Now the time to fight tooth and nail for stronger, more intelligent U.S. gun control

The prognosis on America’s obsession with guns has never looked bleaker. This year has produced an astounding statistic regarding gun violence: we have had more than one mass shooting per day, on average, over the course of the year. This applies when a “mass shooting” means that four or more people were shot during the incident. Of course, this glosses over the multitudinous singular homicides, crimes and suicides committed with guns this and every other year.

In wake of the recent WDBJ shooting, the father of the slain reporter Alison Parker, Andy Parker, has taken on a mission to "shame" politicians into supporting a full-scale campaign for stricter gun control laws. This, as common sense would dictate, is and has been needed for quite some time. But instead of the cursory, evaporating interest the gun control debate usually fosters, now is the time to emphasize the legislative and political nature of the solutions to this wide-ranging problem.

Auastralia found success in dissolving gun violence after instituting their gun control program in response a mass shooting in Tasmania that left 35 dead – which included a mandatory government buy-back of newly banned weapons including semi-automatic and automatic rifles, and shotguns. Accordingly, Australia has greatly reduced the suicide rate and to a lesser extent the homicide rate in their country in the last decade and a half.

The basic reason America cannot make that same progress in any form concerning the specter of gun control can be boiled down to three letters.

N.

R.

A.

Just look at how rich and powerful the NRA is. Yes, lobbying is a terribly destructive process. On occasion, it does accomplish some good and can promote reputable views. But the system is systemically corrupt, compromised, unruly and dominated by corporate interests.

Incidentally, corporations now outspend the federal government when it comes to funding Congress; $2.6 billion dwarfs our $2.0 billion we annually give to the House and the Senate by 30 percent. AC/DC immortalized the concept that “Money Talks” in their highest charting single in the U.S.; Angus Young would tell you the lobbyists then have a louder voice than the public interest does. And those are the voices our elected leaders follow more often than not. This is that voice in action, an NRA spokesperson’s chosen words for Andy Parker, the newest champion for expanded gun control.

Join Andy; tell those Kochsuckers to stop feeding at the NRA’s teat… Because, despite extensive public support, simple compromise legislation for expanding background checks or banning semi-automatic assault weapons cannot get passed by Congress. It is time to make Congress serve the interests of the wider public instead of the NRA, and that is why the gun control laws we need will inevitably have to be more expansive in order to be effective.

A simple background check alone is too temperate to be considered a relevant change in this defective system of gun laws anymore. We need to apply more common sense solutions to the problem of gun violence if we truly want to curb it in any meaningful way. The public’s desires must be crucially, vitally and fundamentally distinct from the NRA’s platform in every respect if we are to conquer that most powerful lobby.

The sort of comprehensive plan we need in order to put a serious dent into gun violence is a multi-faceted complex of common-sense ideas that work in tandem to keep responsible gun owners “well-regulated” as the Constitution itself states, while barring the people who pose a great liability by having legal rights and ease of access to firearms. An ideal plan has at least these four distinct requirements:

First, and exceedingly important, would be the institution of universal background checks, for both private sales and gun shows. Over 90 percent of gun owners in America already support universal background checks. The only force blocking this expansion is House Republicans, the most vile, volatile, pandering bunch of do-nothing corporate sellouts in American congressional history. They even stop necessary research on gun violence. Education apparently is the enemy of ignorance and the ignorant. If you're a criminal, you can't buy a gun. This debate is settled. This would be the easiest step to implement.

Second, the administration of a psychological exam, paid for by the potential gun owner. The people who make up responsible gun owners will be mentally fit, emotionally sound (e.g.; no history of anger issues) and not perturbed by mental disorders. People with a history of depression should be barred due to the prevalence of guns playing a role in suicides in the U.S.; anxiety and anger cases for their quick, neurotic trigger fingers and aggression-prone demeanor spurred in perpetuity by ownership of more guns. The recent execution of a Texas deputy could have been prevented had there been checks on the shooter’s mental health history and criminal record. Why would we ever allow the unstable in deed or thought to have access to firearms?

