As this is written, a congressional hearing is occurring in the US senate regarding what, if anything, can be done to prevent another massacre of children like the one last month in Newtown Connecticut.
So far, advocates of both gun right and gun control have testified, including former US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head and remains severely injured by a crazed gunman in Phoenix, Arizona two years ago. You can hear her short and injury-impacted heart-wrenching speech HERE.
Also testifying was National Rifle Association (NRA) vice-president Wayne LaPierre, who said that neither guns nor gun owners are the problem, but that the federal government doesn’t enforce existing laws, and that’s the problem. he also reemphasized that the best protection for schools is to have armed guards at each one.
Perhaps most eloquent (so far), was Mark Kelly, Gabrielle Giffords’ husband and former space shuttle astronaut, who, as a gun owner (as is his wife), said that the real issue is that with rights comes responsibility.
When one thinks of the US Constitution first amendment right to freedom of speech, religion, assembly, the press and so forth, one has to acknowledge (as the US Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly), that these basic civil rights come with an associated requirement to act responsibly in the exercise of these rights:
One cannot yell “fire!” in a crowded theater just to watch the ensuring confusion and the injuries caused by people trying desperately to escape an imaginary threat to their lives. One cannot practice a religion that kills “sacrificed” humans in the name of their deity. One cannot direct the assembly of a 1000 people in a space that can only hold 50. One cannot print lies that destroy the reputations of innocent private citizens.
To violate these common sense restrictions upon the basic rights in the first amendment is to invite arrest and/or lawsuits that if proved, will result in penalties and/or imprisonment. And yes, this is allowable under the US Constitution, as repeatedly affirmed by the US Supreme Court. The folks who think that any right is unbridled and devoid of responsibility in its exercise are wrong at best, and fanatical fundamentalist libertarian extremists who don’t understand the concept of rights and their responsibilities, at worse.
Many suggestions are been floated repeatedly whenever a crazed shooter commits multiple murders indiscriminately, such as the Newtown massacre. For instance, the following have been promoted as ways to solve this “massacre” problem:
1. Limit the size of gun magazines to 10 rounds of less.
2. Perform universal background checks, including mental health check, which will require ALL threat diagnosis to be entered into a central system.
3. Ban assault rifles.
4. Close the gun show and private gun sales background check loophole.
5. Ban handguns.
6. Require all new gun sales to be registered into a central system.
7. Require gun safety training of all NEW gun owners.
8. Armed guards at all schools to protect children.
Now, keeping common sense and responsibility in mind, both banning assault rifles and handguns are completely pointless. There are already literally millions of these items out there. Banning them would be like banning beer-making kits.
Armed guards at schools does not require a federal law, although initially this might not be a bad idea as part of a multi-step process for some indeterminate period of time until the rest of the solution has been implemented and well established. But always remember that children and schools are NOT the only victims of gun massacres.
Closing the gun show and private sales background check loophole, in concert with the implementation of a centralized universal background check that including mental health data is a very good idea and hard to argue against, as long as it is modernized, computerized, instant the way credit check are today, and transparent to the seller and purchaser. Part of this system would also register the gun and/or magazine being sold and bought. The responsible gun owner and gun seller would feel nothing as a result of this process. But law enforcement would be enhanced against the irresponsible person who would leave his gun unattended, or is a straw buyer for someone else who couldn’t pass the background check.
And finally, training of new gun owners is a good idea that is also hard to argue against. One wonders how many people buy guns for self-defense but have never shot them, cleaned them, or understand the rules regarding concealed weapons. An exemption could be instituted for people with prior military or law enforcement experience, although, some of them may want to take the course anyway. Motorcycle drivers must take a course to be licensed, and many of them take skill-enhancement courses from time to time.
These common sense ideas are the only ones that stand a chance of passage in congress. Doing what feels good now isn’t always the best long-term solution, any more than thinking that today’s solution is the final one.
Even the US Constitution is periodically amended…as further facts are forthcoming.