I don’t know all the answers for preventing gun violence. I do know some things will save lives, and there is no reason not to do them. I say this as a gun owner and supporter of the 2nd Amendment. People should be allowed to own weapons for recreation and personal safety. And while mass shootings get the nation’s attention, the majority of gun violence occurs outside these mass murders. The majority of these victims are people of color, and their deaths typically do not receive the attention that the deaths of white people receive. All this violence cannot continue, our country is better than this.The following must be done:
- Every time a gun is purchased or ownership transferred a background check must be completed. There is no reason to have a loophole in background checks anywhere in this country. Adding $7.50 to the cost of a gun is chump change when weapons cost 50x, 100x and 200x (or more) the cost of the background check. These background checks won’t prevent all violence, but they will save lives. They won’t prevent mass murder, but they will save the lives of domestic violence victims. At least twice in my legal career I have had client’s lives saved by a background check. If even one life is saved by a background check, it is worth it.
- Every gun owner should be required to show proof that they have completed gun safety education. Nearly every state in the country requires some form of hunter education before hunting. If someone is going to own a deadly weapon, they must be required to show they know how to use it safely. This will provide an additional benefit of allowing gun safety instructors to deny completion if a person seems particularly unstable. (And I know people will be concerned that the safety instructors could use bias to deny a certificate of completion, but provided there are appropriate objective standards, this should not be a major problem. These classes would likely be like hunters education courses, and taught by gun enthusiasts who want to impart safety and continue the American tradition of safe gun ownership.)
- Any time a child gets their hands on a weapon, the weapon owner must be criminally liable for the child’s actions. If a 2 year gets a hold of mommy’s unlocked, chambered, gun with a safety off, mom should face criminal penalties, if she survives the encounter. If your nine year old shoots the neighbor kid while playing with your shotgun that is “hidden” in your closet, you should be criminally liable. Yes, if convicted you will lose your right to own a weapon but every gun owner has a responsibility to ensure the weapons are locked and unavailable to children. We shouldn’t have an epidemic of toddlers shooting and killing people, but we do.
- Gun owners should be liable whenever the gun they own is used to commit a crime, unless the weapon was taken by force from the owner. If your young adult offspring is despondent over a breakup, gets your gun cabinet key from the key rack, then uses your gun to kill the ex, then you should be criminally liable. If you can’t be a responsible gun owner, you shouldn’t own guns. This will prevent irresponsible gun owners from being able to purchase guns.
- The AR-15 style rifles are technically simply a semi-automatic rifle. Banning them, would also effectively ban many other guns because the features are common features in modern guns, and is not practical without preventing people from legitimate recreation. What may help is banning the sale of large magazines, and banning removable magazines, but this will only work if nationwide. Colorado’s ban, for example, can be negated by driving across the border to Wyoming. The California ban is negated by buying a gun in another state. People legitimately use AR-15 type guns for recreation. It would be simply inconvenient to have to reload frequently, but that is a trade-off I would be willing to see enacted.
My other thoughts are: I know I have to provide ID every time I buy a Sudafed, and every time I fill a prescription for an opiate my prescription is recorded and tracked in a database in 46 states and the District of Columbia. Tracking ammunition purchases may also prevent some crime, but I don’t have enough information to know that yet. Sometimes I and all four of my kids have colds and we buy several boxes of Sudafed. No one has come knocking on our doors yet. There are legitimate reasons to buy large numbers of cartridges, but some purchases are suspicious. I don’t know if there is a reliable number to say when is it a concern, or what that number is.
Technically an assault rifle is a battlefield weapon, and really cannot be purchased in the US (they can, at great expense, with multiple levels of authorization and background checks, and that has been the case since the 80s). There are so many AR-15 style weapons in circulation that I doubt further manufacturer and sale will have much impact, other than possibly driving the price of the existing ones so high that it will deter their use in some crimes.
Semi automatic weapons aren’t the problem either. I just purchased a semi-automatic shotgun for bird hunting, but it only holds 3 shells at a time. Semi-automatic simply refers to the way a cartridge is chambered and ejected. There is nothing sinister about semi-automatic weapons. One round is shot with each pull of the trigger. Even different drives (piston, gas, etc.) are common to things like 20 gauge hunting shotguns.
The most important thing we must do is begin teaching all our children that violence is not a way to solve problems. We must teach children to manage disappointment, manage hurt, manage strife, without resorting to violence. Our children must learn resiliency. Right now we have generations of kids and young adults that cannot entertain themselves without the use of electronics. Generations of kids and young adults who have never learned to manage conflict without an adult interfering. The problem is not violent video games and movies. Those exist in other countries with gun ownership, but without the violence we have in the United States. The difference is our children are so coddled, over scheduled, over managed that they have not learned to manage difficult feelings. They don’t have opportunities for personal management until they are older teens because if a parent sends a kid outside to play without direct supervision, they are at risk of child protection intervention. Kids are so over scheduled with structured activities they never learn to make their own way in the world. We are so concerned with protecting our young people that we have rendered many of them incapable of problem solving. Now resorting to mass violence is a legitimate option for solving life’s problems in a degenerate mind.