Gun Control: What it can and can’t do

Last night the president addressed the nation, infuriating some die-hard hate filled football fans, while at the same time comforting the nation.  He has been criticized in the wake of the terrible massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, for not making any effort to curb gun violence.  On the contrary, despite his 2008 campaign promises, he signed bills authorized concealed weapons carry at national parks and on trains, a victory for gun advocates and their guardian angel, the National Rifle Association.

President Obama gives emotional speech at Newtown, Connecticut in aftermath of Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting.

President Obama gives emotional speech at Newtown, Connecticut in aftermath of Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting.

The time for pacifying gun fanatics is past, and the president made that clear last night in Newtown lamenting that America had failed “to keep our children, all of them” safe and, without specifically mentioning gun control, pledged a fresh effort to curb violence. “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end and to end them we must change,” he said. “In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine.”

So what can really be done about gun violence in a country where its citizens cling desperately to their guns and bibles, relying on the United States Constitution to protect them from government intervention?  The Week’s Marc Ambinder offers these thoughts:

Doctors can’t save every patient. But they must be able to tell the patient’s family that they’ve done everything they can. Our politicians cannot say the same. Hollywood, by glorifying gun violence, can’t say the same. If “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” then make it harder for “people” to get guns. And make guns harder to be misused.

In 11 years of living in Washington, D.C., I  knew one person who was mugged. In the six months since I’ve lived in LA, I’ve had a friend raped, two friends mugged at gunpoint, and another was the victim of a gay bashing attack. I take self-defense seriously. But getting a gun should be at least as hard as getting a driver’s license.

A citizen who wants a gun and a concealed carry permit should go through exactly the same training and recertification as a cop would… it’s easier to get a gun as a citizen than as a cop.

Criminal background checks, a basic mental health test and recertification, along with registration, limits on the types of guns available for purchase, and limits on the amount of ammo that can be bought. Guns bought and sold at hobby shows ought to be subject to the same regulations.

Hunting rifles are different than pistols and ought to be treated accordingly. One-shot-per-trigger-pull pistols ought to be as “semi-automatic” as semi-automatic can get. There ought to be a limit as to how much ammunition a gun can fire. Very rarely, if ever, will self-defense require a high-capacity clip.

If this costs money, then tax gun owners.

The NRA can set the standard for training. Their educational arm does a great job here. People who get NRA firearms training tend to be responsible with their weapons. Their political arm is opportunistic and craven, which of course it has every right to be.

Every gun bought ought to be registered with the state, just like every car you buy.

Finally, we need to examine the trade-offs between privacy and safety when it comes to mental health. Let’s assume that everyone has at least some sort of crazy in them. So let’s have people affirmatively prove their mental health in a psych test.

Criminals will always break laws and bad people will find ways to get guns. That’s a given. But rarely in mass shootings are the perpetrators criminals before the fact; in most cases they obtain the gun legally. The argument that gun law violators are responsible for the negative externalities of gun violence ignores the fact that the black market in guns manufactured legally is enormous. The argument doesn’t wash either way. The availability of guns now makes it easier for anyone, bad or good, to get them for any reason. Our concern ought to be with what can be reasonably done to mitigate the chances of mass shootings.

None of the suggestions I’ve made above will help the city of Chicago stem its gun murder rate, except for a lot more heavy and risky law enforcement, which costs a lot of money.

So step two is an aggressive shaming campaign to hold gun manufacturers accountable, at least in terms of being called out on it, for every criminal act their gun is used to effectuate.

The entertainment industry, movies and rap, bears responsibility for helping create a culture of permissiveness.

In terms of approbation, straw buyers of guns ought to be treated like we treat child rapists.

Start from there.

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Posted by on December 17, 2012. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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8 Responses to Gun Control: What it can and can’t do

  1. Dale Fisk

    December 17, 2012 at 11:39 am

    Let’s hope that this time, finally, something can be done. I even heard a politician, Senator Manchin, like the #1 gun supporter in the country, say that people don’t need assault weapons. About time.

  2. lincoln82

    December 17, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    I mean no disrespect to those poor folk who lost their children and loved ones but I just can’t read or watch anymore about it. It’s dragging me down as well, so I need to take a break from it. No one can live in the dark without losing their ability to see.

  3. Bill Formby

    December 17, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Didn’t we just debate this. I’ll wait for James to start his rant.

  4. E.A. Blair

    December 17, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    I know it’s not charitable, but every time I hear about one of these attacks, I keep hoping that the next one will happen at an NRA meeting. I’d like to see how fast any of those smartmouths react to some nut opening fire.

    • Bill Formby

      December 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm

      That would be cool wouldn’t it.

  5. Jess

    December 17, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    How many times have we seen the NRA stand up when people of color are shot? You never once hear them say, well arm all the people of color and this will stop, nope they are the other and you should be a skeered of them. It’s like missing white girl syndrome all over again. I was thinking all day today and yesterday about gun control and how we citizens can affect change from the bottom up. Hear me out, before you get to flaming me for wanting control. MADD is an example of what one person can do, against a big lobby to get dangerous people off the road. Mothers’ against drunk driving if no one knows the abbreviation. This was one woman going against all kinds of stuff that managed to have something good come out of her sorrow. We need to have an uprising of responsible gun owners to come out and get the conversation going. Hubby cancelled his membership in NRA a while ago, after one of these massacres, and now I cannot think of which one, there have been so many.

    • E.A. Blair

      December 17, 2012 at 10:07 pm

      I agree, and I think it’s time for grassroots actions like the ones MADD used to start. Shame politicians who are in the NRA’s pockets. Rally at NRA offices. Call them baby-killers. When a politician or the NRA runs a campaign ad glorifying guns and shooting, air an ad that shows what guns really do.

      If people want to take things a little more radically, why not steal a page from PETA – dump blood-red paint at the doorsteps of NRA offices and smear it on the hands of members and owned politicians. Stage dead-ins. It may be the only way to prove it’s what the people, not what Wayne LaPierre, want.

    • Bill Formby

      December 18, 2012 at 3:03 am

      Jess, I have never belonged to the NRA but would quit if I had. Should I join just so I can quit in protest? Nah, that won’t work.