. But instead of simply railing against this (or any other) proposal, I invite you to offer your own opinion about what needs to change. Because obviously something does.