Regulate Guns

As I’m sure you know, we just had another mass shooting in Colorado. That is nine mass shootings plus five other shootings with fewer than three victims (below the definition of a mass shooting) in the past 28 years in Colorado. These shootings and others throughout the nation are ALWAYS followed almost immediately by Republican legislators and gun-rights advocates loudly exclaiming that we must punish the perpetrators and not inhibit “law-abiding citizens’ 2nd amendment rights.” That demand is irrational and unreasonable. All people are “law-abiding” citizens until they break a law. Every criminal is law abiding until they commit a crime. There is no identifiable group of “law-abiding citizens” for whom the 2nd Amendment must be defended as sacred.

The interpretation of the 2nd Amendment was radically changed in 2008. For more than 200 years, the 2nd Amendment was understood to be a collective right to maintain a state militia, not an individual right to carry a gun anywhere and everywhere. Also, none of our constitutional rights are all-or-nothing. The idea that no gun regulation is acceptable is insane. We need to establish sensible gun regulations that have the best chance of reducing gun violence, including accidents and suicides, without unreasonably inhibiting lawful gun use and self protection. That can be best determined by reinstating federal gun violence research that was banned in 1997 and by improving background checks for all gun transactions. Dysfunctional and dangerous people who should not be allowed to possess a gun cannot be identified without a background check. Legislative decisions should be influenced by good research, reasoned discussion, and civilized political debate.

The US has by far the highest rate of gun deaths among high income nations. And yet the rate of gun deaths varies widely among states. There is a very strong correlation between firearm deaths and gun regulation. The stricter the state gun regulation the lower the gun death rate. The statistics are undeniable. We already know that a firearm in a household significantly increases the risk of accidental shootings and suicide.

Many factors should be considered in reducing gun violence, including providing adequate mental health services. Predicting violence in an individual is very difficult & demands more research.

Another factor is our cultural infatuation with guns and violence in general. We already have the highest rate of gun ownership in the world. Clearly, arming everyone is not the answer to fewer firearm deaths. Having more personal firepower than any possible assailant is not reasonable. Allowing those who are the most insecure and fearful to make gun rules is ridiculous.

Every constitutional right has limits. Freedom of religion does not allow polygamy. Free speech does not allow obscene, libelous or slanderous speech, inciting lawless action, or revealing classified information. Freedom of the press can be restricted for national security. The government can restrict freedom of assembly by time and location, can require permits and can prohibit gatherings that are violent. Reasonable federal gun regulations are long overdue. Leaving purchase or possession of a gun unrestricted is not worth one more life.

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