I firmly believe I have a right guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States to own a gun, rifle or shotgun for purposes of self defence, target shooting or hunting. I am a veteran of the Vietnam war (not a hero–I did not hear shots fired in anger). I have owned guns in the past and am comfortable with the thought that my neighbors might own them.
But I don’t believe at all that I have any right to park an Abrams tank in my driveway or a Humvee with a mounted fifty caliber machine gun. And the problem has nothing to do with the vehicles–it’s the attendant armaments that would scare my neighbors, cops and others.
Somewhere in between those two examples lies a balance that can be struck to guarantee our rights under the Second Amendment to the Constitution and the right to life delineated in its Preamble.
During training and operational exercises I witnessed the deadly power of automatic and semi-automatic rifles similar to the AR15 that has become the weapon of choice for mass shootings. I believe these weapons are on the wrong side of the balance sheet and should not be permitted in a civilian environment.
The Supreme Court of the United States has already ruled that the right to bear arms can be limited, both in terms of the types of guns available to the public and the individuals permitted to own or use them. Now, following a decade of mass shootings by madmen and terrorists (and?) we are engaged in a debate on where those lines should be drawn.
78% of Americans don’t own a gun. Half of the country’s guns are owned by 3% of its people. Most members of the National Rifle Association support strong background checks on all purchases, something that does not exist today.
I believe the limits can be drawn quickly and using common sense using those facts. Background checks for all gun sales, prohibition of gun ownership to convicted felons, convicted domestic abusers (there are shamefully some types of domestic abuse not classified as a felony), withdrawal of semi and automatic rifles from the market and a mandatory buyback of such weapons as are already in private hands.
For those conspiracy theorists fearing that the ‘guvmint’ will come and take their guns, three points:
- The background checks could be outsourced to a non-governmental third party–perhaps even the NRA. The government doesn’t have to know who owns the gun. Somebody just needs to cross reference the identity of the prospective purchaser with various databases of felons, abusers, those suffering from mental illness, etc.
- We are long past the point where individual firearms can serve as a check on potential government tyranny. The militarization of the various police departments across the country has led to a situation where an individual or a group of individuals stand no chance of opposing even a police department, let alone the country’s military. Conservatives called for–actually demanded–this militarization. The results have left us permanently at the mercy of our armed forces and law enforcement agencies.
- It is completely true that such regulation is very unlikely to change the overall statistics on murder and mayhem in the United States. Guns not regulated will be used, as they are today, for most murders and suicides. However, legislation can curb mass shootings, which are a small percentage of the total, but are horrific in both their frequency and effect.
The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have elevated the gun control issue to national attention (again), but with the marked difference that it is the survivors of the umpteenth mass shooting, not their parents or friends, that are making the case. Marches across the world yesterday support their pleas for common sense gun control.
We who did not march should support them too. They specifically do not call for gun confiscation or registration. They call for common sense controls similar to what I have outlined above.
Australia remains free decades after imposing very strict gun control laws. So does the United Kingdom. So will the United States.