One thing I have always tried to do with this blog is to stick to arguments that are certified or at least easily provable with a relatively easy Google search. The one thing you almost never see on this blog is an argument that is purely ad hominem. Even when I have called Andrew Breitbart, Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden liars, I actually proceeded to prove it. Unfortunately for Andrew, I had done legal work on some Pigford cases and was able to prove his characterizations false. Greenwald and Snowden perpetrated the greatest farce in “journalism,” by dumping a bunch of documents on us, but never actually getting explanations about what they meant from people who had knowledge of them. Instead, they “interpreted” them for us, despite the fact that Snowden was an IT guy and Greenwald has never spent one minute working in the intelligence field. It would be like me writing an instruction manual on how to rebuild a jet engine. I can Google about it and write something, but if you try to build an engine based on that, you’re a bit of a fool.
What I mean by all of this is, I value facts and truth over everything. Even when I don’t like it. Is the NSA trying to develop ways to spy on us? Of course they are. No one should doubt that. If they do doubt that, they’re silly. That doesn’t mean they’re trying to gain power over us, of course; I know some people who work at the NSA, and they are amazing people who would never hurt anyone. One of them is a leader in his church, for crap’s sakes and we’ve known each other since we were 12; he would never hurt anyone on purpose. I can’t even imagine him raising his voice. But they want to catch bad guys in service to their country, so they want to be able to get into secure phones and computers because the bad guys use them, too. Will some people slip through the cracks and use their position for ill? Count on it. That’s why there is and always should be massive oversight over people with that kind of access to technology that could hurt us. Most people don’t have to be forced into being responsible, but there are always the exceptions we have to deal with.
That’s the basis for all law, really. Even laws about murder, rape and robbery aren’t actually meant to keep everyone in line. The vast majority of people would never murder or rape someone, even in the absence of a law. I mean, if they repealed the law against murder tomorrow, it’s unlikely that anyone reading this post would just go out and kill someone because, well, now they won’t have to go to jail. That doesn’t mean laws aren’t necessary, of course; the fact that rape is illegal and getting caught will ruin someone’s life definitely has an impact on the number of rapes and makes people a lot more careful. A study came out last week that said that incidents of texting and driving were 17% higher in the four states that don’t have a ban than in the 46 states that do. The purpose of a law is to encourage potentially irresponsible people to be more responsible and to act in a way that benefits society.
And that is why we need better gun laws.
I hesitate to say “more” gun laws because it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. The vast majority of gun owners are responsible, decent citizens, who care for their weapons in a safe, responsible manner. However, there is no denying that gun laws, as they currently stand, do not encourage irresponsible gun owners to be more responsible. As of now, quite literally, anyone can get a gun. That includes people who, legally speaking, are not allowed to have one, as well as people who probably shouldn’t have one. The fact that they can’t walk into a federally licensed gun dealer’s shop and buy one without a background check doesn’t change that; they can still respond to a classified ad, or buy one from a guy on a street corner or at a flea market or yard sale, or any number of ways, and no one is required to do a background check. There is no recording and tracking of the sale and a gun can go through 20-30 hands before it’s used in a crime, or used by a toddler to shoot his parents, or used by a seven-year-old to shoot a classmate, or used by a teenager to shoot himself, or used by a son to shoot up the school where his mother works as a teacher. If I need certain allergy medicines, I have to swipe my driver’s license. To buy a gun, I just have to “know a guy” and hand him the cash. I can go online and use a credit card, a PayPal account, or the gift card Aunt Martha got me for Christmas.
And that’s the problem. Having laws against felons owning guns is one thing, but actually putting into place ways to enforce the law is a whole different thing. And it is also absolutely necessary, if we’re going to at least try to make irresponsible people act responsibly, in a way that benefits society. All guns should be registered and tracked and every sale should be recorded. The owner of each and every gun should be responsible for whatever happens to or with it, which can’t happen until we know who has what and what happens to it subsequent to sale. We currently don’t register guns at all. Many people think we do, but that would be wrong. We record initial sales and that’s all. Once we record the initial sale, that’s it; that gun can be sold any number of times, and there is no way to know who has it at any given time. In other words, it’s against the law for a felon to own and carry a firearm, but unless we know when they do, what’s the purpose of that law?
Another thing that’s bothersome about current law is that, because anyone can buy and own a gun, there is no way to know if the person carrying the gun is properly trained and skilled enough to use it responsibly. I know this may come as a shock to many people, but you don’t just buy one, point and shoot. There’s a reason there are firing ranges, after all; people need to practice to use it properly. However, since there are no legal requirements for ownership, there is no way to know if the asshole walking around Target with an AR-15 strapped to his sorry ass has even the slightest idea how to use it. We’re supposed to see him carrying his weapon and just assume he’s not going to accidentally shoot our kids or us with it. See the problem?
And no, it’s not the guns, folks; it’s the lack of knowledge about the person with the gun. When we see a cop with a gun in his holster walking into the McDonalds for lunch, we’re not worried because we have a reasonable expectation (I use that phrase advisedly, my Black friends) that he or she isn’t going to open fire and kill people because they’ve been trained and we can assume a certain level of competence. I can’t say the same about some redneck waiting in line at Subway. He can do anything to anyone, and I can have no level of confidence that this jerk is sane and competent.
Guns have less regulation than a hair dryer, for crap’s sake. And while it’s possible to kill someone with a hair dryer, it’s not the purpose of the dryer, seriously.
This is what needs to happen…
- All guns should be equipped with all available safety features, such as “smart gun” technology that prevents anyone else but the owner from firing the gun. Gun and ammo makers should not be allowed to advertise their wares based on its ability to produce carnage. And no gun maker should be protected from liability; that should be up to a judge, based on the evidence.
- Every gun needs to be registered. Like a car, every one should have a “pink slip” of sorts, and every time that gun changes hands, it should be tracked.
- If a gun is stolen, it should be reported as soon as the theft is discovered.
- All gun buyers should have to be licensed. That means everyone who wants to buy a gun should have to go through a background check, including an evaluation of their basic competence and ability to handle a gun.
- All gun owners should have to insure their gun and be subject to occasional inspections, especially if they have kids, to make sure their guns are secure.
- Only standard ammunition should be sold. No “cop killer” bullets or others. All ammunition sales should be recorded and tracked. If someone has 4,000 rounds of ammunition and 23 guns, there is no way local police should be unaware of that fact.
Again, I recognize that the vast majority of gun owners are responsible and do not have to be told to lock up their guns and keep them away from their children. Most gun owners will never do anything bad with their weapon on purpose. But it should bother us that there is nothing enforcing responsibility on that one percent of gun owners who make the other 99% look bad. It’s not a bad thing for society to know that, if you’re carrying a weapon, they can be reasonably certain that you’re responsible with it. It’s also reasonable for society to expect that a gun is made as safely as possible. If you think of gun deaths only in terms of homicides, you are missing the key. Most gun deaths in this country are accidents and suicides, and all of the steps above can lessen those numbers drastically, as well as reducing the number of mass shootings.