When do we get tired of these stories and do something about this problem?
Sandy Hook was a turning point, at least for me. A small elementary school, filled with 600 young children, sat down to a day of learning about letters, numbers, reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, they ended up learning life lesson that none of us should ever have to see, unless we have to go to war. Twenty of their fellow classmates - mostly precious, innocent kindergartners - were gunned down by a guy who had snapped.
Now, the official story is, he got the guns from his mother, so the official gunloon line is, there's nothing we could have done. But the problem with that little theory is, if he hadn't gotten them from his mother, he could have gotten them somewhere else, because guns are easily, readily available to anyone who wants one. We can't say there is nothing we could have done, because this country has never done anything we should do to control guns, and make sure they don't fall into the hands of people who shouldn't have them.
The fact of the matter is, we as a nation would rather protect a metal instrument of destruction, than protect our children. There is a small, loud group of people in this country who look upon guns as magical instruments of self-protection, never once considering that the number one thing they must protect themselves against is... guns.
The solution isn't armed guards at every school. In fact, the problem has nothing to do with schools. Earlier this week, a man wearing a hockey mask entered a shopping mall and terrorized the people who happened to be there, meeting up with friends, or looking for Christmas gifts.
The weekend before last, a promising young NFL football player got into an argument with his girlfriend. For a split second, he decided the solution to the argument was to shoot said girlfriend. He immediately became despondent over that split second decision, and promptly went to Arrowhad Stadium, where he proceeded to shoot and kill himself, as well. There was another one of those in Las Vegas.
Earlier this year, a man went into the back door of a dark movie theater, decked head to toe in Kevlar, and shot people pretty much at will. How many armed guards could have prevented that, pray tell? Security is not the problem.
Here's the problem: the Aurora shooter was able to buy dozens of guns and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition without so much as a background check, and without anyone notifying police of a potential problem. I can't buy allergy medicine without giving them my driver's license, and if I try to buy "too much," they won't approve the sale. But if I want to buy 40,000 ronds of ammo over the Internet, no problem.
The little jerk who shot Gabby Giffords and many others needed a doctor’s clearance to return to class at Pima Community College. But when he tried to purchase the gun he used to massacre those people, and the shop did the instant background check, he was cleared.
We have a gun problem in this country. If you doubt that, you're not paying attention. And frankly, I’m sick of people who pretend there's either no issue here, or claim that the issue is "freedom." How free are we, if we can't be sure the bad guys aren't armed to the teeth, and if almost no one buying a gun is being properly screened.
Gun laws, as they currently exist, are woefully inadequate. A recent report by NBC News shows just how easy it is for one person to buy a gun legally, through licensed gun dealers, and then list the gun on a website like Craigslist, no questions required:
Of course, no one should be talking about confiscation. Not only is such a concept beyond the realm of possibility, given the numbers, but there are also constitutional considerations. We do have the Second Amendment to deal with, which does protect the right of the people to keep and bear arms, SUBJECT TO REGULATIONS DESIGNED TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC.
That's right, gun folks. The Constitution is a large documents, and each clause works along with every other clause in the document; they don't all work separately. As part of the "militia," you have the right to keep and bear arms. Unfortunately, Article I, Section 8 also gives the government the power to regulate the "militia," and their arms. Here's the Second Amendment:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Many of you want to ignore the first part of that Amendment, but it's there. Your right to bear arms is related to your status as part of the "Militia." And that is also related to the relevant portion of Article I, Section 8:
The Congress shall have Power To: (...)
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
Note that nothing in the Constitution refers only to guns. Obviously, the government has the power to regulate arms. Even the strongest gun advocates would admit we shouldn't be allowed to keep a rocket launcher or nuclear warhead in our backyards, and if the head of the NRA discovered a chemical weapons plant next to his neighbor's pool, he'd call the police. So, the issue is not now, nor ha it ever been whether or not we can regulated guns, but how. Why is there such a problem with regulating guns in a way that keeps them out of the hands of those who shouldn't have them?
It is at this point that the gun extremists go for the emotional argument. “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people” is one of my favorites, because it's just silly. I've seen a modified version of this silly argument multiple times recently:
If guns kill people, then pencils misspell words, cars drive drunk, and spoons make people fat. Remember: Hold the person accountable for their actions, not the means they chose to utilize!!!
I sure hope you spot the huge flaws in this "argument."
Pencils don’t misspell words, people do. And of course, spoons don't make people fat. But pencils and spoons both used to be made with lead? When science figured out that lead was hazardous to health, the government forced manufacturers of both to stop making them with lead. Because the government regulated them.
