Recently, I wrote an editorial comparing the requirements that are placed on hunters with the lack of requirements placed on gun ownership. As I expected, it caused a flurry of comments, most of which were allowed even though they strongly disagreed with the article. (All new commenters have to have their first comment approved before it shows up under an article.)
Most of the commenters missed the point of the article, which I will reiterate below. I started out responding to each comment, but finally decided it was easier to respond with a separate piece, since many of the comments were similar.
So, before I recast my point in stronger and clearer terms, I want to address some of the themes that emerged in the comments.
Yes, I know that hunting humans is illegal. Sheesh – thank you, Captain Obvious. You completely missed the point. Of course it’s illegal, but nevertheless we make it much easier to carry out that illegal practice than we do the legal practice of hunting.
Yes, I know that criminals disobey the law. This is one of the most-cited reasons for not having more gun safety laws … and also one of the worst. So, we should get rid of all laws that criminals might break? I assume, then, that you want to get rid of all traffic laws, since they obviously get broken all the time?
In fact, traffic laws are an excellent comparison to the need for better gun safety laws. When we pass traffic laws, we’re not trying to take away your car; we are trying to make the use of that car safer for everyone.
No, I’m not trying to “take your guns.” The Supreme Court has said that private gun ownership is protected by the 2nd amendment. While I think their decision is somewhat specious (it seems to me that everyone owning guns is not a “well-trained militia”), it is the law of the land. This phrase is an overblown, emotional talking point pushed by the NRA and used by elected officials to win elections.
No, more guns doesn’t make everyone safer. This idea of “good guys with guns” is a fantasy, again pushed by the NRA. There are some interesting studies about gun laws in the “wild west.” Did you know that the town of Tombstone, for example, required anyone entering the town to turn in their guns? So did Dodge City and Deadwood. They knew what we all should understand: more guns means more danger and more deaths.
The United States has an unbelievably high number of guns per human being, AND an unbelievably high rate of death by guns. Study after study has shown that there is a clear correlation between the two. More guns, especially in the hands of people who shouldn’t have then in the first place, make us less safe.
Here’s the point: we need better gun safety laws
For all those people who read the editorial and missed the point, let me spell it out as clearly as I know how:
We need better gun safety laws.
Just like better traffic laws, gun safety laws won’t prevent all gun deaths. What they WILL do is lower the rate and lower the danger.
Here’s a set of gun safety laws that are favored by large majorities of Americans, of all political persuasions:
Universal background checks. While I prefer “permit to purchase” laws (basically a driver’s license for gun ownership), we can at least put in place universal background checks. There are people that we all agree should not own firearms, but without background checks, there is no way to stop them from buying one or more guns.
Red flag laws. These laws allow a judge, and sometimes a family member, to order someone to give up their firearms temporarily, because the person has been deemed a danger to themselves or to others. Most gun deaths are suicides, and these laws would take away that avenue of suicide.
Outlawing assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. This is a no-brainer. Why should anyone outside of the military (and perhaps law enforcement) own a weapon that can fire hundreds of round a minute, AND carry that many rounds in one clip? There is only one reason to have such a weapon: you want to kill as many people in as short a time as possible. Why make it easier for a mass killer to do their job?
By the way, back when the assault weapons ban was first put in place (before the NRA killed it), it was law enforcement that pushed hardest for it. They basically said they were being outgunned by the criminals, and they wanted to begin getting these types of weapons off the street.
Firearms education and testing. Again, the permit-to-purchase program would require all permit holders to pass a test. Just like a driver’s license, we don’t care whether you took a class or studied on your own or were taught by dear old Dad. We just want to know that you know the basics of gun safety, of gun laws, and of what happens when you use a firearm incorrectly or indiscriminately.
You will notice that all of these except the red flag law are already in place for hunters. THAT was the point of the original piece: we need to pass these basic gun safety laws. They are supported by a large majority of Americans, including gun owners and conservatives, and they would begin to curb the gun violence that plagues our nation.