Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Guns and ammunition

More senseless violence, and more resistance to a sensible dialogue. 

I don't own a gun. I don't hunt and there is no reason for me to have a gun in the house.  One need not look farther than the toddler who shot himself in the face with his grandfather's gun a couple of weeks ago to recall that more guns purchased in self-defense are used against a household member than an intruder.

But I'm not anti-gun.  I do not have a problem with hunting, and while I think the logic is flawed, I don't think that ownership for self-defense need be illegal.  I wrote about some obvious gaps in gun laws a year and a half ago, none of which have been addressed to date.  For example, that concealed weapons do not belong in schools, national parks, bars and restaurants, places of worship, public spaces or the office.  Or that assault weapons have no purpose other than to kill, and they do not belong on the streets in any capacity.  But guns won't be eliminated from American society, so there needs to be a sensible conversation about what to do about them.  While stricter gun laws may not have eliminated or reduced the death toll in Aurora last week, the concept must be discussed.

In many states, it's easy to buy guns.  It's really easy to buy military-grade body armor, ammunition, extended magazines, silencers and other accessories that simply do not belong in the hands of civilians.  There is a very direct correlation between lax gun control and the number of guns that find their way into the hands of criminals.  Violent crimes are far, far more deadly when they're committed with a gun as opposed to a knife or a club.  And the United States leads the developed world in guns - and murders - per capita.

The NRA's misguided interpretation of the second amendment has led one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington to stand by gun ownership as an absolute and unfettered right.  They've also been dangerously effective in convincing our cowardly congress to legislate as such.  But the right to bear arms is not carte blanche to own whatever you want.  A gun should never be an impulse buy.  No one with a criminal history should be able to purchase a gun.  A purchase of thousands of rounds of ammunition should trigger an alert, so that a civilian building an arsenal might be distinguished from the shooting range enthusiast. 

Rational gun owners should know that submitting to a background check and complying with local and federal laws won't change your ability to keep a gun in the house for so-called protection or to hunt.  Neither would an assault weapon ban that includes extended magazines or requiring concealed-carry permits.  Laws like these won't change the ability to collect, own or fire guns for legitimate purposes, but they very well might reduce the carnage of violent criminals.  At the very least, they merit discussion.

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