When can we talk about guns?
We’ve been told several times in the past couple of years that “it’s not the right time” to talk about gun control.
We couldn’t talk about it when a politician and several others were shot in Arizona. It wasn’t yet time when a Colorado gunman shot numerous moviegoers. It wasn’t quite the time when an NFL player shot his girlfriend, then himself shortly afterward in Kansas City. And, when in December, a Connecticut man shot 20 children and six adults at an elementary school, it still wasn’t yet time to talk about guns.
We’re told that to bring gun control up at these times is crass, even opportunistic.
It’s been a few weeks now, so can we talk?
There is a lot of misunderstanding about the Second Amendment to the constitution. It had been understood for most of our history to be a right that belonged to states. Only in 2008, in a narrow, activist decision by the Roberts court, was it applied to individuals.
But, let’s acknowledge that because of the 2008 decision, it’s now the law of the land that individuals have the right to own firearms. That decision, District of Columbia v Heller, and a subsequent one (McDonald v Chicago) that applied the rule to states, were about laws that imposed complete bans on handguns.
The court has not yet stated that any American has the right to possess any firearm she or he chooses for any purpose. Presumably, even if we agree that individuals have the right to own guns, there is some room for debate over the details — whenever it’s time for that debate.
When it is time, perhaps someone can explain a few things to me. For example, why does anyone need a military-style automatic or semi-automatic assault rifle for personal protection or hunting? Are you such a bad shot that you need a weapon that fires 30 rounds per second? Are deer that fast?
How realistic is it really that you’ll need ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds? How often are those likely to be needed for personal protection as opposed to mass violence?
Can someone please tell me why we can’t have a requirement that every firearm be registered and that anyone who wants to own a gun be required to undergo safety training?
Maybe someone can explain to me the need for the “gun show loophole” that allows 40 percent of the firearm sales in this country to take place without any background check. What is wrong with requiring a background check for each and every gun purchase? You need a license to drive a car, but not to buy a product the purpose for which is to kill or maim?
I may just be dense, but it’s not clear to me why gun owners should have privacy rights keeping private the very fact that they own a weapon. If you are a law abiding citizen, why are you afraid of a database? If it turns out your weapon was used in a crime, wouldn’t you like to know?
You see, contrary to what you may have been told, no one is going door to door trying to confiscate your guns. Gun rights have actually expanded during the Obama administration. But, there are several simple, common sense solutions that could put a dent in our epidemic of gun violence.
It’s true that guns are part of the culture of our country, far more so than elsewhere in the world. Reliable data are difficult to come by, but most estimates suggest that guns are at least twice as prevalent in the US as in the next highest country and several times higher than most countries. And, this has come at quite a cost.
Thus far, the only solution offered by the NRA is to arm more people, including ones who mostly don’t want to be packing; teachers, school administrators and custodians. They want guns everywhere on the discredited premise that if everyone has guns, we’ll all be safer. The evidence is far stronger that there will simply be more accidents, more mass shootings, and when crime occurs, it will be far deadlier because there are so many weapons available.
And, don’t believe the NRA’s call to “just enforce existing law.” Their lobbyists have done everything they can to make that as difficult as possible.
Guns aren’t the cause of all of our problems. There are many reasons why we lead the world in gun violence: a broken mental health system, widespread poverty and inequality, breakdown in basic social structures and media-instilled fear among others.
But, the easy access to firearms in the States is at least part of the problem, and we ought to address it. If we cannot discuss it after a particular newsworthy gun-related event, we never will. Because these events are becoming far too common.
So, when can we talk?
Michael Carley is a resident of Porterville. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.