Public Safety Vs. Principle: Beginning The Discussion About New Gun Laws

I haven’t watched a single second of news since I heard about the tragedy in Connecticut on Friday. I really didn’t want to participate in the collective grief that would inevitably wash over this country after another senseless act of violence. Nor did I want to see the steady stream of Democratic politicians pound the table and demand new gun laws while the Republican Politicians simultaneously pound the table and demand that this tragedy not be politicized. I know the script. I have seen it all before and nothing has changed. Nothing ever changes. After Columbine, after Arizona, after Aurora and after the killing of 5 Amish school girls and the wounding of 5 more 6 years ago in Pennsylvania, nothing has ever changed.

I’m not blaming the guns here. I know that an individual determined to commit violent acts against a room full of school kids is going to find a way, no matter what. An assault weapons ban probably wouldn’t have stopped it, but it might have lessened the carnage. It definitely would have kept the casualties down in Arizona and in Colorado. Without the extra large magazines that those two shooters purchased through legitimate means, there would have definitely been fewer wounded, fewer dead and fewer grieving families.

But let’s face facts. This is a country that is fully immersed in the culture of guns. Guns are a part of our history, our heritage and our entertainment. We are well beyond the point of no return for true gun control. There are just too many guns already in our society to remake our country in the image of Great Britain or any of the other European States. We have to acknowledge that the Second Amendment is here to stay and find ways to work within its parameters. We have to find a way to not infringe on the rights of those who wish to acquire guns through legitimate means for legitimate purposes, while working harder to keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.

To accomplish this, we are going to need the help of those who have traditionally opposed stricter gun laws as a matter of principle. If those of us on the left can acknowledge that the second amendment is an important and necessary part of our country’s character, then the gun rights lobby should be willing to recognize that the world has changed since the Constitution was written and give up on their absolutists positions long enough to help solve some of the problems that a modern society with easy access to powerful weapons must solve if we are going to limit the number and the size of some of these tragic events in the future.

Here are some simple suggestions.

1. Reinstitute the assault weapons ban. There is no legitimate need for the public to have easy access to military style assault weapons or extra large capacity ammo clips. These types of guns feed into the dangerous fantasies of troubled minds and their destructive power can only needlessly increase the size and the scope of any violent confrontation. The Second Amendment already has limits. There is no Constitutional right to keep and bear a rocket launcher or a bazooka, so why should there be a Constitutional right to keep and bear an assault rifle.

2. Fully implement and fund a national database for background checks. I know that the law is already in place, but some states do not put the resources into keeping the database up to date. This would have kept the Arizona shooter from getting his hands on a weapon by legitimate means.

3. Make a waiting period mandatory for all gun purchases. If you are a legitimate gun collector, this won’t affect your hobby in the slightest, but it will keep guns out of the hands of some potentially violent offenders at a time when their emotional state could cause them to commit an irrevocable act.

4. Limit the amount of weapons that an individual can purchase in one day or during a certain time period. Again, it won’t impact a legitimate collector or hobbyist, but it will tamp down on the type of mass gun purchases that are the beginning of most gun smuggling operations in this country. Does anybody really have a legitimate need to purchase 100 guns or more at any one time?

5. The last suggestion is not about guns but it is about public safety and our children. Some politicians on the right have already called for the arming of our teachers in our classrooms as a means to prevent this type of tragedy in the future. I don’t think arming every single teacher is the right way to go about it. Teachers should teach, not be worried about fending off violent attacks. However, we do need more security in our schools. The government should provide the funding for armed guards at every public school in the nation. I know that this is a big mental step for some people to take. We don’t want our schools to become fortresses, but we do want them to be safe. You could even accomplish two things at once by concentrating on hiring ex military personnel. They already have the training to handle themselves and it could become a good jobs program for them.

These are just suggestions. They are a place to start. They won’t solve every problem there is with guns in our society, and they probably wouldn’t have kept this most recent tragedy from happening, but they would help to tamp down on some of the violence. The gun lobby is right when they say that guns don’t kill people. However, there are violent events everyday that are escalated needlessly by the presence of a gun. It is in everybody’s best interest to make sure that guns are there for our protection and not the means of our own destruction.

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About Mike Burns

For years I was a self described independent. I liked the idea that America was built on the powerful idea of compromise. Politics at its best was an exercise in give and take that at least tried to be respectful of both sides of an issue. However, since the rise of right wing talk radio and Fox News, this no longer seems possible. For me, it is time to fight back in my small way. The conservatives have had their way with the truth for too long without enough of us standing up and saying no more lies. Maybe this blog will make a small difference, maybe not. The main thing is that it will satisfy my need to speak out against conservative hate and hypocrisy. Mike Burns Google+

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