When something like the shooting on July 20th in Aurora, Colorado happens, we all wish to do something. We're not sure what it is, but we feel hampered and impotent because a shocking number of people were shot and there seems like there was something that should have been done to prevent that. The lines form quickly, with one side shouting that we should ban and restrict, the other shouting that there should be more armed people on the street.
The sad fact is, however, that neither of those suggestions will raise the dead. Neither of those suggestions, were they in place prior to the incident, would have necessarily done anything to stop the carnage and misery that resulted. Guns and other weapons exist in the world and there are no precautions that we can take that will ensure that no one, anywhere will not use them to harm innocent people.
So what can we actually do?
The following are my suggestions, followed by some measures that I don't think will work.
1. Improve Healthcare
Over half the gun deaths in the US are suicides. While the immediacy of a gunshot is different than many other forms of suicide, I think that even were guns to evaporate from our borders tomorrow, this number would not change. What could change this number making mental health services more accessible and affordable. If we can help those who are suffering from chronic depression and other mental illness, I think we stand a better chance of stopping a greater number of gun related fatalities than any restriction to firearms ownership.
2. Make it easier to buy a gun at a gun show.
This is the point that's going to make it easy to tell if you read the whole thing or just the bullet point.
The so-called "gun show loophole" is that, if you are a private citizen, you are not required to run a background check before selling a gun to another private citizen. You are guilty of a felony if you do sell a gun to someone who cannot purchase one legally, one that comes with potential jailtime and immense fines, but that said, you do not have to ask. Some of the people who have large private collections tread a fine line between dealer and enthusiast.
However, if you are a licensed gun dealer, you do have to run the check. You have to do one for each firearm, in fact.
So how about this: amend the laws for running background checks to make it so that, if you are hosting a gun show or other event at which guns are sold, you are able to run a background check for any individual who wishes it that applies to any sale on the day of the event. You get your stamp or document or wristband, then any dealer in the hall may sell to you. No background check, you may not sell on the premises.
This would not only insure that no felon walks into a gun show and doesn't buy a gun without a background check, it would actually help people who are able to legally purchase firearms.
EDIT/Update: You can now go to WeThePeople.gov and endorse this idea as a petition. If you think this is a good idea, please follow this link and sign it. It takes 150 signatures before it goes to the general public; please feel free to pimp this out. It is also important that I note that this was not originally my idea, but was put forth by another Newsvine contributor, Courts; I failed to not that when I posted the petition and am seeing if I can correct that.
Accidents are actual the overwhelming minority of firearms deaths. But they also are the most easily prevented.
As such, we should incorporate into public health classes how to identify and safely unload a firearm, along with basic firearms safety. Accidents will still happen, but we can make sure that guns are de-mystified, easily identified as the tools they are rather than the monstrous death machines that so many inexperienced citizens perceive them to be.
I think these three steps could all help a great deal, but neither restrict nor remove any firearms from the hands of any responsible person.
4. Develop a National Concealed Carry Standard
It does disturb me that you can, in some states, get a concealed carry permit without having so much as touched a firearm.
I think that we could standardize what is the minimum requirement and then legislate that any state who wishes to offer concealed carry permits meet or exceed that standard. It would help the image of concealed carry holders, who currently are too often depicted as reckless cowboys, and ease the question of reciprocity. I also think that standard should include a written firearms safety test that covers shoot/don't shoot situations and includes some amount of range time.
5. Improve Communication
While improving health care and mental health availibility is important, it is also important that we make sure that when a person is reported as being a danger to themselves and others, it is entered into the FBI records without fail. I am in favor of establishing better lines of communications between the FBI and state authorities to make sure that no one slips through the cracks.
All of the above require restricting no types of firearms, but would actually speak to the real problem: the people who commit these crimes.
Still, I'm sure these suggestions will not seem enough to many people. They will want more. And to them, I offer the following objections to measures I don't think work, including:
-1. Finding the magic number of bullets
There is no magic number of rounds in a magazine that will make it safe for a law abiding citizen, but useless for a murderer. Restrictions on magazine size do nothing but encourage people to learn how to reload faster.
Consider that the Virginia Tech shootings, as horrible as the were, were carried out with handguns that loaded with 10 and 15 round magazines. Hundreds of rounds were fired. In the shooting of Gabby Giffords, a single extended magazine holding 32 rounds was used and the shooter fired no more than that.
Tactics and setting matter far more than magazine size.
-2. Additional Licensing
I'm loathe to suggest we have any additional requirements to practice any of our Constitutional rights. There are already licensing requirements that apply to get a concealed carry firearm in most states. I fail to see what an additional license will accomplish; especially when I would want it applied to no other freedom I enjoy.
-3. Outlawing "Assault Weapons"
An assault weapon is simply a firearm we think looks like it's up to something. They differ not one bit from hunting rifles in how they work. They are not required to do horrible things. Again, tactics matter far more than specific tools.
When people speak of firearms that work "just as fast as you can pull the trigger" or "fire hundreds of rounds in minutes", consider that the man who holds the world speed shooting record fired 12 aimed shots in 2.3 seconds. That translates out to over 300 rounds per minute, just half of what a fully automatic sub-machine gun can do.
He also did this with an 8-shot revolver. Meaning he reloaded.
Outlawing semi-auto's will do nothing.
-4. Annual fees or mandatory insurance
Aside from all the the problems this has in common with additional licenses, all you do is make it more difficult for the poor to keep and bear arms.
-5. Carry more guns.
As much as I understand that a person in the wrong place at the right time might be able to draw their own weapon and end a mass shooting before it starts, we need to not insist that this is a sure answer to anything. It's possible and the reason I carry is that I'd rather be able to shoot back than not. But those who do choose to carry need to understand that it is not the correct answer to every tactical situation.
I deny the counter-claim that it will certainly make things worse; that's as silly an argument as it will certainly make things better. But that said, its one of many gun arguments, along with cliches and penis references, that just need to be retired.
You may agree with what I've suggested and not with that I've criticized. You may hold the diametrically opposite opinion. But the problem is not guns and never has been. It's been the people holding them, specifically those who have chosen to use these tools to do the unthinkable. We should never let such people drive us to such fear that we relinquish any freedom; we've done too much of that already and it has profited us nothing.
But there are things we can do. I think it is incumbent upon us, especially those of us who exercise our right to keep and bear arms daily, to look for those answers, to try to confer with reason and civil tongues and to insist that we and our lawmakers do better. Because if we can't come up with a better answer, one day fear will get the better of us... and it's not just those who will lose their guns that will suffer for it.