Step it up – A sensible approach to reducing gun violence in America

 Like most American’s I’m both tired and frightened from the gun violence occurring in our country.   We seem to be in a perpetual loop – Innocent lives are lost, the blame game begins, Democrats blame easy access to guns, Republicans blame mental health issues and the lack of enforcement of existing laws.  This goes on for weeks until the innocent victims are buried, and the perpetrator has been vilified in the press, with lots of blame to go around.   Everyone who knew someone is interviewed on the news, lots of speculation as to why and how this happened and then — nothing.  Eventually, the furor dies down, the tragic event recedes from the public conscience, and nothing changes, and we all relax a little until it happens again.  And, as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, it will happen again.  We just don’t know where, when or who will strike next.  We all hope that when it does happen again that it won’t personally affect them.
Given that lawmakers either lack the will or desire to provide any meaningful ideas to solve this issue, I thought I would float a plan of my own.  I’m calling it the – The Step It Up Plan.  Given that reducing gun violence is such a politically charged topic, it seems clear to me that making incremental changes – Stepping it Up, is in all likelihood a more viable approach to any sweeping reforms.  With that said, not everyone will be happy with this plan.
Let’s start with the premise that individual gun ownership is here to stay in America – the NRA will like that.  But they may not like this statement, gun ownership must be restricted to responsible sane adults.
Mental Health
Even card-carrying NRA members have to agree that some people are too unstable to own a gun.  Those of you that are smart enough to realize that, make the cut, those of you who disagree with that statement don’t.
Let’s look at both sides of the argument:
Pro Gun
  • Have a right to own and bear firearms.
  • Concerned for their safety from harm – want to feel safe.
  • Conceding any ground on the issue of gun ownership is a slippery slope – if you give an inch, it won’t be long before someone takes your guns away.
  • If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.
Anti Gun
  • Guns are the root cause of violence in society and should be eliminated
  • If no one had guns the world would be a much safer place.
  • Gun ownership should be limited to law enforcement and the military, period.
  • Gun ownership in America is out of control – if we simply cut down the supply of guns in America,  society will be safer.
Given that there are legitimate concerns on both sides, and making any sweeping reforms seems unlikely, I propose that we take a stepped-up approach to change.  At a minimum, this will at least make some progress on the issue, which is a lot more than can be said about where things stand today.
So here’s my proposed 10 point plan:
  1. Step up background checks for gun purchases – no matter the source.  Commercial or private – the transfer of a gun must go through a licensed agent to verify the identity of the purchaser and an approved national background check conducted.  Of course, these checks will only be as good as the data entered into the system, which is why we need to also step-up adherence to updating this information in a timely fashion, with strong penalties for non-compliance.
  2. Step up Knowledge:   Require that gun owners pass a national test regarding the safe operation of a firearm, laws regarding admissible self-defense, penalties for misuse, and responsibilities for safely securing weapons from others.
  3. Step up competency: Concealed carry gun owners must demonstrate competency, knowledge of laws, and issues concerning the discharge of a weapon in a public place.
  4. Step up benefits for compliance: Individuals that pass all these requirements should be free to roam throughout the contiguous US without the hassle of the current patchwork of gun laws passed by the states.
  5. Step up mental health – if an individual is deemed a danger to themselves or others, their access to guns should be revoked and their guns confiscated.  Reinstatement of their gun rights has to be recertified by two qualified medical health professionals.
  6. Step up penalties and enforcement for gun misuse:  Using a gun in the commission of a crime should result in automatic jail time and immediate revocation of all guns.
  7. Existing gun ownership –  Gun owners that acquired their guns before this plan was put in place have two years to meet the requirements.  The sale of ammunition to anyone not in possession of a gun license must be outlawed and carry severe penalties.
  8. Limit access to weapons of war – Tanks, hand grenades, missile launchers, and other weapons characterized by their ability to inflict massive human casualties are restricted to the military – assault rifles should join the list.
  9. Threatening Behavior – Threatening bodily harm with a weapon is no different than mentioning bombs to a TSA agent prior to boarding a plane.  If verifiable threats are proven to be true, then such threats are tantamount an intended act of violence which should result in the forfeiture of weapons and trigger the required examination by a mental health professional.
  10. Apply Science – We should take a scientific approach to studying the issue of gun violence in America.  This issue of gun ownership is so emotionally charged that the NRA lobbied for, and obtained protections from having the issued studied by the CDC.  Let’s study the issue and come up with common sense solutions that don’t interfere with the rights of responsible gun ownership in America.

Society can definitely tolerate responsible gun ownership from sane adults.  Provided gun owners take appropriate measures to ensure their guns don’t fall into the wrong hands.

This plan is not perfect, nor is it entirely comprehensive, but I suspect that both sides will complain that it either goes too far. or not far enough. Come to think of it, that’s a good thing, it’s called compromise, which is something our legislature has long forgotten.

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