Straight Shooting on Gun Control

Suffice it to say, for the United States of America, April 2007 was not exactly the bright, shiny, feel-good spring month that everyone needed and expected. However, like most periods of tragedy, there is a time for mourning and a time for healing, and, then, it’s time to move on. For some, the period of sadness, loss, and even anger will continue for quite some time. For the rest of us, for those that can, it’s time to reflect and, if needed, act.

Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is - no matter how much we wish that things like this month’s tragic events would not happen in our society, there is nothing we can do to stop them…without limiting the very freedoms and independence that make us the nation we are.

Immediately following the vicious, confusing, and cowardly acts perpetrated on the campus of Virginia Tech, the focus, as it usually does, centered mostly on the area of gun control. Before most of the dust had settled, and well before many of the facts were known, spokespeople from both sides stepped into the spotlight to debate the opposing points of view.

The arguments are well known. On one side stands the NRA waving the constitution like a banner. On the other side, there are a variety of concerned citizen groups touting peace and citing the relative prosperity of several countries which have banned guns. When face to face, the debate is truly dizzying: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” “Well people wouldn’t be able to kill nearly as many people if it they didn’t have guns.” “If guns were outlawed, only outlaws would have guns.” “England outlawed guns and their crime rate went down.” “Crack cocaine is illegal, how’s that helping get drugs off the street?” And on, and on...

Enough is enough. I’m here to tell you: they’re both right and both wrong.

I believe in the reasoning behind our right to bear arms. When push comes to shove, the Second Amendment isn’t about owning weapons as much as it is about this nation’s desire to keep power in the hands of the individual. A population willing to both shelve their weapons and cooperate in supporting democratic rule makes for a much stronger country than one governed by force and controlled only by the public’s lack of power to oppose it.

But, I also believe that the right to bear arms should never overshadow the responsibility that comes with that ownership. And, in the end, I don’t see how our rights are infringed by putting in place a few more controls in order to assure that those choosing to own a gun at least have a basic understanding of the massive and possibly devastating consequences of misusing that right.

So, to that end, here’s my proposal:
Step one: Qualification. Gun ownership is indeed a right. However, that doesn’t mean that there should be no restrictions. I know I’ll take a lot of heat for saying this, but I think this is one place I’m okay with scrapping the precedent of “innocent until proven guilty.” As far as I’m concerned, I’d feel much better with you having to prove your own competence, rather than relying on the government to discover your unworthiness.

Step two: Licensing. We have to take a test to drive a car; the same should apply to owning a gun. Regardless of the fact that one is a right and the other is a privilege, I feel it’s not too much to ask that anyone wishing to own a gun should have to take and pass a training course on firearm use, care, storage, and safety. And not just a quick written test and eye exam, I’m talking old school, a course complete with target practice, basic ballistics studies, and a police video showing the results of various gunshot wounds, just to get the point across.

Step three: Annual Renewal & Endorsement. A passport is good for ten years, a driver’s license for four - the license for something for which the primary function is death and destruction should only be valid for one year. Further, like a pilot who has to be checked out on the type of plane they fly, a gun owner should have to receive qualifying approval for each type of weapon he or she owns. Just because you can fly a Piper Cub doesn’t mean I trust you to fly my family to Europe in a Boeing 777. Even if you already own a handgun, I would require you to pass another, separate qualifying exam before you’re permitted to own a shotgun, a rifle, etc.

Step four: Enforcement. This step shouldn’t require further explanation. This is a serious issue. The ramifications of insufficient control are literally life and death and, in my opinion, the penalties for noncompliance should be just as severe.

Look, this isn’t a game, and I’m done listening to people who argue that even the most minimal amount of control represents too much of a burden. Show me a person who needs to buy a gun in a hurry and I’ll show you someone who hasn’t put nearly enough thought into the purchase. Likewise, I’m finished listening to those that pretend that eliminating guns would put an end to all violence. Show me a community where guns were made illegal and I’ll show you a place that’s no more or less safe than it was before.

Now, I’m not a lawyer, I’m not an expert in constitutional law, and I have no background in criminal justice. So, if it turns out that none of this is at all possible, I propose plan B: keep the guns legal, but charge a $500 tax for every single bullet.
Read More on Perspective
Volume 3, Issue 9, Posted 5:33 PM, 04.21.2007