I am a gun owner.
I enjoy target shooting at the range, and I'm a fairly avid hunter. I come from a family of hunters and hope to someday continue that tradition with a son or daughter of my own. I'm also an ardent proponent of stricter gun control legislation nationwide, and I'm here to say that despite what the NRA is telling you, that stance doesn't have to be contradictory or controversial.
Firstly, let me say that the deep-seated societal problems behind tragic mass murders like the one in Newtown this week absolutely need to be addressed. The lack of access to mental healthcare in this country is frightening, and we need to do everything we can to help the people who get to the point of committing such heinous crimes long before these ideas are formed in their minds.
That said, the problem with addressing only those societal problems is that it will take years, probably decades, before we will see such large behavioral shifts. Until then, there are a whole bunch of logical things we can do to make this country a safer place, if only gun-owners like myself and our representatives stood up to the falsehoods the gun lobby is promoting.
I enjoy owning my arms. So much so that I'd be willing to do a few things in order to own them. For example, I'd be willing to have a background check and mental health exam. I'd be willing to sit through a safety course. I'd be willing to register them every few years, as we have to do our cars. I'd be willing to lock them up in a safe, if prescribed by law. I'd even be willing to be held legally responsible if my negligence led to a weapon of mine being stolen and used in a crime.
Why? Because I recognize that guns are dangerous. If one less life were taken in the U.S. next year because I and other gun owners had to go through all of the aforementioned hassles, they'd be worth it. Don't you agree?
Gun control is not gun abolishment. Let me repeat that statement: gun control is not gun abolishment. Gun control is taking steps to make this country a safer place for all of us to live. The myth of the "slippery slope" the lobby is pushing on you is false. We have the constitutional right to bear arms, and if that is ever threatened, I will be right there with you defending it. The thing is, it isn't threatened. We will always have the right to own guns, so why can't we just do it intelligently?
I grew up in New York -- a state that has stricter gun laws than most. Despite this, there are no registration requirements for long guns nor laws for safe storage. Why not? And while a background check is required to buy a gun from a store, there is no check needed to sell that gun to a third party or give it as a gift, thus nullifying the whole concept.
The situation should look something like this: a person needs to apply for a license to own a gun -- which anyone of sound mind, clean criminal record, and who has taken the appropriate course can obtain. From there, all weapons need to be registered, and third party sales need to be reported with appropriate ownership license numbers and transfer of the title of the weapon, just like with a car. Weapons are required to be stored in a secure place, and if it is stolen due to negligence of the owner, he/she can be held liable. If a gun registered to you suddenly disappears without evidence of theft beyond your control and a police report, you are subject to a hefty penalty.
That's it. If you are thinking that this seems too much, I ask: Do you own a car and drive it? If so, you go through basically this same process (minus the storage and liability), and somehow, you put up with it.
I appeal to the gun owners who might be reading this: Would you not jump through those hoops in order to exercise your right to own AND help prevent murders? I would, and I hope you would too. Those hoops would deter and/or prevent some people from buying arms for the wrong reasons, as well as make it more difficult for weapons to be stolen. Surely, such measures would not come close to stopping gun violence in the U.S., but I'm 100 percent confident they wouldn't hurt.
The NRA wants you believe that everyone, including President Obama and the government, are "out to get us" -- they aren't. The reality is that the only ones "out to get us" are ourselves, the gun owners of America, by stubbornly refusing to support smart measures to protect our families and our children.