Tighter gun laws: If not now, when?

gun
(Photo: AP)

In the wake of the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, last week, there has been a lot of soul-searching and discussion about the nation’s gun laws. It didn’t seem to matter that mourning was, for a while at least, more appropriate than ratings grabs and political posturing. Commentators and politicians couldn’t wait to have their say on gun control. And as surely as the sun rises in the east, gun ownership was defended by the NRA — sometimes in grotesque statements that verged on blaming the victims for not having been armed and ready to defend themselves.

To the NRA and its supporters: Don’t tell non–gun owners you have a right to own guns while denying them the right to be free from guns and the danger they (and possibly you) pose. Only some 30 percent of Americans own guns. They have that right. But that means 70 percent of Americans don’t own guns. They have that right, and they need to assert it. The only reason we don’t have stricter gun laws is money — the money the National Rifle Association and its supporters spend to influence politicians and buy votes in Washington.

Lawmakers have limited the purchase of pseudoephedrine (brand name Sudafed) because it can be used to make meth, the purchase of fertilizer because it can be used to make bombs, nail clippers on planes because they can be used to attack pilots, and tape measures in court houses because they can be used to strangle guards. Those same lawmakers should also limit the purchase of firearms because they can be used to shoot people. All it takes is a little political fortitude.

We need some strict new laws governing the purchase, ownership, and use of firearms. And don’t say it’s too late; there are already too many guns out there. We may not be able to retrieve all the guns in the hands of criminals and irresponsible or incompetent individuals, but we can certainly make it more difficult for them to get guns in the future. If we don’t, we’re little better than enablers. And don’t argue that tighter laws will never stop the lone wolves. We know we can’t stop all of them, but we can certainly make it harder for them to succeed. When the problem in society is too many guns, the solution is not more guns, as the NRA argues; the solution is fewer guns and tighter controls.

Here are some suggestions for lawmakers to consider:

  • Ban the sale of assault weapons.
  • Ban any clips or magazines larger than the minimum for any gun.
  • Ban the purchase of police- or military-grade ammunition such as armor-piercing, hollow-point, etc.
  • Ban the online sale of guns and ammunition. Anyone who wants these items badly enough must at least drive to the nearest retail outlet to get them.
  • Ban the ownership or possession of more than, say, four guns, except for licensed collectors or retail merchants.
  • Limit the number of guns that can be purchased within a given period of time to, say, one per year. No fast stockpiling of weapons.
  • Require thorough background checks and waiting periods for all gun purchases. No impulse purchases.
  • Require registration of any gun in working condition or that can be made workable.
  • Ban the possession of guns in public except as necessary to transport them to and from gun ranges or hunting areas. During transport, guns shall be unloaded and secured out of reach of the driver and passengers.
  • Eliminate carry permits. No civilian needs to be carrying a handgun in public. We have law enforcement officers for protection; we don’t need self-appointed vigilantes.
  • Ban guns in all public buildings and venues.
  • Ban guns in any establishment that serves or sells alcohol or other intoxicants.
  • Charge with gross negligence, including a stiff fine or jail time as appropriate, any adult who allows his or her gun to fall into the hands of a child, resulting in the death or injury of that child or anyone else.
  • If any gun used in the commission of a crime is traceable back to a registered owner who did not report that gun as lost or stolen, that owner shall be charged as an accessory to the crime.
  • Institute a lifetime ban on gun ownership or possession for anyone convicted of a crime or DUI, or with a history of mental illness, or who brandishes as gun as a means of intimidating or threatening another individual. Gun ownership is a right that should be contingent on the owner being a responsible adult; demonstrate that you’re not responsible and you give up that right.

To many gun owners, the right to bear arms is practically a religion. And that’s a useful analogy. The law says we can practice any religion we want, but we don’t have the right to impose it, its tenets, and its effects on anyone else. Gun owners should confine their religion to their homes, gun ranges, hunting areas, and churches. They should not be allowed to impose it on the rest of us.

Tighter laws would not deny and are not intended to deny responsible, law-abiding adults their constitutional right to own guns. But some reasonable controls are in order. They are, in fact, long overdue. If other civilized, modern societies can do without guns, so can the United States. We are well past the days when a “well regulated Militia” was “necessary to the security of a free State” and every man carried a musket.

