The nation is now engaged in a deliberation about school safety, deadly weapons, mental illness and a popular culture extolling violence. As concerned Americans with law enforcement, legislative and technical understanding of the intricacies of firearms, law making and the convoluted politics of the firearms debate we offer our expertise, and experience in the discussion to uncover and craft meaningful solutions. The Independent Firearm Owners Association (IFoA) will strive to inform that conversation in an insightful, rational and above all civil way -- always keeping in mind the need for reaching broad agreement on many fronts to diminish the chance of any repetition of the tragic events in Newtown or the more common criminal acts that occur daily across this land.
On one point we can all agree: No civilized person supports or approves of the negligent misuse, the intentional criminal use nor the deranged psychopathic use and access to guns, knives, explosives or any other potentially lethal product.
Here are some initial thoughts on how all parties to this discourse can help make it respectful and productive.
1. Let's agree to insist upon a return to public civility. We must be considerate of each other and address this issue as concerned, rational adults -- especially on Capitol Hill.
2. Let's accept the fact that in our complex society there are no simple "commonsense" solutions. We must find a way to responsibly balance the rights of law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms, the rights of mentally ill to retain as much liberty as public safety allows, and the right of the media under the First Amendment to inform the people.
3. Lets not allow our disagreements to prevent us from moving forward on the many issues where we are likely to be in substantial agreement.
We applaud President Obama's call for an investigation into the many causes of this complex issue, and practical remedial steps.
Our Mental Health Services:
It seems clear to us that governments and social agencies are unable to deal with what appears to be a rising tide of violence -- for multiple shooter incidents alone, from 18 in the 1980s, to 54 in the 1990s and 87 in the 2000s, even as firearms background checks were becoming stricter, not looser. This suggests a wholesale reconsideration of the breadth and quality of the nation's public and private mental health services, and the legal standard ("danger to themselves or others") governing involuntary civil commitment.
The NRA and other groups have suggested armed guards including training some teachers in firearm use. Dale McClellan, President of Special Tactical Services, a consultant on business and school safety correctly points out that "teachers and school administrators aren't trained" how to properly react in "active shooter" situations. He suggests that, "school rooms could have ballistic doors with magnetic locks which would prevent most shooters from getting into the rooms." He also suggests consideration of "less than lethal force" options which include training to aim and fire a Taser which would sometimes stop the incident before the police could possibly respond. Why don't we immediately harden school entry and be open to experiment? We did that with cockpit doors after 9/11 -- it seems to have worked.
Uninformed and ill-informed commentators are using words like "assault weapons" and "machine guns" without understanding those terms' true meaning. This misinformation causes resentment among gun owners who know the laws and the differences between terminologies. The accurate use of terminology, to produce a useful discussion instead of scoring political points, is essential to the coming task.
Let us act with resolve to take the non-controversial steps immediately. Let us studiously avoid the divisive ones that prevent effective and mutually agreed upon action. Let's think very carefully before we undermine the American tradition of 250 years of established law and freedom. We should support an effective Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) which focuses on gun crimes here in the USA. Let's give BATF the resources and the technology like the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) for linking crimes, guns and suspects. Let's require the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) at gun shows as NRA's Wayne LaPierre testified to Congress back in May 1999. Let's start a national firearm safety awareness campaign to encourage people to keep their firearms safe and secure from those who should not get access to them.
We recognize that freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. We cannot legislate responsibility, but we can enforce the laws we have (which we often don't) and provide new resources that promise to diminish the incidence of deranged killers, predatory criminals and accidental shooting. Yes, there's plenty we can do right now!