Any who know American history are familiar with Colt and the company’s manufacture of “the gun that won the West.” As we think a bit more, we realize that winning the West was a complex issue with all sorts of ethical and political ramifications, including the use of firearms to seek out and destroy the lives of Native Americans. In other words, firearms and the right to own them are deeply engrained in the American consciousness and our sense of entitlement.
Next comes the issue of states’ rights versus federal laws. Again, students of American history realize that this is an ongoing issue as our history plays out. In some states individuals can openly carry all sorts of weapons. In others, such behavior is prohibited.
A third issue is the Second Amendment to our Constitution with lawyers who specialize in interpreting that amendment- with radically differing points of view.
Finally, let’s consider the issue of gun rights/laws and the mass murder of Americans. We are not going to completely eliminate this phenomenon, but we do have the responsibility as a nation to dramatically reduce it. First, we must realize that no single action will address this complex problem. I, therefore, am suggesting some possibilities and invite readers to add to my limited list:
1. A buy-back program. Some homes have firearms that owners would gladly give up in exchange for dollars. These guns can be destroyed and will no longer be used to murder Americans. The prices offered for the firearms should reflect their value.
2. Even though the concept of “See something, say something” did not work in the recent Florida shooting, it doesn’t mean it’s not a valuable tool. Use it; expand upon it.
3. Restrict the purchase of certain types of firearms, have comprehensive background checks on buyers, stop the purchase of firearms at swap meets and out of the trunks of cars. Have stiff penalties to punish those who violate these laws and straw buyers.
4. Make gun safes available for gun owners at very reasonable prices and require gun safety training as one of the conditions of procuring one.
5. Require schools/colleges/universities to cease and desist from the roles they have assumed for investigating and punishing criminal behavior. These personnel are in no way qualified for these tasks. That’s why we have trained law enforcement.
6. Invest in mental health services and raise the standards and pay levels for those who work in these fields.
7. Require schools, colleges, and universities to investigate the ways in which students and employees are vulnerable given the organization’s facilities and grounds and address those issues NOW- with government funding.
8. In the same way we require drivers licenses, require that individuals be required to have a gun license, pass tests to acquire it, carry it, and renew it regularly.
When I was in Beijing, China, six years ago, there were armed guards in large numbers on the streets. I don’t want to see that in America, but I do want law enforcement departments to be trained, retrained and funded appropriately so that they can be more visible in our communities.
Some would ask me where will we get the monies to fund any of these initiatives, and my rebuttal is that we seem to find ways to fund tax cuts for the wealthy, resulting in growing the federal deficit at an alarming rate.
Finally, I reflect on American history when students stood up and helped bring about an end to the Vietnam War. Maybe that will happen again with this issue of gun violence. I certainly hope so. Otherwise, we will be sending “thoughts and prayers” to more families without adding “action to curb gun violence.”
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