It's been nearly a month since the deadly shootings at Newtown, Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School that left twenty children and six teachers, staff, and parents dead. Since then there have been a number of other deadly shootings. The question that many of us are raising is when is enough enough? For many of us, we've reached that point. We have come to the point where we must change the way we perceive guns, the way we use them, and the way we regulate them.
It is clear at something must be done to change the current situation, but whatever is done has to fit within current interpretations of the 2nd Amendment, which gives rather broad (overly broad in my opinion) opportunity to purchase, own, and carry weapons. But, there are solutions that should be implementable.
Since I'm a member of the Metro Coalition of Congregation's Gun Violence Task Force, this has been a topic of interest to me of late. Our task force has been studying this issue closely and we've been seeking solutions. Some of our members would love to ban gun ownership altogether, but we realize as a group that this is not a feasible solution. So, what can we do? Members of our coalition will be meeting next week with the Oakland County Sheriff and we'll be asking his opinion as to what law enforcement would like to see happen. That should be enlightening.
But even before that meeting, there's an active conversation going on right now in our nation's capitol. The fact that the Vice President has been meeting this week with a variety of interest groups, from gun control advocates to gun rights supporters, is a reminder that this is an important issue, one that the President has taken a keen interest in -- in large part because he's tired of having to go to local communities and offer words of comfort to grieving citizens. As he said after Newtown, we've reached that point where enough is enough. Although the NRA is on record as stating that they will oppose any new restrictions or laws, my sense is that they don't represent the will of the American people, that there's is an extremist voice. Thus, in light of these conversations, I'd like to offer a couple of suggestions that I think are feasible in light of current realities.
- Universal Background Checks. If a person goes to Walmart to buy a gun, they must undergo a background check, but things are looser at gun shows, and if a private individual sells a gun, this isn't required. Closing this loophole would go a long way to making sure that guns don't fall into the wrong hands.
- Register all gun sales, including private sales. Essentially the same as the above, but a reiteration of the need to keep track of who buys what. After all, if you buy a car, you have to register it! And to drive it, you have to have a license -- why not a gun?
- Reducing the magazine clip size. There seems to be little use for an ammunition magazine larger than six to ten bullets, unless the intent is to kill or wound large numbers of people.
- Require gun safety education for all purchasers/owners. If you're going to own/use a gun, it's best you understand how to use it safely.
- Restrict large ammunition purchases. If a person orders online or goes to Walmart and purchases 1000 rounds of ammunition, shouldn't that raise some eyebrows? Why such a large cache of ammunition? Shouldn't law enforcement be alerted? Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, a former State Attorney General, has suggested that the same kind of background checks required for gun purchases should be done on those who buy large amounts of ammunition.
- Assault/Military style Gun Ban. I'm putting this at the bottom of my list because I'm not sure there's the will to pass it at this time. Personally, I can't see how the 2nd Amendment precludes the government from banning certain weapons, even if they can't ban all, and while I'm still not convinced that there is a civilian use for such a weapon, I would agree with Eric Sharp's commentary in the Detroit Free Press that the issue is less the style of the weapon and more the size of clips and the ease with which one can purchase guns and ammunition.
Even as we deal with guns, we also have to address issues of mental health and portrayals of violence in our media. But, dealing with guns remains an important issue, and we can't let the focus get pushed elsewhere.