Gun Control that Makes Sense

And so it shall be until we take logical steps.

The funerals continue and I’m already sickened by media coverage of the Newtown, Connecticut carnage. The schtick-of-the-day is for radio and TV personalities to read the roll of the dead whilst shedding tears on air. I’m sure some of them are deeply moved and maybe even think they are helping heal wounds. How trite. If the media wants to perform a true act of community service, how about beating a relentless drum for meaningful gun control until the voices of all Second Amendment Freaks drown in a pool of shame?

Instead we’re told that change is unlikely given that there are already 300 million guns in private hands. Nonsense! I agree that there are no magic or political wands we can waive to make guns disappear. This does not ipso facto mean that we can’t reduce the likelihood of a future Adam Lanza. (In the name of decency, spare me sanctimonious bullshit about arming school principals and teachers as a deterrent. That doesn’t work very well for liquor and convenience stores, does it?) Here are some steps we can take:

1. Ban all high-capacity, automatic, multi-clip weapons. The biggest load of hooey in the gun control debate is that any Second Amendment restrictions would penalize “law-abiding hunters.” So exempt deer rifles and shotguns already. But nobody who’s not in the military or on a police SWAT team needs an Uzi or any other assault weapon. For heaven’s sake if a hunter can’t bring down Bambi with a shot of two, it’s not hunting, it’s butchering.

2. Ban all future sales of handguns. Another bête noir put out by the NRA and the gun industry: Isn’t it reasonable to allow Americans to arm themselves against home intruders? You can count on your fingers the numbers of intruders stopped by gun owners during a given calendar year, but technology has rendered this debate obsolete. Ban future handguns and make it easier to buy a Taser. I’d even support easing concealed weapon laws for Tasers. Electronic stun guns occasionally kill, but mostly they don’t. Handguns are so last century.

3.  Ban Internet, catalog, gun show, and mail order gun sales. This should be a no-brainer. The intent of the Brady Bill is to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, felons, addicts, and domestic abusers. For background checks to work, they must be kept local. Non-local checks are roughly as effective as keeping minors off of porn sites because they have to check a box saying they are over 18.

4. Sell collectors non-working guns. I’m really get sick of the puffed-up claims of “serious collectors” that they collect exotic weaponry as part of their “right” to pursue their “hobbies.” Fine. Let them buy an Uzi for the wall, but make it non-functional and non-repairable.

5. Restrict ammunition. This is an angle of gun control that should be explored seriously. We now have the ability to trace ammunition by coding each round. How about background checks for ammo as well? Nobody–and I mean nobody–needs to have hundreds of rounds of ammo on hand. Restrict ammo buyers to no more than a dozen rounds at a time and require them to turn in spent cartridges before buying new rounds. You go to Wal-Mart, ask for bullets, and within seconds a national database tells the clerk how many rounds you still own. Let’s sell marked ammunition by the piece, not by the box–sort of like how most macho boys buy cigars! Hold buyers responsible for crimes committed with ammunition purchased in their name (unless reported as stolen). That would cut down on black market ammo sales.

6. Set up gun and hunting clubs. This is a very successful model in Germany. Target shooters and gun fans like the experience of firing a weapon. I don’t understand the fascination, but who can explain another’s passion? But it’s just not a good idea to be shooting dozens of rounds at tin cans in the backyard as if it were still the Wild West of 1880. So let’s set up clubs where shooters can indulge themselves safely. (There is such an establishment near me though-–frighteningly–it’s pretty close to an elementary school and it’s hard to dismiss the pop-pop-pop sounds these days.) Make entrance free and charge for the ammunition used. Account for every round, as they do in Germany. Hell, allow them to keep assault rifles-locked in vaults in off hours–for the testosterone poisoned that must shoot one of these weapons. But rule one is that no gun and no round leaves the premises.

7. Change police deadly force rules. Gun owners have a point when they say that criminals give guns a bad name. One way to reduce gun crime in America is to allow police to have a shoot-first policy when a firearm is presented. Enough with all the police tribunals… if a gun is brandished, police should take out the perp. No more kid gloves for teen gangbangers, organized crime figures, or drug dealers. If you want to play thug, be prepared to go down like one.

8. NC-17 for movies and video games featuring gun violence. One way to reduce violence is to deglamorize it. Culture takes a long time to change, but I’ve seen attitudes about gender, race, and sexual preference change dramatically in my lifetime. One of the greatest things to come out of feminism was the message–that drumbeat again–that women can do anything a man can do. It sounded odd in 1966, but at some point it sounded right! We need to tell Hollywood, TV, and game-makers that products featuring gun violence is cordoned off from the oh-so-lucrative adolescent market. Let me repeat a glib phrase I’ve used for decades: a loaded gun ought to face at least as many restrictions as a loaded penis.

9. Ban the NRA from schools. There was a time when the NRA was local guys showing teenaged boys how to handle a deer rifle safely. That was decades ago. The NRA is now simply a lobby group. Let’s treat them the same way we’d treat any other advocacy group and ban them from schools. This too would have a long-term effect in changing the culture.

10. Tell liberal weenies to get real. Violence is pervasive in the USA and there is no quick-fix that will transform society into a Kumbaya utopia. Stop proposing non-starters such as outlawing all guns. It’s an obstacle to substantive change.

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