Let’s get one thing straight: I’m not looking to change anyone’s mind. As has been the case in the last few posts, this is my opinion. I have come to enjoy writing as a kind of therapy for getting things out of my convoluted brain. And since I started this blog awhile back, I have an outlet on which to throw my opinions out there. Many of you will disagree, perhaps vehemently. I’m ok with that. I honestly don’t anticipate swaying you to my point of view, so please don’t try to sway me to yours.
Probably the most common argument I hear is ‘if you outlaw guns, then only outlaws will have guns’. First of all, I am not advocating outlawing guns, nor are most people in favor of sensible gun control. Are there fanatics that want to do house by house sweeps and melt down any firearm and bullet they come across? Of course. Just like there are fanatics on the other side that want to order a latte at Starbucks while having an Uzi hanging off their shoulder. They are both idiots that shouldn’t be given the time of day.
So, the premise of the ‘outlaw guns…’ statement is false at the outset. But, carrying the argument forward, has criminalizing the possession of narcotics completely halted those seeking out cocaine or heroin? Does a speed limit sign of 70mph keep people from going beyond that? Do DUI laws prevent people from getting behind the wheel after a night downtown? Obviously not. People break the law. It’s what we do. Some folk will find a way to snort nose candy, consistently drive 5-10mph over the speed limit (guiltily raises hand) or decide ‘I’m fine’ after their 7th shot of Jack Daniel’s. Doesn’t make it right, and the law should be evenly applied when they are caught.
Enforcement of those laws, and sometimes the law itself, is a real problem, however. In this most recent legislative session in Texas, there was a proposed amendment to the open carry law that would have prevented a police officer from asking to see the permit of the person openly carrying a firearm. Think about that for a minute: a police officer walks into a convenience store for a coffee and sees another customer with a 9mm on his belt. That customer is not acting suspiciously or doing anything out of the ordinary, but had that amendment passed, that police officer would not have been allowed to simply ask that person for their identification. The argument for that amendment was the gun-toting person was being inconvenienced and his rights were being violated. Never mind the fact that maybe the person was a convicted felon or was otherwise disqualified from owning a gun. If you wish to undertake the responsibility of carrying a weapon, then you should be prepared to deal with 30 seconds of inconvenience of being asked if you deserve that privilege.* Thankfully, that amendment was not successful, due in large part to police officers speaking out against it, but the open carry bill was passed.
At this point, I should logically spend a couple hundred words on how the funding of our law enforcement efforts should be re-examined, from training to the raw numbers of police officers, so that the enforcement of laws actually takes place the way it should. While respecting the great job the police do on a day to day basis, most everyone admits there are some issues there. I’ll leave it at that.
Growing up in a rural part of Virginia, going to college at Virginia Tech and living in Texas for the last nine years, I have many friends that own guns, whether it be for hunting, target shooting, protection or simply collecting. I have no issue with gun ownership. But I do not see how simple measures protecting everyone would not be agreeable to all involved. Simple measures like the following:
- Universal background checks, including closing the private sale and gun show loopholes. This should include cooperation between agencies with respect to reporting any mental health issues of the applicant.**
- Three day waiting period to complete purchase of a gun. (The background checks should be completed within that three days.) If you want to go hunting for the first time on Saturday, go and buy your gun on Tuesday so you can pick it up on Friday.
- Require completion of a safety and training course, which must be renewed every few years. We have people take safety and training courses before they legally operate motor vehicles, why not for firearms?
- Common sense limitations on the type of weapon and ammunition that can be purchased by Joe Public. Fully automatic weapons, extended magazines, and armor-piercing ammunition, in my opinion, have no place outside of military operations. (If you’re about to say something about having no protection from the government when they invade your house carrying those kinds of things, don’t bother. The government also has tanks, bazookas and flame-throwers.)
These things will not prevent every act of violence that humans seem so able to inflict on one another. But if any of these could stop just one, wouldn’t that be enough? Isn’t the inconvenience to the 99% of fully law abiding gun owners justification for the saving of a life? I believe the unequivocal answer is yes.
*I can almost hear the exasperation by my use of the word ‘privilege’ a moment ago. Yes, I know the 2nd amendment gives the right to bear arms but there is case law (Kachalsky v County of Westchester among others)that supports regulations to obtain permits. Similarly, the 1st amendment gives the right to assembly, but there is case law (Jones v. Parmley, Cole v. Arkansas, etc.) upholding certain requirements for those assemblies. Hence my use of ‘privilege’.
**Mental health care in this country, or perhaps the lack thereof, is a topic that I would like to cover in a future blog post.