Whenever I write about firearms, I expect (and get) a backlash from the hard core on both sides. Comes with the subject and the territory.
To some firearm owners, those who try to find common ground are fools. “Give ‘em an inch and they’ll come for all of our guns.”
To the other side, those who search for compromise are cowards for not demanding that “everyone, everywhere turn in all of their firearms immediately,” if not sooner.
(Pause, with head bowed, for long sigh.)
OK, I believe, and will continue to believe, that there’s a middle ground in this debate and that there are many who’re still willing to give “compromise,” and “working toward a common goal” a chance. Which, when facing seemingly intractable problems, used to be called “common sense.”
They’re the ones who’ll propose ideas that might — while not perfect, but still presented without name-calling or anger — prove to be the first steps toward preventing atrocities in our schools, movie theaters, shopping malls and elsewhere.
As an example, currently there’s no shortage of argument regarding — pick your term— “modern sporting” or “assault” rifles.
For “my side,” a start might be to consider that there should, at least, be a limit to magazine capacity and ease of reloading for such firearms.
When was the last time we needed 30 rounds on our city streets? When or why do we think we might need that many rounds? Is there a number that might be more reasonable? Ten is a number that’s been mentioned, but we might consider that we won a world war with a semi-automatic rifle (the M1 Garand) that had an eight-round capacity.
For those on the other side, consider that looks do not equate to function. Black plastic, pistol grips, folding stocks, bayonet lugs, all of these and others are cosmetic. A semi-automatic rifle is a semi-automatic rifle. One trigger pull. One round fired. Looks are not the issue. Magazine capacity and ease of loading and reloading are what matter.
If we wish to slow reloading time, a look-alike battle rifle could be designed with a non-detachable magazines that had to be reloaded — one round at a time — through the action. This is a distinct pain in the butt that takes time and requires a lot of dexterity. Two things which wouldn’t then be available to some nut job trying to kill people who are now coming at him with the intention of stopping him … painfully.
Other ideas worthy of discussion:
1. Require all first-time firearm purchasers to complete a safety and safe-handling course. Such training would allow familiarization with their firearm and, hopefully, begin the process of ingraining the need for vigilance and constant safety into their storehouse of habits.
2. Require all firearms and ammunition to be safely locked away while stored in the home. Those who need instant access to a loaded firearm could purchase one of any number of quick opening safes that are already on the market and which can be securely mounted on, say, a bedside table. I found ten such safes in a two-minute online search.
3. Have certified, volunteer instructors teach elective safety courses in schools. One might want to look up the statistics on the declining number of firearm incidents while hunting since hunter safety courses became required. It’s an eye opener. Further, consider hiring retired police officers or former military vets as guards at schools. These individuals are sheepdogs already trained to deal with wolves.
4. It will forever remain a fact that, for a firearm to kill, there must be a human handling it. With that in mind, strengthen the background check system to ensure that those with histories of domestic violence, mental illness, felonies, etc., cannot purchase or possess a firearm until cleared to do so. As an aside, why hasn’t there been a call for a national study to find the reasons our young men are committing these atrocities?
5. Standardize the age and wait times required for purchasing any firearm. It makes no sense to have one set of rules, waiting periods, and age restrictions pertaining to handguns and another set for long guns. I’d offer that the age requirement be 21 years.
Such ideas and others are worth discussing, amending or replacing with better ones to be brought forth. What we don’t need are two groups unwilling to compromise or even talk. There’s been enough of that already. And the results have been grim.
We can do better. Much better. And we know it.
Larry Simoneaux lives in Edmonds. Send comments to email@example.com.