Thursday, December 27, 2012

The responsibilities of the gun culture

There can be nothing more grotesque than the slaughter of school children.

The nation has recoiled in revulsion at the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Nobody wants to see this happen again ... and again and again and again. So the national dialogue turns to gun control. Some want a ban on "assault weapons" while gun-rights advocates argue that a ban is cosmetic, ineffective or actually counterproductive. Some come at this issue with entrenched ideological positions; others plead for "common sense."

In the midst of all this, America's gun culture needs to take a good hard look at itself.

I am part of that gun culture. I have owned firearms since my early teens. My firearms use is for sporting purposes, but I have had occasion to wield a firearm in self-defense (thankfully, no shots fired). The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution recognizes an individual right to keep and bear arms. There is also a clause that includes the words "well-regulated."

It's time for effective licensing of firearms owners (some states already have licensing provisions). That's unwelcome to many in the gun culture, who fear that it is the camel's nose in the tent toward more severe ownership restriction or outright gun confiscation. I don't think so. Firearms licensing can be implemented as an extension of hunter safety and concealed carry programs, with the active participation of organizations including the NRA, which has excellent instructor certification programs.

Perhaps "assault weapons" should fall under a separate, more rigorous licensing tier.

Making the process of acquiring a firearm more serious across the nation would not prevent all gun crime, and it would not deter a disturbed individual from attempting mass slaughter. But it would create an opportunity for red flags to pop up, a window for intervention. And it could instill a more focused culture of responsibility in the gun world.

Yes, more regulation is onerous for those of us who already take our responsibilities seriously. But I'm willing to put up with some hassle I don't need to have more assurance that the guy who shows up next to me on the range has some basic level of competence. And regulating the user is more to the point than banning certain classifications of firearms, an exercise that has often been merely cosmetic and of marginal effectiveness.

I worked in the gun business, during and after the Rodney King riots. It was an intense time. The shop where I worked refused to sell to people we knew would buy a gun for "protection" and never learn how to use it safely and properly. We didn't want to arm people who would be a menace to themselves and their loved ones.

An appropriate licensing procedure would likely deter at least some of those types, and give an opportunity to flag others for further review. A quick criminal background check just isn't enough.

Real training and education would be a good thing overall, instilling safety, skill and a level of respect for the potentially deadly weapon you are keeping in your home, your vehicle, on your person.

There are many factors that contribute to mass killings - a mental health crisis and significant civic breakdown being primary among them. But we can't pretend that there's not something especially toxic in the combination of a disturbed young man and a lethal weapon. We know we have to separate drunk people from the car keys - and we've reduced drunk driving without banning either alcohol or cars.

Those of us who value our gun rights, our heritage, and our sport can't just stick our heads in the sand and accept the status quo. We can reduce violence. The gun culture can be part of the solution.


  1. 35,000 people killed by guns every year-this year gun deaths will surpass auto deaths. We need cars but some guns we don't--pistols and assault rifles should be illegal--and don't tell we should just keep them out of the hands of the crazies--a very small percentage of those killed are shot by the mentally unbalanced. I don't own a gun yet I have to help pay part of the 5,000,000,000 hospital bill and I'm tied of it.

  2. Assault weapons are banned. You cannot buy a machine gun. Limiting the numer of bullets is stupid if a home invasion involves multiple people. Mentally unstable people and criminals will get guns no matter what. Cities that have onerous gun control laws have the highest incidents of gun violence and murders by guns.
    If an intruder were to confront you in your own home you would want to have a gun with you if your honest. Our forefathers were wiser than the current crop of hypocritical liberals and had already experienced an oppressive dictatorial government. That my friends is why they allowed us the right to bear arms.
    Since the government is now collecting our personal info from many sources, then they should start flagging certain words and phrases that point to abnormal behavior. Psychologists should try to identify the same and make the government aware without the threat of being politically insensitive as in the case of the fort Hood shooter who made no secret of the fact that he was very sympathetic to radical Islam. Everyone around him knew it but for reasons of political correctness did not take it seriously. Even Obama refused to call what he did radical Islam. Disgusting!
    Both the Germans and Japanese considered invasion of the U S diring WW11 but then considered the fact that Americans were well armed.
    Seeing kids get killed at a school by a mentally unstable person is horrifying to say the least but it is not the gun that did it. Without a gun, then what, a bomb, or a sword in the case of someone that slaughtered school kids in Japan a few years ago.
    The only thing that makes sense is to report suspicious behavior when read or heard. That includes family members. Currently we cannot stop highway deaths from occurring where children get killed also, and we cannot stop gun violence buy taking away all guns unless we gave the death penalty for owning, carrying, or using a gun. But t hen the government can become oppressive and decide to slowly take away our freedoms. Like the Germans and Japanese did years ago by confiscating the citizens guns before they marched towards world domination.
    Some things we don't like we have to live with, changing law due to gut, or emotional reactions to news events never works out well in the long run, the war on poverty started in the 60,s is still going on and includes 22 federal programs who's budget is astronomical. The federal government has become bloated with people lining their own pockets and spending money we borrow from other countries. We do not need another program from Washington dictating and controlling our right to bear arms.

    Kerry Borsch