We don’t need “gun safety.”
We need GUN CONTROL.
If you’re wondering why, all I can say is, get your head out of the latest news about which Kardashian married which basketball player and which tiny little girl singer is dating which skinny white boy singer and look around at what’s happening in the world. And no, I’m not talking about the tragic stories in which some idiot goes on a rampage and kills multiple people for no reason rational people can understand. Not exactly, anyway. Hell, those are the easy examples. The problem is much bigger than that.
Put it this way, folks. Last week, I was told by an online right winger that America’s gun problem isn’t that bad, because the number of people killed by guns has dropped since 1993, which serves as a peak of some sort. And that has happened, kind of. Here are some statistics you should see, though, because the story isn’t all that simple. Look closely at the numbers. You’ll see that almost all of the drop occurred between 1994 and 2001. Since then, the numbers plateaued. Interesting, no? What was the actual reason for the drop, do you think?
Well, the economy was taking off around then, and Bill Clinton’s Enterprise Zones were bringing back commerce in some of the most crime-ridden areas of the country. Could that be it? Maybe, but if that was the case, then the current improvement in the economy would be dropping the numbers now and it’s not. Not only that, but the Bush Recession should have created another spike and there wasn’t that, either. So what else could have caused such a steep decline, do you think?
Oh, come on. It’s not difficult. On September 13, 1993, Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, known otherwise as the “Assault Weapons Ban.” It took effect, and the number of homicides by firearm saw the steep decline that gunloons of today actually point to, rather ironically it turns out, as an example of what more guns does for gun crime.
And while I suppose we should be grateful that the number of gun homicides is lower now, it’s still too damn high. More than 33,000 people are killed with guns every year and, when you compare it to other industrialized and supposedly civilized nations, that number is embarrassing and sad and appalling. So far this year, there have been 351 mass shootings in only 335 days. (Source) That, too, is embarrassing as hell. As of October of this year, there have been 43 shootings by toddlers so far. (Source) Why does this reputation not bother more Americans?
We have a serious problem and we have to address it. Other countries have significant laws regarding guns and they have cultures that don’t allow for gunloons to do whatever the hell they want, and the number of people they lose to guns every year is measured in the hundreds, if not dozens. And the one time — the only time in our history — that we took serious action to enact serious gun control with the assault weapons ban and the Brady background check law, we saw a huge decrease in gun homicides. And since we let the assault weapons ban expire and we started to de-emphasize background checks, the numbers have stopped going down and are even creeping back up.
See, here’s the problem; our current system of gun laws relies on individuals to police themselves and to act responsibly with weapons. Who does that? When you drive anywhere, you’ll encounter drivers who speed, or who weave in and out of traffic; imagine if there were no laws in place to allow a cop to pull them over. If we took the same approach to drunk driving that we take with guns, a lot more people would be dead. When you shop, expensive small items often come in boxes that only the cashier can open, because retailers don’t take the same approach that Americans take with guns; they assume, rightly, that, while the vast majority of shoppers will never steal, some will.
Perhaps you’ve heard that California is suffering through a massive drought. The vast majority of Californians have probably cut back on water usage, but the state still approved fines of up to $500 per day for those who waste water, simply because some will not cut back.
The precautions we take in our everyday life are not designed to keep everyone in line. They are to protect us from the smallish minority of people who refuse to follow the most basic rules of society. And acknowledgment of that reality is why we need common sense gun control and why we needed it years ago. I will stipulate that the vast majority of gun owners are sane and that most rural gun owners only shoot at varmints and predators and never point their guns at other human beings, including government officials who are just working to make a living and keep their families housed and fed. Most suburban gun owners only use their gun for legal hunting and occasional target practice. Most urban gun owners will keep their gun locked away and only plan to bring it out and use it when they need to for self-defense. Clearly, these people are not the reason why we need common sense gun control.
We take precautions with every other aspect of our lives because doing so is prudent. We don’t carry car insurance because we expect to get into an accident; we carry it because such a thing is a possibility. We don’t carry life insurance because we expect to die right away, but because it’s always a possibility and we don’t want our family to suffer.
The only area of our lives where Americans take few to no precautions is in the area of firearm safety. Why do we refuse to take even modest precautions when it comes to firearms?
Currently, the only time we screen anyone who buys a gun is when he or she purchases one from a licensed gun dealer. Let’s be clear about something, though; the gun is not registered, it is not tracked, and there is nothing even resembling enforced responsibility. Greater precautions are taken with allergy medicines than with guns and ammo. When I want to buy something that contains pseudoephedrine, because a few people use that to make crystal meth, I have to go to a pharmacist to buy it and they swipe my driver’s license, so that they can make sure I don’t buy too much. Yet, I can buy as many guns as I want online or through the classifieds without any sort of screening. Then, to make matters worse, they can then go into as many stores and buy as many bullets as they want, and nothing is tracked. That’s just absurd. I can only buy so much allergy medicine, but I can buy as many guns and bullets as I want? How does that make sense? Is it really that puzzling why so many people are killed with guns in this country?
There are laws on the books that prohibit certain people from buying and carrying a gun, but there are few to no laws on the books that try to identify those people. There are no requirements for those who buy a gun from a private party to undergo a background check. By some estimates, that’s as many as 40% of gun purchases. And while that number admittedly seems a little steep, even if the number is half that, it means there are millions of unscreened people out there with guns. Again, most gun owners are law-abiding citizens with no intention of doing anything bad with their guns. We’re talking about 2-3% of gun owners, at most. But given that about 140 million Americans own more than 300 million guns, that comes to 3-4 million people who aren’t entirely law-abiding who are easily able to get a gun, even though they shouldn’t have one. That’s one hell of a loophole, don’t you think? It’s illegal for a convicted felon to get a gun, but what’s in place to stop the purchase?
After the November Paris terrorist attacks, when it was announced that we would take in some Syrian refugees, one Texas legislator actually said that we shouldn’t take any in because it’s too easy for them to get a gun. The fact that so few people could disagree with him points to a serious problem. It is just too easy for anyone to get a gun these days. We need new gun laws. Period.
All guns should be registered to a specific person at all times, and that person should be licensed to own and use a gun, to make sure everyone who owns a gun is qualified to do so. Also, every gun someone owns should be insured, so as to ensure that all gun owners are responsible, and to make sure the expenses related to irresponsible gun ownership are borne by the irresponsible person. When a gun changes hands, for any reason, the registration and title for that gun should also transfer to the new owner. When a licensed gun owner has acted irresponsibly with their gun, the license should be suspended or taken away. There should be limits on ammunition, as well. The killer who shot up an Aurora movie theater was mentally ill, yet he was able to buy dozens of guns, high capacity magazines and thousands of rounds of ammunition without so much as an identity check. Such a thing should be impossible, but it’s not.
We do all of the above with cars, and it hasn’t had a detrimental effect on car ownership; there is no reason to suggest that such measures will have a detrimental effect on legal gun ownership. Just as we need to protect ourselves by enforcing responsibility on the 2-5% of us who drive like maniacs, or who steal from stores, or who make meth in their garage, we do have to take basic precautions to protect ourselves from irresponsible gun owners. Period.