Guns: Common Sense vs. Nonsense
Rarely a week or even a day goes by when we do not read or see a story concerning preventable deaths caused by firearms. Acts both criminally intentional and totally accidental are committed on a regular basis. Mass murders at schools, places of worship and shopping centers vie for space in the print media and airtime on broadcast media and cable alongside serial snipers, victims of domestic violence, cop killer ambushes, murder/suicides and every imaginable form of accident involving people of all genders, age groups, religions and mental states.
Many of these deaths and injuries are needless and highly preventable. Passing common sense legislation – or at least not passing laws that any person with even a modicum of common sense will see as disasters waiting to happen – could easily reduce their occurrence. The fact that our government has been so hesitant to break this cycle of preventable death and destruction is a testament to the undeserved power of the gun manufactures and their main lobbying tool – the NRA. That too many politicians fear losing their positions if they cross the NRA is testament to the fact that for far too long we have been letting the inmates run the asylum.
Every Constitutional Amendment contained in the Bill of Rights is considered to have reasonable limits. Freedom of Speech does not allow one to falsely yell “fire” in a crowded theater or instigate a riot. But to the radical guns rights advocates, there are no limits to the right to bear arms under the 2nd Amendment which they recognize as valid. They oppose laws that try to limit the types of guns available, the amount of ammunition that a clip can hold, the age of the user or the places in which a firearm may be legally possessed either openly or concealed.
Just about every other dangerous activity or item that can be a safety hazardous when used has come to be regulated to some degree. Food, medicines, alcohol, motor vehicles, appliances, you name it – all need to be inspected and determined to be safe, and often operators are required to meet certain qualifications to use them. Penalties are imposed for improper use of the items and some cannot be legally obtained by people who do not meet the criteria set by the government for their possession and use.
True, many states and localities, as well as the federal government. have passed legislation restricting certain people (convicted felons, for example) from legally possessing firearms. Certain types of weapons have been illegal for decades – fully automatic guns, for instance. Illegal weapons can still be obtained, and people who aren’t supposed to have them can still find ways of getting them. The same is true of illegal drugs and other contraband. People can also still drive a vehicle when they have exceeded the legal blood alcohol level. Not every crime can be prevented. But why fail to at least take reasonable precautions to limit the damage that may be caused and punish those who violate agreed upon limitations?
I have a problem with states that find it acceptable to require a passenger in a motor vehicle to wear a seatbelt, but refuse to require someone on a motorcycle to wear a helmet. Seatbelt laws are obviously not easily enforceable, just as cellphone usage while driving isn’t. I see people driving all the time talking or texting and getting away with it. Likewise, people obviously go into bars armed with guns. You read about the shootings in the paper on a regular basis. But is that a reason to pass legislation that specifically permits people to go drinking and carrying a loaded weapon? Guns and alcohol certainly do not mix any better than driving and alcohol do. Not allowing you to carry a gun everywhere you go under any circumstances is not a violation of your right to own and bear arms.
In the aftermath of major, highly-publicized shootings like the one involving Representative Giffords, the young children at Sandy Hook or the theater goers in Aurora, CO, much hand-wringing takes place, promises made to “do something” to prevent similar events from happening ever again, and the resulting legislation gets shelved or replaced by something that actually increases the danger rather than alleviating it. One example is to allow open carry in public places where no reasonable person is made to feel safer by the mere presence of firearms. These open-carry fanatics scare people, they don’t make them feel safer. We know that guns are so plentiful and easy to obtain that if we see a stranger openly carrying one we don’t know what to expect next.
The NRA has been famous for advocating increased ownership of and use of guns in the wake of such mass shootings. Militarizing police and schools does not make them safer. The more guns around, the easier it becomes for them to be used by someone who doesn’t own them. The more chances that accidents will happen like the kids who shoot siblings because they aren’t even old enough to realize what the gun is for or how to use it properly. Accidents will happen, but we needn’t invite them by exponentially increasing the number and capability of firearms present in any given situation. Car accidents still happen, but are far less likely to be fatal if we have licensing procedures, registration, speed limits, traffic lights and laws against impaired driving.
We do have some laws and regulations regarding ownership and use of deadly firearms. They are obviously not sufficient when it comes to preventing a large number of people from being killed or injured by them on a regular basis. Common sense legislation has been and will continue to be proposed in the future to try to limit the damage. We must elect leaders willing to pass legislation which makes it more difficult for me to wake up in the morning to news that someone, sane or not, has gone on a rampage with an automatic or semi-automatic rifle with 30 round magazines in a mall or a school or a courthouse and gunned down 5 or 10 or 30 people. I also would like not to be reading or hearing about people gunned down by family members in domestic disputes or due to being mistaken for an intruder in their own home.
The right to own and bear arms is also a responsibility to use those arms safely to defend oneself or loved ones or property and to prevent those weapons from being used for illegal purposes. Just as we restrict minors from buying and consuming alcohol or cigarettes, and have age and licensing requirements for operating motor vehicles, we should have common sense requirements for purchasing, possessing or operating a firearm. There is a time and place where weapons may be appropriate. We currently allow more times and places for their potential use than is absolutely necessary or even prudent. Other countries have found ways to break away from this gun culture which we have allowed to flourish openly for far too long. We can do the same without violating the spirit or the letter of the Second Amendment. Leaders must be elected who will stand up to the unreasonable demands of the gun manufacturers and we must be sure they are rewarded for doing so.
Just like the US claims that increasing the number of countries with access to nuclear weapons reduces the safety and security of us all, the prevalence of ever-increasing numbers and capabilities of individual firearms in the hands of those who either have not demonstrated the ability to use them appropriately or have demonstrated a proclivity to intentionally use them to harm others is a recipe for continued disaster like those we have repeatedly confronted for years. The time has come to abandon the nonsense and use some common sense to prevent the senseless loss of life of innocent men, women and children in the future.
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