Third, a written test and a proficiency course that reviews gun safety, storage, cleaning and operation. This simple addition to gun education would make people more “responsible gun owners." It should be supported by the NRA already, if they want to stay consistent to the ideals presented in their mission statement. This is for those brilliant gun-owners out there who end up with dead infants because they don't lock up their guns, or others' children die because their kid got hold of a gun, or those who think it’s wise to equip a nine-year old girl with an uzi and she kills her instructor in a traumatic accident, or because they leave the safety off and get themselves killed by their own child in a Walmart.

This is ridiculous. This is tragic. The driving example is apt--how is it harder to acquire a driver's license than to legally purchase a firearm in this country? Why are there no competency requirements for handgun access? Do we really want the mentally inept to have easy access to ultra-effective killing tools?

Lastly, submission to a standard drug test. Incidentally, at the corporation I mentioned earlier that dealt with a matricidal gun-toting toddler, Walmart, if you fail a drug test, you can’t apply for another job there for a year. A similar system to this applied to gun purchases would include marijuana in the states in which it is illegal, but not necessarily so in states in which it is legal. Testing positive for other — hard —  drugs and some legal medications would result in being put on a blacklist for a year’s time. People using illicit drugs and strong mood-altering medications should not have legal access to firearms.

If we want "responsible gun owners," then we need to bar criminals, the insane and unstable, the incompetent, and the drug-addled from purchasing guns. If one disagrees with any part of these delineations or their constraints, they're inversely advocating for these exact groups to have easy, legal access to weapons.

With regards to the weak "but there's illegal guns" argument, mandatory registration would solve this problem. The federal (or state) governments could issue a six or 12 month window to allow people to register their firearms. All of them. This would include currently unregistered guns — this would be a way to avoid punishment for the crime for the moments and to promote more universal gun registration. If you have an unregistered gun in your possession after that point, you should be slammed with a felony that carries a minimum of 3 to 5 years of jail and heavy fines. No exceptions. No loopholes. 

No one gets through the cracks; in the same way that three strikes laws enforce mandatory sentencing, the unregistered gun policy would work with compulsory sentences for illegal gun possession. This is no unjustifiable life sentence for weed possession; it is a suitable punishment for the crime of public endangerment. It’s harsh. But the needless deaths of 32,000 people a year is a harsh reality, too.

If you use weapons, as the right-wing narrative often repeats it, to kill somebody in self-defense — sometimes, in the role of a police officer— what do you have to worry about with universal registration? You will be found “not guilty” by your all-white peers if you did no wrong. This is the same argument that the likes of Chris Christie have for the NSA; if you have nothing to hide, what is there to be concerned about in registering your weapons? It would be detrimental only to criminals or people who want to possess illegal weapons to have a system like this in place.

What has been outlined above does not infringe upon the rights of "responsible" gun-owners in any way, shape, or form and will start us on the path to alleviating this massive problem. This is the truth of gun violence in America. (Warning: disturbing content) 

When is enough, enough? Apparently Columbine wasn’t enough, nor Aurora nor Sandy Hook. It’s long overdue.

It will take a well-rounded, pragmatic approach to fix the problems with gun violence in America. In reviewing the face of our gun culture and idolatry, we are truly exceptional. Our unique Constitution and history will have to be considered in moving forward with the next era of gun control in the United States. But the answer cannot be inaction; we can no longer decide to refrain from taking steps forward for the millions who have died and the thousands that continue to die on a yearly basis from a failed national gun policy. With election season approaching, the time has never been better to fight tooth and nail for stronger, more intelligent gun control in this country.

Related Links:

The 'big picture' on gun control

Gunning For an Answer


Reach the columnist at hfinzel@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @OnlyH_man

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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This pic too: http://freakoutnation.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/kid-gun-620x302.jpg


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