By Former Assemblyman Steven Sanders
In previous columns I wrote that massacres with guns would continue until the U.S. Congress found the courage and intelligence to enact meaningful gun ownership restrictions.
So who can be surprised that a college campus in Oregon was yet the latest site of a mass murder?
The person who committed that heinous crime last week did so with legally purchased weapons. This time nine lives were lost to another deranged gunman. Nine more young people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nine families shattered, nine more funerals and countless more expressions of sorrow and sympathy from our leaders in Congress… and then nothing more, just a little road bump in the life of Congress.
It seems that the gun zealots and the misguided Second Amendment purists have the proverbial “nine lives.” Nothing seems to be horrific enough to kill off their ambitions to see even more guns proliferate our streets and communities and with no regulations.
If they were not moved to action three years ago when twenty toddlers were gunned down at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, what hope is there that this latest tragedy or the next one or the one after that will cause a change of heart or spur our weak-kneed Congress to finally act?
The National Rifle Association (NRA) is content with the status quo. Why not? After all, they are largely funded by the gun manufacturers who are enriched when more guns are sold. It is a lucrative business for them. The NRA in turn spreads false propaganda about gun safety and doles out tens of millions of dollars supporting their favored members of Congress and other elected officials at the state level. The human toll of their deadly products is just a cost of doing business for them, after all they say, “Guns don’t kill, people do.” However, some people can kill a lot more with certain kinds of firearms that the framers of the Constitution could ever have imagined.
Those weapons were developed for the battle field where killing the maximum number of combatants as quickly as possible is the purpose. But now such firearms are easily accessed and available to most anyone who wants one and have proliferated in our communities and campuses.
But instead of just hand wringing, here is a novel approach that might just restore a little sanity to our gun laws. Since few people seem to object to the need to regulate automobiles, why not treat guns in a similar fashion?
We regulate the purchase and operation of cars because we recognize that cars (unlike a horse and buggy of days gone by) can be a lethal instrument if not operated properly. Owning a car is not a right; it is a privilege that must be earned.
So this is what I propose:
1) Anyone who wishes to buy a gun must be of a lawful age and must have that gun registered and must purchase insurance to cover the cost of injuries and accidents.
2) Purchasers of guns must be periodically licensed and first pass safety training courses on the proper operation and storage of their gun, as drivers must do.
3) All gun registrations and insurance must be re-issued every year or two as is done with cars to insure that the ownership continues to be lawful.
4) Certain violations or crimes will cause a person to have their gun ownership suspended or terminated depending on the offense.
5) Any person or entity that sells a gun to an individual without the proper credentials will be subject to felony penalties and any person found with a non-registered will similarly be subject to felony penalties.
6) Finally, the future manufacture of guns must have a safety device or code so that only the lawful owner can operate it. These “smart guns” can operate like persons who enter cars equipped with a personal code.
To be sure these measures will not prevent all gun related crimes, but it will make it much more difficult to obtain a weapon and those who do own a gun will be required to do many of the same things as those who are licensed to drive a car.
Some will whine that the second amendment does not permit such regulations. But I am sure that that even visionaries like Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson never envisioned the guns that exist in the 21st century any more than they could envision engine-driven cars that can travel at over 100 miles per hour.
Our Founding Fathers did not see fit to regulate travel by horse, but fortunately their successors understood the need to have reasonable restrictions on cars. There is a civics lesson to be learned here.