First, full disclosure. I am a law-abiding, responsible gun owner. I was raised in a family of game hunters who ate everything they harvested from nature. I received my first gun, a .410 shotgun, when I was thirteen. I hunted alongside my grandfather, my father, and my uncles because I was expected to, and I quit as soon as I left home because, although I was good at it, I never really enjoyed hunting. I did like plinking and target shooting, though, and enjoyed doing that with the pistols, revolvers, and rifles I’ve owned over the nearly sixty years that have passed since I stopped hunting. I turned in my pistol permit years ago and sold off all but two longarms which I rarely touch. These days, if I feel like a little target practice, I use an airgun. OK then.
Gun violence is a glaring, persistent, and increasingly horrific epidemic in the USA. It’s a shameful characteristic of “the land of the free and the home of the brave” where you have to be brave indeed to walk our streets, go to a supermarket, worship in a church, or attend school. It’s not just shameful. It’s nuts.
I think that the absolutist reading of the 2nd Amendment espoused by the NRA doesn’t make much sense today given the evolution of “Arms” from single shot flintlock pistols and muskets to, for example, a semi-automic combat handgun or an AR-15 style rifle. A mass murderer in the time of the Founding Fathers could have fired maybe 2 or 3 rounds per minute from his musket if he practiced long and hard at reloading it. Today’s mass murderers can effectively get off shots at the rate of 45 rounds per minute, no practice required, and swap in a fresh, fully loaded magazine in seconds.
There are all sorts of arguments about the causes of gun violence in the USA and how to stem the tide of mass shootings. We’ve all heard about fortifying schools, arming teachers, and placing more police in school buildings. We hear slogans like “Guns don’t kill people, people do.” We are admonished that gun laws do not and cannot prevent gun violence. Gun rights groups tell us we need a national database of mentally ill individuals rather than a national database of gun ownership and that media scrutiny of massacres is bad practice because it just encourages the deranged to act out. And then there are all those violent movies and video games to blame.
I do have a modest proposal that might go a long way to stanch the tide of blood in our supermarkets, schools, places of worship, public gathering places, etc. For a start, how about we vote out of office those incumbent lawmakers who have done their best to impede sensible gun laws. How about we do not vote for uncompromising candidates who have gone on record (some bragging about their “A” grade from the NRA) as opposing anything but an absolutist interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. After that, as a law-abiding and responsible gun owner I’d find it extremely hard to argue rationally against
- Accurate and continuously updated state databases of gun ownership
- No sales of high capacity magazines
- No sales of assault-style weapons
- No sales of guns to the mentally ill or to convicted criminals
- All gun sales, including private sales and sales at gun shows, subject to background checks (If someone has a gun to sell, why wouldn’t he want to know if a potential buyer is deranged or criminal?)
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