With the recent incident in Connecticut, there has sprung a renewed debate about gun control. There will be a cascade of statistics from both sides of the argument that will make positive proof for their position. I will agree with Pres. Obama – we should not seek simple solutions to a complex problem. I would suggest that one litmus test to every proposal would be to ask how much difference it would have made in past mass shootings.
The current idea that is leading the pack is to re-institute the ban on assault weapons and large capacity ammo clips. Knowing some about guns, I can assure you that this will make very little difference. Anyone with a few minutes of practice can switch smaller capacity clips in a matter of a couple of seconds to reload. Then defining an assault weapon is next to impossible. Is it a rifle that sorta, kinda looks like one the military uses? There is no clear line in function between the military ‘look alike’ guns and other semi-automatic sporting rifles. Does the government want to get into the business of taking away guns that are currently widely in usage? That ain’t going to work out so well.
I would first tend to agree with the quote that has been passed around coming from Morgan Freeman about putting some of the blame on the various news sources that hash and rehash every last detail of this tragedy from every possible angle, giving more than a little attention to the shooter, his means and his possible motives. Without putting forward any new legislation, wouldn’t it be a good idea for the media to put some limits on what and how much they report? Or is the teenage boy in Peoria pondering the next mass murder so he can go out in a blaze of glory, also going to garner the world’s attention? Maybe as a society we shouldn’t grant that kind of attention.
Certainly there must be more focus on mental health issues. This does seem to be a common thread. But if you were to ask every school counselor in the country if they knew some number of kids who might be capable of doing such a thing, I would bet every one of them could come up with 2 or 3 names. What would we do with the 30,000 identified kids around the country who might do such a thing? Yes, we can do more in providing services, but did we select the right 30,000?
Apparently, even among members of the NRA, there is a growing recognition that there should some tightening of gun regulation. Would better background checks help? … perhaps a little, but probably not in most of the incidences I’ve heard about. Would more gun safety training help? … yes, it would help with gun safety in the hands of law abiding citizens, but little more. More strict permitting? … maybe, but most people who want to get there hands on some sort of gun usually do. Stiffer sentences for gun related crimes? … really? … who gives a lot of thought to how long their sentence might be if they get caught?
I do have a proposal that I believe would make some difference in the long run. First, ponder that everything from butter knives to nuclear weapons have a capacity to be used for evil. Some of these things we clearly should not allow in the hands of the general public. But at the other end of the spectrum, it would be dumb for us to go out rounding up everyone’s butter knives. We do not allow the buying, selling or possessing of fully automatic rifles without a Federal Firearms Permit. Very few people have one of these. They are difficult and expensive to get. Fully automatic weapons (one pull of the trigger and multiple shots go off, often called machine guns) simply have too great a capacity for random destruction for even the police to carry. Semi-automatic weapons (one pull of the trigger, one shot goes off and the gun automatically reloads) have one step greater capacity for evil than lever action, bolt action, pump action or revolvers. They are quick to reload, and in some instances can carry a very large number of rounds. As a hunter, I must confess that I really don’t like them. (And I do own one, but rarely use it.) They often become an excuse to spray shots at game, without adequate thought about working for a responsible, lethal shot, sometimes only wounding animals. The sport of hunting could easily do without them. If no one had ever committed a crime with one, I would be in favor of getting rid of them.
So here is my proposal. Federal law should ban the IMPORT and MANUFACTURE of all semi-automatic or fully automatic weapons in the U.S, except for strictly military or police use. A person could still buy, sell, own, possess or use this kind of gun, but the supply of new guns of this type would end. The market place would make guns of this type generally more valuable, and they would be hoarded by people, most of whom are responsible collectors. Those out in circulation would eventually find there way into collections or museums, wear out, be lost and rust away in the woods, be destroyed or disposed of. While this would not put an end to school shootings, at least the capacity for rapid, wide-spread destruction of life would be diminished. If the capacity were diminished, perhaps going out in this kind of ‘blaze of glory’ would be as well.
Would this change in the gun laws make a big, immediate difference? … probably not. But if it made a small, long-term difference, it would be worth doing.
Just a thought … DonC