Regaining control of our guns will be a monumental task, but that should not deter us. The task will only get bigger with time. We need to start now.

President Obama once said:

“… [T]here have been plenty of folks in Washington who’ve said that the politics is just too hard … Don’t do it now. My question to them is: When is the right time? If not now, when? If not us, who?”

He wasn’t speaking of gun control at the time but the reasoning is the same: If not now, when?

18 comments

  1. Ever since Kennedy’s assassination I have been waiting for your country to change your gun laws. Well, it will never happen. You will just keep killing each other. What bothers me is that we in Canada are taking up your example.

    1. Sorry, David. I just found this caught in my spam filter for some reason.

      It’s like a disease spreading across our common border, isn’t it? Sorry to hear it’s contagious.

    1. Yeah? I spent all of ten minutes pulling it out of the cobwebs of my mind. Scary how long it got, and how fast. Seems like there’s a range of things that could be done, if anyone would just grow a pair and get the legislation done.

  2. That the NRA continually opposes any gun laws AT ALL, ever, has always been a very confusing issue. Their motive appears to be nothing more than fanaticism. The only other motive would be monetary. Sure, they want to sell more guns, I get that. But tightening the laws to prevent people who shouldn’t have them from easily obtaining them? I think they’d be happy if the Government instituted a law requiring citizens to own a weapon or pay a penalty – maybe they could call that penalty a “tax.” Maybe they can work it into Obamacare as a “health defense” strategy.

    1. The way the NRA pitches it, carrying a gun is health insurance. Maybe, after all, there’s an issue the two parties can come together on.

      What’s scary about this now, locally, is that in the wake of the shooting, gun sales have soared. I’m wondering if that means the next time I go to a movie, most of the audience will be packing. That does not make me happy.

  3. Knowing that a large number of other law abiding citizens were in the same theater carrying weapons with me would be the best insurance possible against my being killed (or you being killed) by some deranged murderer.

    1. I don’t see how turning that theater into a circular firing squad would have made anyone safer. In the dark, no one would know who they were shooting at. And you keep forgetting this guy was wearing full body armor.

  4. It is doubtful that concealed carry guns would have made much difference in that dark theater.
    The delivery company didn’t notice the number and type of companies all the delivered boxes were from?…They keep track of Sudafed, and fertilizer/ammonia and other items Homeland Security has noted as potentially dangerous
    Many many of these ideas are already laws in certain states. I know for an absolute fact the last one is – in multiple states – but it is NOT ENFORCED – even when brought to the attention of law enforcement.

    1. It’s shocking to me that there wasn’t some system in place to alert authorities to the number of guns and amount of ammunition the Aurora gunman bought in a period of about two months. Four guns, including an assault rifle, and thousands of rounds of ammunition, plus a full suit of body armor, and no alarms went off? Or perhaps there is such a system and it didn’t think these purchases were unusual. That’s even scarier. Sounds to me like we’ve already given the bad guys carte blanche. But then, Operation Fast and Furious was ample evidence of the government’s shortcomings when it comes to gun control and tracking.

      1. All pretty unsettling. Unfortunately, I know way too much about existing gun laws – and the lack of/selective enforcement by authorities. Homeland security keeps telling us they are watching all of this …selectively, apparently. Guns across the border. Multiple systems broken.
        New story recently: Mr Wong who lives north of Houston is authorized to hold conceal carry license classes. He has been charged with fraudulent certification of LOTS of “friends and people he knew were capable/knowledgeable” – misrepresenting required hours of class and shooting practice at a gun range and handing them a “pass”. Great.
        Once again only the honest people follow the rules

        1. I wouldn’t trust Homeland Security to walk me across the street. As for Mr. Wong, who was in charge of certifying him!? Just one more example of why so many irresponsible people have guns.

          I’ll admit I know little about existing gun laws since I’ve never had any desire to acquire one. But it’s obvious something needs to be done to strengthen them and their enforcement. (However, I harbor no illusions of living long enough to see them fixed.)

    1. That’s about the way I’d imagined it. But the graphic certainly makes it crystal clear how heavily armed and armored he was. The quote at the bottom reflects my thinking too.

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