By Tom Burke
Last week we began a conversation about gun legislation by offering some basic facts that put everyone on the same page. Here’s the rest of that conversation:
First, let’s agree gun legislation is incredibly nuanced and requires more than bumper-sticker solutions: The NRA’s “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” is no more a defense for gun ownership than Sarah Brady’s “I don’t believe gun owners have rights” is a rationale for confiscation.
Next, let’s stipulate gun legislation is a giant can of culture-clashed worms of red/blue, conservative/progressive, rural/urban, Democrat/Republican, hunter/PETA, hyper-partisan issues. Both sides gotta get over that.
Finally, kids shouldn’t be afraid to go to school. They shouldn’t have active shooter drills after times table drills. Teachers shouldn’t need concealed carry permits or qualify at the range like police. And schools shouldn’t have to be armored against their own students nor should churches, synagogues, Walmarts, or a garlic farm festival be armored against white supremacists.
And let’s cut the crap and stop playing the distraction card — arguing about violence in cities, or criminals and illegal handgunswith, or evolving societal trends, or comparisons with other countries, or video games — and focus on mass shooters, whether young men, white supremacists or the mentally unstable.
Let’s consider guns like we do booze or dope or cigarettes and honestly keep them out of the hands of those who should not have them; while strongly recognizing the right of law-abiding citizens to own a firearm.
So, because what we’ve been doing clearly isn’t working, let’s:
Pass new national legislation for: Universal background checks; “red flag” laws; reasonable safe-storage requirements; funding the much-needed fix of the broken NICS/FBI/State background-check process; institute a national seven-day waiting period for semi-automatic rifles; freeze magazine capacity at 10 rounds; and establish a minimum 21-year-old age for purchasing semi-automatics except for active, reserve or former military.
Fund mental health research and intervention: Fully fund a comprehensive, national, nonpartisan mental health initiative to study and identify the causes of firearms injuries and factors setting people (especially young men) to mass murder and identify at-risk youth (and others), then get them help, especially those at risk of suicide.
Stop wasting time and money on stuff that won’t work: “Smart” guns are a pipe dream (and what about the 300-million un-smart guns in circulation?); a buy-back would cost $180 billion or more; national/universal registration will never happen; repealing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms puts other industries at risk; and tech-ID of potential shooters is a scientific fantasy with serious privacy issues.
Focus law enforcement on domestic terror: As we have focused on foreign terror since 9/11; and start rigorous enforcement of the existing gun laws, especially prosecutions for falsifying the federal NICS background check forms.
(Allocating more money and emphasis on policing and enforcement of current laws seems a lot more “common sense” than, say, microstamping all 56 billion bullets made in the U.S. as some gun control advocates have suggested.)
But what about “assault rifles,” or “modern sporting rifles,” or whatever you call them (which we now all understand are just cosmetically adorned good-ole-fashioned semi-automatic rifles)?
Well, let’s just ban them. Done and finished. Right?
No. Not a bit.
It’s so easy to say, “Let’s just outlaw all guns like they do in the U.K., Japan or Australia.” Or, “Buy back all “assault rifles.” But it isn’t so easy to do.
First because there’s more than 300 million guns already out there with an estimated 15 million to 20 million “assault rifles;” and of the 115 mass shootings since 1999, 32 involved semi-autos and not all were “assault rifles.” Are we writing laws, sweeping laws, for at most 32 evilly used guns of 15 million owned?
Next there’s how we legally define an assault rifle. Most definitions specify things like adjustable stocks, pistol grips, bayonet lugs or detachable magazines added to a regular semi-auto. New York state tried to ban assault rifles. They failed. Manufactures simply eliminated the “add-ons” and the new version was exactly the same gun and met the new legislative criteria.
Finally, there’s the Second Amendment with it’s the tens of millions who aren’t of a mind to surrender the gun rights they fervently believe are constitutionally protected (and the Supreme Court has mostly upheld).
Magazine capacity? Now, that’s a different story.
Personally, I see no need for a 100-round drum magazine. Or even a 30-round magazine. Surely not for hunting or competition, nor practically, for self-defense.
And it’s those hi-cap mags that exponentially add to the lethality of semi-automatics.
So let’s limit new semi-rifle magazine capacity to 10 rounds and outlaw (New? Old?) 20, 30 and 100-round semi-auto mags.
You know, when I moved here private transfers between qualified individuals of any legal firearm was permitted. (To be sure, people have to be licensed by the county sheriff to concealed-carry a gun.)
I wasn’t in favor of the referendums that changed our laws, mostly because I support “regular order” and prefer to see laws passed by the Legislature, not by initiative like the last one (1639) which was very poorly drafted and succumbed to big-money propaganda driving metro-Seattle to “Yes,” while the rest of the state screamed, “No!” (Ahhh….the vagaries of majority rule.)
But I can live with those laws. They haven’t curtailed collecting or shooting, although it’s too early to say about life-saving.
For me, a “gun guy,” I recognize guns and who has them is a (the?) issue. I say pass legislation making us safer; fund the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study why people (especially young men) kill, then get them help; enforce current laws; and stop the BS and slogans and distractions that do nothing but drive Americans apart.
Personally, I’m tired of hearing the same old crap from both extremes. I want solutions, not rhetoric, not politics, not pandering to a base, bumper stickers, or needlessly appeasing un-informed, delibertly-frightened people with laws that don’t solve the problem.
I want smart. Now.
What do you want?
Tom Burke’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.