As a result of these regulations, it's now extremely rare that anyone is killed by a pencil or a spoon. On the other hand, approximately 35,000 people are killed by guns every year, and a majority of those are caused by a gun brandished by other people. Yet, while we heavily regulate pencils and spoons, there are very few effective regulations on guns.
Whenever a society has a problem, their goal should always be to solve it. This country, however, has a tendency to shrug and point to the Constitution, while it makes up an absolute right that doesn’t exist as a reason why the problem can't be fixed.
The issue is not whether or not people kill people. Of course they do. And they kill people with guns, not pencils or spoons. When people demonstrates a level of irresponsibility that results in the deaths of 35,000 people per year, most sane people would agree that a higher level of responsibility should be enforced.
Don't just take my word for it; there's actually significant case law that backs me up. Your right to bear arms comes from your militia service, and the government has the power to regulate the militia. Therefore, the government has the power to regulate guns. Check out this case, decided by aconservative Supreme Court in the 1930s; US v Miller. No, the government cannot ban guns altogether. But not only can government regulate arms, they are actually required to. You see, there are two provisions in Article I, Section 8; the Commerce Clause requires the government to regulate interstate and international commerce. And I think we can all agree that guns are interstate and international commerce.
You'll notice I haven't talked about the "cars don’t drive drunk, people do" example yet. I saved the best for last.
You have a right to drive. It's not a privilege, but a right. In order to drive a car legally, you need a license, which requires the holder to be tested for minimal competence behind the wheel. You have to be able to see and read road signs, and you have to show that you are physically capable of operating a motor vehicle safely. In addition, the license holder must also demonstrate knowledge of the laws and regulations regarding driving. Moreover, if your doctor finds that you can no longer be trusted to drive a vehicle and preserve the safety of everyone else on the road, he is legally required to report you to the state motor vehicles department, and your license can be suspended, pending a hearing. Likewise, if you can’t demonstrate financial responsibility in case of an accident, in the form of either insurance or a bond, you lose your license to drive a vehicle. If you demonstrate irresponsibility on the road, your license can be taken away for that, as well.
Your car must also be registered with the state, meaning the state knows who owns every single vehicle at any particular time, and each owner is responsible for his or her vehicle. If your car is involved in an accident, the state knows who to go to. And you are not allowed to drive a tank, or a rocket car, or a car that shoots flames from its exhaust on a public street, because that would be dangerous. You have a right, but that right is balanced with the right of everyone else to drive their vehicle safely.
Here’s a novel idea; let’s treat guns and gun owners like cars and their drivers.
All guns should be registered, and all gun owners should have to be licensed and carry insurance, the same as we do with cars. Gun owners should have to attend gun safety courses and demonstrate a minimal competence, and a knowledge of basic gun laws in order to keep and/or carry a firearm. All gun owners should also have to insure every gun, and be required to report it every time their gun is missing or stolen.
The registration, licensing and insurance costs could also be indexed to the type of gun, and the potential damage. For example, a shotgun could carry a low registration cost, and would probably also be very cheap to insure. A small handgun for personal protection might cost a little more, while any military-style weapon could cost so much, it'd be prohibitive for most people to own one. This would lessen the need for an outright ban, at least until it was proven that the registration system wasn't working. Gun laws are much easier to sell when the word "ban" isn't used.
It's no secret that some people are not naturally responsible, and must have it enforced upon them, under penalty of law. We do that with everything else; why do firearms get a pass. If the cost of lead was half the price of stainless steel, do you think manufacturers would hesitate to use it in manufacturing spoons and pencils, regardless of the health effects, if they could do so legally? Laws, regulation and enforcement are what keep us safe. There may be a lot of gun laws on the books, but if you don’t give authorities the tools to enforce those laws, we won’t be safer.
We have to do a better job of enforcing the laws already on the books. Convicted felons and the mentally ill are not allowed weapons, but we don't screen for that, except when a gun is first sold byby a licensed dealer. Once that gun has been purchased, the owner can sell it to anyone else without so much as a background check, and that person can sell it again, and so on. Try to do that with your car. If you sell your car to someone else, and don’t sign over the pink slip, guess who’s financially responsible if that car plows into something?
We already have a version of this common sense regulation in place in a number of states, in the form of concealed carry permits. The holders of such permits are registered, their guns are registered, and they have to demonstrate a competence in handling a firearm that makes it unlikely they will do anything stupid. Let's just expand the concept.
The problem isn’t the guns; it’s the people. But as is the case with every other aspect of our society, we have to make rules that protect the majority from the crazy minority. The United States has less than 5% of the world's population, but 45% of the world's gun murders occur on our soil. We have a problem, and we know how we can fix it.
It’s just common sense.