Posted: 10/02/15 12:49
by Dave Mindeman
This scene is getting way too familiar. A town devastated by a gunman shooting victims indiscriminately. At a school. Killing young people. With everybody looking for some kind of answer.
What makes America so unique in this carnage? Because we are you know. We are the only developed country that has to deal with this mass shooting phenomenon. We are alone. And we keep pretending that we don't know what we can do about it.
The right to own guns is not disputed. Hunters, sportsman, recreational shooting.....nobody is saying to restrict or end those endeavors. But guns are not toys. They are deadly....lethal...life ending. And there needs to be rules and regulations to minimize unintended consequences.
And frankly, it isn't just about preventing these mass shootings. Although that is certainly a main focus. Guns are also the primary means of suicide. They cause countless accidental deaths from children getting access. And other accidents which occur from individuals who have minimal training in how to handle a firearm.
Guns in society can't even be properly studied because the gun lobby pushed Congress to prevent any of those studies, which the CDC had proposed, from going forward.
We have a lot of rights in this country, many guaranteed rights. But we also recognize that a lot of those rights have limits. We are in the midst of a protracted debate on religious freedom vs. individual rights. That debate will go on, but nobody believes that either of those rights are without limits. And for reasons that still escape, we have put restrictions on voting. (That is a whole different discussion)
And the right to bear arms has some limits already. But every legal means of regulating guns gets weakened or eliminated by the powerful gun lobby. We have background checks but with absurd loopholes. We have restrictions on allowing some people to own guns, but the enforcement is weakened by data collection restrictions. And we allow for "gun free" zones but it gets negated by conceal/carry laws and by conflicts in the interpretation of the right to bear arms.
Owning a weapon is a basic right. But does it really mean that you can buy any kind of weapon? Having a weapon to protect your home makes sense. But shouldn't you be required to keep it safely tucked away so that children and visitors to your home are not subject to gun accidents?
The logic of the NRA also escapes me. The answer to bad guys with guns is more good guys with guns? Really? We have an example of the flaw in this logic in this Oregon tragedy. Although the campus was a "gun free" zone, the conceal and carry law seems to supersede that. And there was a student who had his weapon with him. But he told a newsperson that he did not engage because he was afraid of being shot by a swat team or law enforcement officer. And he was absolutely right. First responders do not have time to sort out "good guys" and "bad guys" - you can easily figure out that anyone with a weapon is a legitimate target.
Maybe we need more security personnel at these potential targets. But, seriously, do we really want to turn our schools, theaters, and malls into armed camps? Is that what we are about?
So what do we need? We need absolute universal background checks on every gun sale any time, to any one, and anywhere. No loopholes. None. And we need a complete and secure database that has reliable and complete data on felons, domestic abusers, and mental illness with a potential for violence. Even if we have some errors in these databases, and I hope we are careful enough to keep them to a minimum, how much of an imposition is it for a person not to have a gun? How much of your daily life is disrupted if you do not own a gun?
We need waiting periods so that people who want to act on a moment of passion cannot. We need to limit ammunition clips to smaller numbers of rounds. How much of an inconvenience can this be? And if you keep a gun in your home then you need to also own a lock box to keep it in.
Stand your ground laws need to just go away. It gives people an open ended thought process about how they can use their firearm. Self defense is already a legal defense, don't tie the courts hands with ambiguous legal reasoning on weapons use.
And, in addition, conceal and carry laws cannot give total discretion to the gun owner. People in business, schools, churches, and government buildings need to be able to exercise their judgment without NRA or other gun lobby entities interfering with determining a safe environment.
No one can guarantee that new gun laws will prevent what happened in Oregon from ever happening again. No one can do that. We are still an open society that carries a certain amount of risk. But we can and must reduce that risk by whatever means is reasonable.
And reasonable has not been a description of the NRA.