Opinion

Is there a silver bullet for gun control? Outright ban is not practical

One of the biggest impediments to forming a consensus on meaningful gun regulations (I hesitate to use the word “control”) are people who own guns. They have fostered this trope for years that the “liberals want to take away all our guns.”

No. Not true. At least not to me.

I will admit to leaning liberal. And I will also admit to being strongly in the corner of anyone who is willing to initiate an intelligent discussion on this issue, devoid of the usual emotional talking points. And I will admit to a personal dislike of guns of any kind, and that I’d be awfully uncomfortable with a gun in my house. 

But I would not support any legislation that flat-out bans the ownership of guns in general.

It simply is not practical. Guns have been a part of our culture for the entire time we’ve been a nation. They are part of the American ethos. I watched westerns from the time I was a little kid. “Gunsmoke.” “Bonanza.” “The Rifleman.”

As an adult, one of my all-time favorite movies was “Tombstone,” which chronicles the gunfight at the O.K. Corral (oddly enough, one of the bones of contention between the outlaws who had taken over Tombstone and the Earp brothers was the edict that it was illegal to carry guns around town).

Though I never owned one, and never knew anyone who did, guns were everywhere when I was young. I played “Cowboys and Indians” with toy cap pistols. I used to play “Army” in the woods, making the sound of a submachine gun as I held a stick like a rifle.

All I had to do in the 1960s was turn on the TV and someone was getting shot by a revolver or a rifle. We graduated from westerns as the decade wore on to police shoot-em-ups. 

In neither case did the reality ever even remotely resemble the movie and TV narratives, but at this point, it’s impossible for some people to see that. The image of the gunfighter is ingrained and indelible.

We’re not going to change that culture. Nor are we going to change the minds of people who want to hunt as a hobby (though, again, I abhor it and couldn’t imagine getting up a 4 a.m. to drive somewhere to kill a deer).

Another red herring is that we have a gazillion gun laws on the books and the problem persists. So what good will a gazillion-and-one laws do?

This just seems like a handy excuse to trot out because politicians don’t have the stomach to take on the gun lobby. 

Perhaps the gazillion-and-first law would make the difference. Mothers Against Drunk Driving lobbied over 30 years ago to strengthen the DWI laws after a particularly cruel spate of alcohol-related deaths. They didn’t sit on their hands and say “we already have enough laws.”

If the laws aren’t working, then change them. Try something different. I have no idea what, but we have to make the attempt and we have to compromise or else this carnage will continue.

The next myth we need to conquer is that the Second Amendment guarantees unfettered access to all weapons. Sadly, the Supreme Court legitimized that myth, but let’s examine what the amendment actually says (poorly written though it may be).

“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

Let’s leave the esoteric interpretation as to what “militia” means to the Constitutional scholars. I just have one question: what part of “well-regulated” do these people not understand?

Finally, can we please put this silly notion people use to rebut arguments that we need gun legislation that there are more auto fatalities than gun deaths? Sometimes I feel like Charlie Brown to Lucy: Tell your statistics to shut up.

Look, cars were not manufactured as weapons of death. Guns were. And military-style weapons even more so. People who use that argument are ignorant and cruel. Tell people who have had to bury their children after one more school shooting that a car could have just as easily driven through a window and killed their sons or daughters. 

It’s arguments like these that make an all-encompassing ban on firearms very tempting. But I just don’t think it’s possible.

I do think it’s not a lot to ask that gun owners be held to the strictest of regulations, and standards as high as the Empire State Building. And that those standards should be strictly upheld, with mandatory jail time the penalty for violating any of them.

 

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