With all the hand wringing over the despicable killing of innocent children and adults in Newtown, Connecticut, the question remains: How do we get rid of guns that facilitate these horrors? President Obama announced that he has assigned Vice President Biden to lead his administration’s efforts to deal with the problem of gun violence.
However, even among those in favor of strict gun control, there’s a sense of despair that anything can be done because there are just too many firearms out there. We can’t give way to this sense of futility. A lot can be done; other countries have done it. But it requires zero tolerance of the irrational arguments made by gun nuts, arguments that push aside data and facts and common sense. Those arguments boil down to: I have a constitutional right to own guns; gun control strips me of my individual right and freedom. Well, to these folks, guess what – there’s more at stake than YOUR individual right and freedom to own guns. There’s a right we ALL have, the community right to safety and security. YOUR right to own guns is not absolute; it conflicts with OUR right to lead our lives in safety and security.
Even in the bad old days of the Wild West, gun owners had to check their guns before entering town or a bar. But today, we have states that legislate the right to carry concealed weapons anywhere, including bars and schools. We have people arguing that the proper response to gun toting murderers is to put a gun in everyone’s hands – not to deny the murderer his gun! We have to stop accepting this craziness in the name of some absolute notion of the individual freedom to own and carry firearms that makes mishmash of other rights.
It’s often been said that government’s primary function is to insure the security of its citizens. The problem is that those on the right who trumpet this view only think it applies to security from foreign enemies. But security is security, no matter who threatens our safety. And it’s been clear for a long time that our greatest threat is not from foreign terrorists, but the terrorists among us, especially those who have access to the most lethal of weapons.
As for attempts to turn this into a mental health issue – it is only in small part that. The mentally ill account for only a small percentage of the nation’s homicides, according to the New York Times. The haters, the angry, the right wing militia, the criminal, those seeking revenge, and so many others do these heinous things. The point is not only about who does these things, but the weapons that enable their actions. As has been pointed out, a man in China recently went on a school rampage with a knife. Children were wounded, but no one died. In Newtown a man attacked children and adults with assault weapons and in minutes 26 lay dead.
So what exactly can be done?
1. Establish a federal gun buy-back system that pays a bounty for guns turned in to police, no questions asked. These programs have yielded results on a local level as cities try to rid themselves of guns, but to really work the effort must be national. A large scale program would be costly, but not as costly as the price tag gun violence imposes on the country (100 billion dollars in healthcare costs alone).
2. Ban the sale, transfer, and importation of assault weapons of every kind. These rapid fire, multi-clip guns have NO place and serve NO function in civilized society.
3. Close the gun show and internet loopholes that allows anybody to buy a gun without a background check. No background check, no gun sale. Period. It’s estimated that these loopholes account for 40% of all gun sales in the U.S.
4. Register every gun in a federal registry so that it is traceable.
5. Repeal all laws permitting the carrying of concealed weapons as well as the open carry of guns in schools, churches, bars, government buildings or public places. Only authorized personnel may carry weapons in such places. Public spaces devoted to hunting would be exempted.
6. Require all gun owners to secure their guns to deny access by children and unauthorized persons.
7. Push the President to use his bully pulpit to urge film makers, video game producers, TV producers and the like to tone down the violence that programs young people to accept force as a normal response to any and all offenses.
Will these measures prevent all gun violence or even work in all cases? Of course not. But they will go a long way toward reducing gun violence. The fact remains that countries with the toughest gun laws, like Australia, Japan and Britain, suffer the least gun violence. As Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “We are the only industrialized country that has this problem. The only.”