If the third rail of politics is Social Security, then the third rail of American discourse is gun control. Like most people who have never been personally affected by gun violence, I see myself somewhat “in the middle” on the issue. I have nephews who hunt, friends who have concealed weapons permits, and I know that most gun owners are responsible citizens who use their guns for legal purposes. However, after Colorado’s most recent shooting in Aurora (in the same condominium complex where my father lives), the horrific school shootings in Connecticut, and the Aurora movie theater shooting, these events seem to hit closer and closer to home and I am beginning to rethink my apathetic position.
Usually after such tragedies, we see the same conversational dynamic. Gun control advocates believe the solution is to ban all guns, while politicians say it is too close to the tragedy to have any meaningful discussion of gun control. Some in the middle say we don’t need more laws, we need more enforcement. Someone throws in some nonsense about needing a gun to over-throw the government. The NRA complains that even having a discussion about gun control violates 2nd Amendment rights. A new crisis comes up, and seeing an intractable debate that would rival the recent fiscal cliff negotiations, we retreat and never discuss guns.
The events of Newtown may finally change the dynamic of the conversation about guns. Many folks have been discussing and revisiting their own beliefs about guns in America. Some of the most prominent gun rights advocates in the nation are finally ready to talk. People like me, who have always been somewhat neutral on the subject, are saying enough is enough. Even with the distraction of the holidays and the drama of the fiscal cliff, we are still talking about guns in America. A conversation that is long overdue.
Maybe we need to stop talking about gun control and start talking about gun safety. What simple common sense actions can we take to make guns safer?
One way to make guns safer could be to ban certain types of guns. Before we can do that, however, we must first decide what kind of guns we are comfortable with in our society. There will be people who believe that no guns are best, and others that believe “the right to bear arms” includes grenade launchers but surely we can come up with some ideas that strike a balance between our right to own guns and their safe use. Then there is the issue of bullets. Do we really need exploding bullets to hunt deer or defend your home? Maybe certain types of bullets should not be available for sale to the general public.
Another approach to take would be that bigger and better demands more oversight. I don’t like that it is easier to buy massive amounts of ammunition on the internet than it is to buy a package of Sudafed at my local Target. Perhaps we just need stricter regulations for the purchase of automatic weapons or large amounts of ammunition. Could we all live with that?
How about being responsible for your guns? If someone’s gun is used in a massacre, robbery, or other violent crime, should the gun owner be held just as responsible as the person who pulled the trigger? Knowing that the consequences of your gun being misused can be just as a severe as that of the perpetrator who committed the crime might make gun owners take more responsibility for their safe storage and usage.
In driver’s education, we were all told that a car was a deadly weapon. I listened to my driver’s education teacher go on about the consequences of careless and drunk driving, and today, over 20 years later, those words ring in my head every time I drive. I had to take a class and two tests to get a driver’s license. I would hope that owning a gun would be just as hard. Would making someone take a class be such a ridiculous idea? It may just weed out a few bad apples.
And of course, we have to close loopholes, enforce current gun laws, and address the problem of mental health in America (another topic for another day).
The NRA should not be the only group that gets to decide what gun ownership looks like in America. Americans need to have an adult conversation about guns.
So let’s keeping talking about how to make guns safer in America without simply accepting that the problem is just too big solve. Remember, this is the United States of America. We put a man on the moon and defeated fascism, surely we can figure out some solutions that keep our children safe from gun violence.