Op-Eds Speaking Truth to the Powers-That-Be
Spot one to the NRA and you gun fans: Guns don’t kill people. People under the influence, suffering from mental impairment, temporary or permanent, and those with aggression and rage issues using guns kill the majority of people in the United States.
Most gun owners would agree that responsible ownership is a key to safety. “Control” is a bad agenda, and why efforts by gun violence advocates often meet a stone wall of resistance. “Control” implies all gun owners are irresponsible or unsafe, which is far, far from the truth.
If we focus on gun safety, homicides in the U.S. plummet, gun owners get a better rep, and those looking for a more peaceful community get their wish.
Here, then, is the how we get a win-win.
A few days ago, t2P launched what may easily be the most unpopular Facebook page ever: A wall devoted to reporting the names, ages, and circumstances around the daily homicides appearing in the newspaper. We found that Slate magazine’s post-Newtown Wall is too depersonalized with its daily pictograms, and the hope that you’ll click and read their stories. As we have found, you can waste ‘em on XBox Live, but few people want to stare the victims of real gun violence in the eye.
The American Gun Deaths Wall generally draws comment from a number of gun enthusiasts, many of whom rabidly worry that it is another means of taking away all of their guns, as the NRA primes them to fear.
It is not.
A debate coach told me, many years ago, you can’t win a point if you can’t show both sides of an argument equally and then prove why your point of view should prevail.
From home invasions thwarted by “good guys” to the much larger group of domestic dispute homicides, we have reported all of the available events to the purpose of having a real discussion of changing gun safety law. You can’t make your point by slanting facts.
Whether you love guns, think they’re necessary, or think they’re unnecessary these are indisputable facts:
That myth spun by the industry is not the reality. The majority of gun deaths in America are gun safety issues. The top four causes of gun deaths are clear:
Judgement inhibitors, like alcohol, prescription drugs, illegal drugs, untreated clinical depression, mental illness, IED or substance-induced aggressiveness and rage can be the tipping-point in all four of the above categories. Primary stressers that push the minority of firearms owners incapacitated most often are:
FBI data also clearly shows that the majority of the gun homicides in America are either self-inflicted, or by people known to one another.
Responsible gun owners, if they can set aside the NRA’s decades-long conditioning to knee-jerk reactions about liberals taking away their all of their guns, should be able to agree that remedial measures that can knock out the bad judgment of 5% or so of gun owners who do not handle their weapons correctly will make the other 95% percent of you look much better.
We can all agree that American society is built on laws.
Civilian law is generally handled by the police and the courts. They already take on, peripherally, the symptoms of the four major causes of gun homicides, often the exclamation point of long-simmering social problems.
In a large number of cases minimal intervention by the police and the courts could save a lot of lives.
Common Law. Common Sense.
It’s time for three new state-level gun laws that mirror the controls put on the next most commonplace possession in America: The car.
Our existing laws involving guns and homicides only deal with intent after the fact. In other avenues of law and licensure, like automobiles, we worry about how to stop crime before it happens.
Most gun crime occurs due to temporary diminished capacity. Someone is upset about losing a job, not finding work, prone to IED fits of rage, depression that is organic, the death of a loved one, a terminal illness, a dispute over something, or the fear of exposure or jail time for something they have done.
The majority of what become homicides or attempted murders can be prevented in the way that we use the law to deal with driving cars.
There are a whole series of steps in auto law to prevent crime. You are given points on your driver’s license, your operator permit. Small infractions like a speeding ticket can take away a point or three. Large ones, like a DUI/DWI, can get your license suspended or revoked. Your driver’s license comes up for review every few years so that the state government can verify you are still living up to the conditions of the social contract that is your license to drive.
Three critical pieces of legislation totally absent in current discussions of firearms law would allow us to reduce gun homicide dramatically:
(You can tear off this part and send it to your favorite state legislator)
In Europe, it is common on gun permit applications to ask if someone suffers from mental illness, or chronic depression, or has been convicted of substance abuse. Their number of suicides and domestic homicides are a fraction of our own. We know that enhancing safety in permitting works.
To end tragedies like the Newtown shooting, weapons permits should also ask if the gun will be housed in a place where a family member or lodger suffers from IED, rage issues, untreated depression, diagnosed depression, or diagnosed mental illness, etc. That should not be a deal breaker to own a weapon, but it should require that those gun owners take extra precautions in the storage and carry of their weapons to prevent people from handling them who should not.
It is also essential, with millions of guns already permitted out there, that permits are modified and reissued to current valid holders to reflect changes in the law.
We require it for the initial licensure of automobiles. We take away auto licenses from those who can no longer drive safely. Gun owners should be able to show that they can meet basic proficiency and safety tests as police do. They should sign an affidavit that they have proper places to secure their weapon at home or at work. A background check should be run at reissue to insure that nothing has changed in the owner’s ability to possess a firearm.
With a PUI/CUI law in place, government agencies and advocacy groups can educate more about not carrying a weapon when under the influence, or when angry. They can reinforce the consequences of those actions. Such awareness campaigns have been effective in everything from DUI/DWI to texting and talking on the phone while driving.
We minimally regulate gun ownership. We need to refine it. Most gun owners polled are all for gun safety. Laws that give the legal system power to deal with the small minority of gun owners can wipe out 85% of the gun-related suicides and homicides in this country overnight, and make gun ownership a non-issue as it is in most other countries, which is a big win for gun enthusiasts and the public at-large.
My shiny two.