December 16, 2012

Controlling Guns

The tragic events of Sandy Hook have already sparked renewed outrage at what many perceive to be lax gun control laws in America. While I agree in principle, two stubborn facts dim any optimism on my part that we will ever be free of this problem. In a country that has more gun dealers than gas stations, the millions of weapons out there already are a permanent part of the landscape. And no reform you can think of will prevent a middle-aged, well-to-do lady from buying a handgun or two for personal protection. Still, there are possibilities. What follows are a few simple suggestions for ways in which to rethink the issue of what to do about gun violence in this country.
  • Ban the import of all firearms. Why not? Isn't "Buy American" a good thing. What could be wrong with that? In 2010, 3,252,404 firearms were imported to the United States, as compared to 5.5 million manufactured here. Surely we can squeak by on the 5.5 million domestically produced firearms. If we need those other 3 million firearms, they can be manufactured right here in the good ol' U.S. of A., providing good jobs for Americans.
  • If your child died from an improperly constructed crib, those cribs would be recalled. If a toy is dangerous or is made from dangerous substances, it is removed from the shelves. If your child falls ill from tainted medicine or food, the medicine or food disappears from the shelves of your grocery store overnight. If your child is killed by an assault weapon, then ... what? We make it easier to own such things? Does that make any sense to you?
  • If you fill out a medical history form, you will be asked if you smoke. Why? Because smoking is hazardous to your health and increases your likelihood of serious diseases that can cost insurance companies a lot of money. Well, owning a handgun is hazardous to your health and to the health of anyone you might come in contact with. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine noted that suicide was the second-leading cause of death among Americans 40 years of age or younger, and more than half of all suicides are gun suicides.Sounds hazardous to me. Everyone who owns a handgun should be required to note that as part of their medical and insurance history. Failure to do so would be insurance fraud.
  • While we are on the subject of insurance, let's think about changing homeowners insurance policies to require that handgun owners prove they are securely storing their handguns. Maybe require a safe bolted to the floor, with a sturdy combination lock. If you don't report the handgun on your policy, then it voids your homeowners insurance. If the handgun is stolen from your house, then it voids your homeowner's insurance.
  • Allow private citizens to buy all the handguns they want, provided they are revolvers. The West was won with six-shooters. If a six-gun was good enough for Wyatt Earp, a noted gun control advocate in his own day, then it ought to be good enough for you. Does anyone really need a semi-automatic anything?
  • Let's worry at least as much about a handgun as we do about a 1987 Dodge Dart. When you buy a car, you fill out a change of title and provide a copy to the State. This in turn gets you a registration certificate proving you own the car. No registration, no car. The same rule should apply to handguns. Document all changes of ownership of a handgun just like you do a car. If you break the chain of documentation, you go to jail. 
I know for a lot of folks, the discussion about firearms begins and ends with the Second Amendment. Well, that's just not good enough. We don't put up with this kind of crap for anything else, why should firearms be any different.

How about we look at firearms in the same way that we look at anything else that is potentially lethal to children or adults? We don't ban all medicines or toys or cribs when there is a problem, just like we didn't ban the sale of cigarettes. But we for damn sure hold manufacturers responsible for any injuries or deaths from their product and we for damn sure don't sit around holding constitutional debates while our children are dying because of an improperly constructed crib or a toy that contains lead paint. We get rid of the damn cribs or toys or whatever it is that might even look like it could harm our children. How hard is that?

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