What to Do About Guns

On Wednesday, there was another school shooting, this time at a high school in Florida. This time, instead of the shooter cowardly blowing his own head off, this one was caught and will face trial. Once more, we are being bombarded with “reasons why this happened.” There is the contingent who believe we should ban all guns, of course, which is insane, but equally insane is the contingent who believes “it’s because the man was mentally ill. We have to take mental illness more seriously.” The sad part is, neither contingent seems capable of realizing that BOTH elements are present and a problem. Put it this way; women suffer from mental illness at least as often as men, yet 98% of mass shooters are men. Mental health coverage would help, but it’s only part of the problem.

However, there’s a third problem, and that is the same apathy and complacency that placed the bonehead Donald Trump in the White House. Yesterday, a bunch of the kids from Douglas High School who survived the shooting on Valentine’s Day got together and addressed the real problem. We have failed our kids. We have allowed the gun culture to take over our government and have their own way. I know it is tempting to blame the NRA, but no. The NRA is evil and a bunch of lying creeps, but it is the Republican Party who has decided to place the NRA’s needs ahead of the needs of the people. In turn, it is our tendency to encourage non-voting that has kept the GOP in power long past their sell-by date.

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. And a basic fact is, we need laws and regulations to cover everything in society that has the potential to harm us. Yet, we have very few laws related to gun safety and security.  The basis for all law, even laws regarding murder, rape and robbery, aren’t actually meant to keep everyone in line, just the bad people. The vast majority of people will never even think of murdering or raping someone, even in the absence of a law. If they repealed the laws against murder and rape tomorrow, it’s unlikely anyone reading this post would just go out and kill someone or rape someone because it was legal.  However, these laws do have an impact on the number of rapes and murders and they make people a lot more careful. A recent study showed that incidents of texting and driving were 17% higher in the few states that don’t have a ban than in the majority 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.

And to the gunloons who may happen upon this, I did not say “more” gun laws. The issue isn’t about quantity, but quality. The vast majority of gun owners are responsible, decent citizens, who keep their weapons in a safe, responsible manner. However, the current state of gun laws does not encourage irresponsible gun owners to be more responsible, and that is the main purpose of regulations. As of this moment, virtually anyone can get a gun, including people who, legally speaking, are not allowed to have one. In addition, that means people who probably shouldn’t have one. They can’t walk into a federally licensed gun dealer’s shop and buy one without a background check, but the background check isn’t comprehensive enough,  as evidenced by the fact that the Florida shooter, who had serious social problems, at the very least, had no problem getting an AR-15 and all the accessories to make it semi-automatic, capable of shooting 45 rounds per minute.

Of course, if a buyer wants a gun without a background check, they can respond to a classified ad, or buy one from a guy on a street corner or a flea market or yard sale, or any number of ways, and no one is required to do a background check. By the way, right after 20 innocent babies in kindergarten and first grade were gunned down in cold blood by another “mentally ill” person, Democrats proposed a bill that would have fixed that and the majority Republican Party killed it, even though every poll showed more than 90 percent of Americans supported the concept. Right now, thanks to the NRA bought-and-paid-for Republicans, there is no recording and tracking of most gun sales. A gun can be sold and resold and go through 20-30 hands without anyone knowing who owned it or who has it now. Therefore, when a gun is 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, there is no way to trace its ownership. Not only that, but while the purchase of certain types of allergy medicines requires the pharmacy to swipe my driver’s license and limit me to a couple boxes every week, if I want to buy a gun, I only 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 there is nothing stopping me.

That’s the problem. Having laws against felons owning guns sounds great, but It’s necessary to have regulations in place to allow for enforcement of that law. It is also absolutely necessary to at least try to make irresponsible gun owners act responsibly, in a way that benefits society. All guns should be registered and tracked and every sale should be recorded and 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’s wrong. We record initial sales, but there is no registry. Put simply, it’s technically against the law for a felon to own and carry a firearm, but law enforcement has no way of knowing when it happens, so what’s the purpose of that law?

Another thing that’s bothersome about current law is that we have 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 a gun, point it at someone or something, and shoot. There’s a reason for firing ranges; people need to learn how to use it properly and they need to practice. 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 won’t ever purposely or accidentally shoot our kids or us with it.

See the problem?

And no, it’s not the guns, folks; it’s about the people with guns. 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 they won’t likely open fire and kill people. They have also been trained and we assume a certain level of competence. I can’t say the same about some redneck Trump voter waiting in line at the Subway. He can do anything to anyone, and I have no level of confidence that this jerk is sane and competent.

Think about it: guns have less regulation surrounding them than a toaster, for crap’s sake. And while it’s possible to kill someone with a toaster, it’s not the purpose of the toaster.

This is what needs to happen, if we are to fulfill our promise to our children and everyone else in society regarding the gun culture:

  • All guns should be equipped with all available safety features, such as “smart gun” technology that prevents anyone but the owner from firing the gun.
  • There should be categories of guns and those with a primary purpose of killing people should not be sold to the public. Rednecks with MAGA caps should not be allowed to roam free with a military style weapon.
  • Gun, gun accessory and ammunition makers should never be allowed to advertise their wares based on its ability to produce carnage.
  • No gun maker should be protected from liability; that should be up to a judge and jury, based on the evidence.
  • Every gun has to be registered. Like a car, every gun should come with 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. If not, the owner should be held liable for the damage done.
  • All gun owners and carriers should 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, not “cop killer” bullets or others designed to maximize damage.
  • 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.

Should we hav

Also published on Medium.

About Milt Shook

A writer with more than 45 years in the political game (and let's face it, it is a game). I am a liberal because facts have a liberal bias, and I really like facts. If you like facts, you'll like this blog. If not, you'll have a hard time.


What to Do About Guns — 2 Comments

  1. The American constitution guarantees all citizens the right to bear arms. The American constitution guarantees all citizens the right to own a motor vehicle. But, each individual vehicle must be registered and each individual operator must be licenced to operate a vehicle. Even the gun lobby would agree with these restrictions on motor vehicle use and ownership.
    For the safety of all other citizens, to be consistent, we should agree with the same restrictions be placed on gun users and on the guns themselves. This would not remove the right to bear arms. But it would give protection against irresponsible owners and operators mush as the restrictions on vehicle use wound intend to do. Let us be consistent.
    Brian Gillespie

  2. “All gun owners and carriers should 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.”
    This is simply reasonable.