At our home, the lights of the Christmas tree sparkle in the family room. Presents have begun to gather beneath its branches. The scent of holiday candles fills the room. Outside where the lights are strung from the eaves and wrapped around the railing of the front porch, it has chosen to snow today. A neighbor and her children, ages 5 and 6, or so, have built a snowman. I can see them from the window of my home office as I type this. Most Christmases are times of joy in our home. These last few days I can only think what it must be like to spend this season burying a child.
When I was ten there was another Christmas. The gifts that year included a bolt action .22 rifle. That wasn’t unusual for a boy in rural Wisconsin. You learn to shoot early in the country. With high school came five varsity letters. One was as a member of the state championship rifle team. Not the state “high school” championship, the state open championship. It was sponsored by the NRA. I was a proud member. Through the years came hunting trips, higher caliber rifles, two 12 gauge shotguns, one for hunting, the other for trap shooting, and a .357 handgun.
Hunting is no longer part of my life. I gave it up many years ago. Then, when I noticed that I hadn’t been trap shooting in years I sold the last of the long guns, the 12 gauge trap gun, at a yard sale. That’s right, private sale in the driveway to the first guy with 50 bucks. That was a perfectly legal transaction if anyone’s interested. But, it probably shouldn’t be perfectly legal if you’d like my honest opinion.
Following the Tucson shooting my lifelong pro-gun position began to crumble. What had once been reasons started to sound and feel more like rationalizing. The excuses were getting thinner and thinner. “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” No. That was wrong and deceptive. It should be “Guns don’t kill people; guns in the hands of people kill people.” It’s not easy to change a lifelong belief. And, it isn’t made any easier when doing it lands you in the company of some (not all) gun control proponents who don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.
Living in Arizona for five years was a position changing experience. Not just the shooting in Tucson, but living with gun nuts on a daily basis. The first time I saw a guy in a grocery store with a gun in an open holster, the thought going through my head was “if anyone is emotionally unfit to carry a firearm, it’s probably the kind of guy who would do it in an upscale grocery store.” No one would stand in the same line with him. We all knew the odds were clearly on the side of him being less than fully stable. I’m sure he thought he was quite the stud.
That was a shock, but it went from bizarre to scary when I first saw multiple men carrying guns in open holsters at a bar. You kidding me? Guns and alcohol? Didn’t someone once say that with freedom comes responsibility? Damn, these guys must have small d**ks. Open carry my ass, Sally; that’s just plain stupid and dangerous. So, as uninformed as some of the gun control proponents may be, the gun rights crowd isn’t exactly bursting their hat bands with brain power either.
So what are we going to do about this? What are we going to do to keep our children and grandchildren from being buried, dead with gunshot wounds, the week before Christmas. What are we going to do to make it safe to meet constituents outside a grocery store or go shopping at a mall or go to a movie or walk down the street?
One thing we shouldn’t do is reintroduce or pass the mis-named “Assault Weapons Ban.” Oh, you can pass it if you want I suppose. If it makes you feel good, Ok. But, it won’t do much good. Studies from the 10 years it was in effect agree that there is no discernible good that came of it. Some studies try to be kind and say there wasn’t enough time to assess its effectiveness. The Brady coalition makes a weak argument that it did something. But, if you look at the timeline charts, it’s pretty clear that there was no significant difference before, during, and after.
Besides it’s borderline dishonest. It doesn’t ban assault rifles. Those are military weapons that are either capable of automatic fire or bursts of automatic fire. The “Assault Weapons Ban” bans guns that “look like” assault rifles but operate like sporting rifles, i.e. semi-automatic.
The “Assault Weapons Ban” also gave Americans the false impression that it was banning mega clips that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. But, as Diane Feinstein admitted in an interview just days ago, her new “Assault Weapons Ban”, like the old one in effect from 1994 to 2004, is [her words] “prospective only.” That means it only bans new mega clips; it doesn’t outlaw the old ones. Well, last I heard there were about 24,000,000 of the old ones in private hands.
If the goal is to make gun control proponents feel good, the “Assault Weapons Ban” may be capable of passage at this point. If, on the other hand, the goal is to really do something about gun violence, the “Assault Weapons Ban” as currently constituted is remarkably weak tea. My opinion.
So, what can be done that really addresses the problem? Keeping in mind that there are an estimated 270,000,000 (that’s 270 million) firearms in private hands in the United States and that the current U. S. Supreme Court strongly supports the Second Amendment as a personal right [as opposed to a militia related right], here are a few suggestions. These are not easy and they don’t have cute misleading names, but they just might make a difference over time.
1. Form a viable and credible organization to take on the NRA. That requires money, leadership, commitment and a willingness to play the power game. My suggestion would be an organization whose primary goal is repeal of the Second Amendment. This serves two purposes. Confronted with such opposition, it could be possible to derive certain concessions from the pro-gunners as they try to avoid giving impetus to a repeal movement (i.e. threaten them right at their core). The second purpose is that the Second Amendment might actually be repealed some day, giving rise to real gun control reform.
2. Pressure the White House and Senators to nominate and confirm judges who recognize that Second Amendment rights are not absolute and that reasonable restrictions apply to the Second Amendment just as they do to the First Amendment and the right of privacy. The current Supreme Court gives lip service to this concept in McDonald, but they have yet to prove they mean it.
3. Engage in tangential attacks, rather than direct attacks on guns. “Arms” are constitutionally protected. Body armor for example, reportedly used in both Portland and Newtown, is not. How about outlawing the civilian use of targets that depict a human form?
4. Make guns uncool. This won’t be easy or fast. It was done with cigarettes and it has been done with drinking and driving. It is possible with guns, though long term.
5. Make guns wildly expensive through the taxing power. At the same time that new guns are made wildly expensive, start a “buy-back” program to purchase some of the cache of existing firearms. Pay too much if you have to, but get as many out of circulation as possible. As folks sell existing guns, which are then destroyed, and new guns carry exorbitant price tags, the net number in circulation declines.
6. Require registration and liability insurance for legal ownership. The key to this one is the liability insurance requirement and the additional cost impediment that it adds.
7. Speaking of liability, manufacturer liability needs to be reinstated. Gun manufacturers are currently shielded from most liability if one of their products is used to kill or maim. This would have to be tightly written to be Constitutional. But, anything that will scare religion into them will do. Gun dealers need to fear liability as well.
8. Close the gun show loophole that exempts gun show sales from background checks. And, while you’re at it, close the private sale loophole too. The technology exists if the will does.
9. Outlaw clips that hold more than 10 rounds. Not “prospective only”. Outlaw ‘em all, and give folks a six month moratorium to turn in the ones they have. Yeah, I know, “They’re coming to take our guns/clips”, right? But, if you’re serious, you have to have the courage to own that concept instead of being intimidated by it.
Well, there are a few ideas. Have at it in the comments section. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.