So called “gun control” is an emotional topic steeped in reports of violent people running amok with a firearm shooting people.
The problem is not as simple as the “Anti-Gun” proponents or the staunchest “Pro-Gun” proponents make it out to be. Let’s pull the problem apart a bit and examine what’s going on here. First off let me just put it out there that the loss of a single life is a tragedy of huge proportions. What often gets lost in translation is the fact that any human being is a son or daughter of a set of parents and potentially the wife or husband, boyfriend or girlfriend or mother or father to someone and will be grieved for when they are lost. That alone in my opinion tells me that a well thought out strategy for dealing with violence in general has to be thought out.
People have been killing each other for many millennium now starting with early hominids that used rocks and sticks to defend their territory from other family bands to ensure their family band had enough food to eat. Violence is an ugly side to human nature that cannot be ignored. It needs to be dealt with in a manner that does not include over-reaction.
Starting with the school yard fight between ten year old boys (or girls!), and this is where a lot of over-reaction happens, use of force between two people needs to be kept to a socially acceptable minimum for the good of society as a whole.
Focusing on firearms in particular, there are several vectors that produce firearm violence. Let’s look at those for a moment.
From the drug dealer defending his “turf” to the armed robber who holds up a liquor store this is a worst case scenario. Guess what? Legislation doesn’t slow these folks down one bit.
There are plenty of sources of black market firearms for someone as streetwise as most criminals are. In point of fact when I first moved to New Jersey I had a co-worker tell me exactly where to go in Bergen County and New York City to obtain “a clean gun.” This in reaction to my saying “I’d love to have an M-14 but…”
There was a recent news article about armed robbers invading a restaurant armed with firearms (guess they didn’t read the sign) where a sign in the front window prohibited firearms inside the restaurant. Criminals don’t care about firearm laws. That’s just a fact of life.
Mentally Disturbed Individuals
This is a harder case to prevent. Just as criminals don’t care about firearms laws these folks have plenty of ways to get their hands on a firearm. In the case of the Newton CT tragedy the shooter killed his own mother to obtain his weapons. His mother legally owned those firearms and was in fact betrayed by her own flesh and blood.
While thankfully this is not very common it is something to be aware of. There are dozens of hate groups out there armed to the teeth and represent a powder keg just waiting for the fuse to be lit.
Along the same lines are the various militias that are suspicious of every manifestation of government imaginable. I hear rhetoric from members of these organizations all the time and it is quite frankly scary.
Stupidity and Accidents
You just can’t fix stupid. I was at a firing range in Connecticut many years ago where this young man was wearing a western style holster with a .44 revolver in in. He was told by the Range Safety Officer (RSO) that quick draw shooting was not allowed. Period. No exceptions.
When the RSO had his back turned answering someone else’s question I saw out the corner of my eye this dude start to pull the revolver from its holster. What happened next is not clear to me but the result was very clear to me. The revolver discharged sending the round down the length of his leg. I stopped what I was doing to attempt first aid but the damage was so severe I was limited on what I could do. Good darn thing the first aid squad was only three minutes away.
I’ve also heard many tales in my lifetime of “unloaded rifles” that weren’t, people being shot by mistake in the woods during hunting season, and the worst was a man shooting his own wife because he thought there was a burglar in the house.
Some of my solutions won’t sit well with the more extreme “Pro-Gun” folks but I believe this is a “makes sense” approach to the problem.
Crime and Punishment
The first thought I have about firearm violence makes the most sense to me. We spend so much time in this country protecting the rights of the accused that we forget why we have a legal system in place in the first place. That thought could be another post in and of itself so I won’t go into here.
Make possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime a Federal felony with a stiff mandatory sentence say fifteen years. I know what the bleeding hearts thing about this but I don’t care. Not doing this is not solving the problem.
Being found guilty of selling firearms on the black market should also be punished on the Federal level with stiff penalties.
A favorite quote among law makers is “getting illegal firearms off the streets.” So instead of punishing law abiding citizens push through legislation designed to address the real problem.
I had a neighbor that knowing I had knowledge of firearms and how to properly use them in self defense out of the blue ask me what sort of pistol he should purchase for home defense. If I wan’t disturbed by his question already, the next words out of his mouth sealed the deal “what about a Glock with a sixteen round magazine?”
Calming myself down a bit I started asking him questions about what he was afraid of that he felt the need to arm himself. Secondly how much experience and training does he have in handling a firearm. I concluded by telling him if nine-millimeter rounds come crashing through my bedroom in the wee hours because he’s blasting away I’m gonna be all sorts of pissed of. I recommended he get a twelve gauge shotgun instead. At least double-ought buck won’t go through both sets of walls.
If someone in this country who is a citizen wants to own firearms, which is their Second Amendment right, they ought to be able to do that. With some caveats.
In my personal philosophy of life rights come with responsibility. I also feel that firearm ownership is a serious enough matter to not be taken lightly.
I am in favor of a tiered licensing approach to firearm ownership.
The basics would include a background check to ensure you are not an ex-con (it’s already illegal to own a firearm if you are an ex-con) and certification from your doctor that you are not mentally incapacitated. A lot of folks are squeamish by that last part, but we already are subject to an eye exam when we get a driver’s license.
This permit would just be a permit to be eligible to own a firearm. That permit would have a time limit (say five years) and would be subject to renewal.
Second tier to this would be individual endorsements for each firearm type you want to own. This would include mandatory education about that firearm type along with a written and practical exam and a demonstration of proficiency. (NRA? You paying attention? You could help with this.)
The third tier would be more difficult to obtain and that would be the concealed carry permit. I certainly don’t want to see the return of the Wild West with everyone armed to the teeth and gunfights in the street. That said, I feel that if someone wants to carry a concealed weapon they should be allowed to if they pass a certification course. Personally I don’t want to carry, but that’s my thinking on the matter.
Self Defense and Responsibility
When I was in the Navy and standing watches as an armed watch stander our rules of engagement (ROE) were simply stated that deadly force was authorized in the following situations:
- Self defense where the watch stander is in imminent danger of injury or death.
- Defense of another where they are in imminent danger of injury or loss of life.
- Defense of the ship.
- Prevention of a felony.
Even though I have not been in the Navy in a very long time those are the ROE I follow to this day.
That said, there’s a flip side to this. If you use deadly force with a firearm or other weapon you’d better be ready to defend your actions and prove that it was self defense on not a crime of passion.
A lot has been said in the press both for and against the so called “Stand Your Ground” laws defining a person’s right to self defense.
Defending yourself against harm has been a right that goes back millennium. The English Common Law actually stated that a home was a man’s castle and a man had a right to defend his castle. (what about women?) Yet there are states/cities where defending yourself against an intruder can get you into jail as a criminal. This is an area that needs to be better addressed by the legal system. Legally binding someone to becoming a victim in their own home is stupid in my not so humble opinion.
I definitely feel that a common sense approach to firearms ownership needs to be addressed in this country of ours. After all the Second Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights not the Bill of Privileges. Holding people accountable for their actions using their firearm only makes sense.