Well, it has happened again and it is only getting worse. In this era of gun violence one-upsmanship, a madman terrorist opens fire on a country music festival from the 32nd story window of a Las Vegas hotel killing 50 people and wounding another 400. The media calls it the worst mass shooting in United States history. The gunman was found dead in his hotel room with 10 automatic rifles.
Already lawmakers and other public officials are invoking the name of God and offering their prayers to the victims and their families, just like they have countless times before. Before the day is out, Congress will undoubtedly pause its proceedings for a moment of silence. And there is little reason to believe the rhetoric will go beyond that. It never has. We would much rather feign disgust for those who would take a knee to protest police violence against members of the black community than have a serious discussion about gun ownership rights.
Those on the left will renew their demands for changes in gun ownership laws, while those on the right and the National Rifle Association will renew their claims that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” And there the debate dies.
Yes, my friends, the 2nd amendment to the United States Constitution does contain a clause guaranteeing to the states the right to maintain a well armed militia and a right to bear arms. The national debate over the meaning of these words has raged since those words were written. It is my personal belief that the Second Amendment has outlived its usefulness and should be repealed, but until that happens gun ownership laws must be changed.
I have a long history with guns. I grew up on a farm and ranch in south central Oklahoma. I got a BB gun when I was around 5 years old. Every Thanksgiving morning my Granddad, Dad and I would go quail hunting on the farm. I walked about 20 feet ahead of Dad and Granddad and when the quail flushed, I hit the ground. Around 9 or 10, I was given a very nice 22 rifle. It had a six bullet magazine. I got really good at killing jack rabbits. We were overrun with them and our hired hand skinned and ate every one that I brought in.
I didn’t get another gun until I was City Attorney in Stillwater, Oklahoma. When the Police Department upgraded their sidearms, the Chief offered me one of the newer S&W single action .38s for $150 and I got it.
I get guns. I like guns. I know how to use them and greatly respect them. I once had a client who was a veteran who owned an AK-47 knock off. Sadly, he liked to clean it when he was drinking and one New Year’s Eve he discharged the weapon through the floor of his apartment, passing within four feet of his downstairs neighbor’s head before exiting the side wall into the parking lot, bouncing off a metal support pillar and then off the fender of a pickup parked outside. Luckily no one was hurt. After he got arrested, that was the last he saw of that gun. Thankfully.
The Supreme Court has said that the possession of a gun for protection of the home was a legitimate interest and protected under the 2nd Amendment. The Supreme Court stopped short of saying that anyone had a right to possess any kind of weapon he or she wanted. The Court has also held that both the State and Federal Governments have a right to impose reasonable restrictions on the purchase of weapons.
In the twenty-first century, the amendment has been subjected to renewed academic inquiry and judicial interest. In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court handed down a landmark decision that held the amendment protects an individual right to possess and carry firearms. In McDonald v. Chicago (2010), the Court clarified its earlier decisions that limited the amendment’s impact to a restriction on the federal government, expressly holding that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment incorporates the Second Amendment against state and local governments. In Caetano v. Massachusetts (2016), the Supreme Court reiterated its earlier rulings that “the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding” and that its protection is not limited to “only those weapons useful in warfare”.
Through all the tragedies: Aurora, Sandyhook, Newtown, Charleston, Bakersfield (and many others), the debate has centered around controlling gun purchases by the mentally ill. It is a vicious “chicken-and-egg” cycle of tail chasing. Orlando seemed to change the discourse. Following Orlando the arguments seemed to be focused on hate crimes verses terrorism and once again, we seem to be chasing our tails.
What difference does it make? In virtually all of these killings, whether they were committed by someone who was insane, angry, a suspected terrorist or a bigot, many if not most of the shooters came by their weapons legally or stole them from someone who got them legally.
So, it becomes pretty clear that if we take: anger, mental illness, terrorism, bigotry (and every other variable out of the equation), there is only one thing left: the guns. So why isn’t our conversation about the guns? It’s all about money and politics.
So here is my “solution.” I’m going to put it simply, even though it is not a simple solution, but it is a starting point and one our ever diminishing group of liberals and progressives should pick up and run with. It needs fine tuning and work, but here it is:
A reasonable resolution on gun control:
1. Certain types of weapons should be declared illegal. That means it would be illegal to own, sell, or possess these types of weapons. Think military style weapons, the kinds of weapons that go beyond personal protection or the weekend hunter. This can sometimes be difficult to get a handle on, but we can do it if we try.
2. Ammunition, clips, and accessories for these types of weapons should be outlawed as well making it illegal to possess, own, or sell them.
3. It should be illegal for gun stores to own, possess or sell these weapons and ammunition, and they should be open to civil and criminal penalties if they do and especially if someone is injured or killed by one of these weapons or ammunition purchased at their store.
4. Sales of these weapons and ammunition should be strictly limited to law enforcement and military and acquisition of these weapons and ammunition should be only from the manufacturers.
5. Everyone must pass a background check The process must be expanded and the internet and gun show loopholes must be closed. It should never be easier for someone to purchase a gun than it is to get a drivers license.
6. Fund weapons buy-back programs so people can turn in their weapons for cash, no-questions-asked.
7. Law enforcement officers who do not properly secure their weapons in their vehicles and their departments should be held liable when those weapons are stolen and used in crimes.
By effectively making these weapons and ammunition, etc., contraband it allows law enforcement officials to seize them, get them off the streets and either reassign them, where practical to law enforcement, or to melt them down. Where serial numbers exist which can be traced, gun shop owners and manufacturers must be held civilly and criminally responsible–and I’m not just talking about the companies, I’m talking about the people in charge of those companies. There should be strict liability for the sale of these weapons. Just like not knowing the person the bartender served a cocktail was underage is no defense to serving liquor to minors, gun sellers must be held strictly responsible for the consequences of their actions.
It is only by strengthening the process by which guns can be purchased, banning military style weapons, and holding the sellers of these weapons civilly and criminally responsible that we will make a dent in the gun violence we are experiencing today.