President Obama is correct in his call for action to stop the rising tide of mass killings, but the call for action must include items which have a realistic chance of adoption and are targeted at the specific situations which are causing the terror in America. Simply decrying the plethora of guns and seeking to end handgun ownership is neither lawful under the Second Amendment nor genuinely addressed to the problems which we need to solve. The time for both utopian demands to make guns disappear altogether and reflexive claims that any restrictions on gun ownership will result in disarmament of all Americans is over.
We will never end all gun crime, but there are things we can do to make it less frequent.
While the record is still sketchy, it appears that the Connecticut tragedy like so many others of its kind, was perpetrated by a mentally troubled individual with a history of palpable problems (though his mental health history is as of yet unconfirmed). This suggests that one fundamental step must be better screening of prospective gun owners to keep guns away from those with a propensity to misuse them. Among other things, we screen drivers' license applicants and those seeking to become lawyers and doctors for this purpose, so it is curious that we do not do likewise to the same extent when one seeks to procure a gun. Refusing to allow guns to be procured by those with a history of serious mental problems or dependence on psychotropic medication or other medication which may reasonably impact their mental stability does nothing to interfere with the essential need to respect the rights and needs of those seeking protection from external threats or interested in hunting and target shooting, and is likely to prevent at least some massacres. I'm quite willing to reduce the rights of those who are mentally troubled if that's what it takes to bolster the safety of everyone else. Call it discrimination if you like; I call it common sense and essential!
Similarly, under current law, those under 21 such as the criminal in Connecticut, may not purchase guns from a licensed dealer, but may obtain them as gifts or from private parties. This is nonsensical, as the lethality of a gun has nothing to do with its source. If a minor should not be purchasing a gun from a licensed dealer because they can not fully appreciate its dangers or control their emotions, they should not have access to it at all.
As we saw in the Connecticut tragedy, on occasion, criminals obtain guns illegitimately, by stealing them from lawful owners or under false pretenses. Up to a point, this is a risk we must accept in order to respect the Second Amendment. However, while the latter clearly prevents restrictions which are effectively prohibitions, it does not mean that unlimited gun ownership must be accommodated. In CT, the criminal obtained several weapons from his mother's arsenal of at least six. It is unclear why anyone in such an environment has any real need to own so many weapons, and such situations are likely to lead to tragedy. Self defense should not require more than two or three handguns readily available per household on desks and nightstands.
If other weapons, such as rifles and shotguns are to be allowed, when not in use for hunting or target shooting, the law should require that they be secured in a gun safe or similar place where they are not easily available to children, intruders or the deranged. The same is true for guns in 'collections.' The fewer 'loose' guns which are available to the deranged, the less likely they are to unleash the sort of terror which we have seen too frequently this year.
There are those who argue that increasing the level of gun ownership is an antidote for gun crime, particularly with respect to concealed carry laws. Up to a point, this makes sense, as it may deter those motivated by profit, such as home invaders and street robbers. Perhaps allowing or even encouraging concealed carry of a handgun will deter this type of crime. However, the argument breaks down in the context of the suicidally deranged who have been perpetrating the mass killings we have recently seen. Encouraging private arsenals only foments this type of crime by making guns easier to obtain.
It is my fervent desire that the preceding points are non-controversial in most circles and will cause readers to strongly support them to their elected officials whether by forwarding this column or otherwise bringing it to their attention.
More controversial, but in my view no less compelling, is the need to stop the proliferation of automatic and semi-automatic weapons. As a conservative, I am ashamed that far too many Republicans have unquestioningly accepted the argument that doing away with such weapons is the first step toward disarmament. This makes no more sense than claiming that speed limits or truck weight limits will lead to seizure of Americans' cars.
Such military weapons have no value for self defense [I have never heard of a single case of the latter and challenge readers to specifically any identify such cases], hunting or target shooting and simply facilitate "efficient' killing by the deranged. While we need to respect many of the arguments promulgated by the NRA and ultimately accepted by our Supreme Court, it is time to reject this one and take another real step to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
If we can not take meaningful steps to stem the tide of gun violence now, in the wake of so many massacres involving guns during 2012, we never will be able to do so. If you will only speak out on one issue, make it this one! Let us join the President in his effort to eliminate this reign of terror. Let us start by rejecting arguments at both extremes of the debate over guns and pursue real world solutions to mitigate the problem.