Now that the effort to recall Rep. Mike McLachlan has been at least temporarily derailed, let’s try something different: Get people together to craft a moderate approach to the gun issue.
Let’s begin by characterizing the extremes. We echo Dan Baum in a recent Harper’s Magazine article when he labels the current NRA and more extreme gun rights advocates the “hypochondriacs” of American politics. There’s always something wrong, some threat looming. But, no one is coming to take their guns. The hypochondriacs jump every time the arms industry and their cable news shills pull the chain, and the result is one-dimensional politics and an upturn in gun and ammunition sales.
On the other side, there are what we call the “delusionists.” So, you want to control guns? With more than 300 million firearms in America, that is going to be quite a task — an impossible, unconstitutional task. And, your focus on semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15? Granted, two recent massacres of innocent civilians involved this weapon, but the vast majority of gun crimes, suicides and accidents with children do not involve AR-15s — they involve handguns.
Here’s a tentative path to ponder: There is absolutely no way, and no reason, to prevent law-abiding citizens from owing firearms. It doesn’t matter why they own firearms, or how many they own, or how much ammunition they stockpile. That’s between them and the profit-takers.
The problem is illegal firearms and their use in criminal activities. How do we prevent legal firearms from falling into the hands of criminals? And, further, how do we ensure that legal gun owners can actually be the defenders of the public good they want to be?
An alarming percentage of guns used in violent crimes are stolen — some studies say up to 70 percent. So, a first step is to find ways to convince gun owners to further protect their firearms. Can government help? Would a tax break on the purchase of gun safes help?
Second is gun owner education. This was once a key goal of the NRA. Why can’t that organization rid itself of fringe elements and the extreme aspects of its political agenda and amp up the safety effort?
Finally, we toss out this idea, again echoing Baum: Grant a concealed weapon permit to anyone who asks for one, with the exception of felons, underage citizens and the mentally ill. Then, require that anyone who carries a weapon in public carry it concealed. We hear often from gun owners that believe armed citizens could prevent incidents; let’s give them a chance. With this one restriction: In order to receive a permit, the owner must undergo certified training, similar to that for law enforcement officers. A citizen carrying a concealed weapon then knows what to do, and how to do it. We will have a situation in which prospective assailants have no idea who is armed and, further, know that anyone who is armed is capable of using their firearm in an emergency.
It’s time to stop the paranoid ranting and to put an end to a call for government intrusion into private matters and the potential destruction of a critical American right.
We need to drop the nonsense surrounding this issue, to ignore extremists on both sides of the fence. By focusing on what is truly wrong — criminal gun use, suicides by gun and access to firearms by children — and on a wealth of new, moderate ideas to deal with these problems, we can maintain constitutional rights and provide a safer environment for all Americans.