With the tragic massacre at Virginia Tech fresh in the minds of the world, many nations are looking at the culture of violence and easy access to guns that characterize American society. It is inevitable that one side will call for the passage of strict gun control laws, while the other decries the possibility of life without firearms.
It is long past time for each side to get together, and begin to speak and understand the same language. ‘Gun control’ does not equate to ‘gun banning.’ Gun control seeks reasonable governmental oversight on who purchases and uses one of the most dangerous commodities on the market.
The motto of the prominent gun control group, the Million Mom March, is ‘Sensible Gun Laws; Safe Kids.’ Nothing in those five words implies the removal of guns from the possession of law-abiding citizens. What is implied is that by regulating gun ownership, the average citizen will be safer from gun violence than he/she is today.
Most gun control groups have never advocated, to this writer’s knowledge, the removal of hunting rifles from those who enjoy that sport. It has never sought to take guns from those who enjoy target shooting, or from those who feel they need to carry firearms for their personal and/or family protection. It has not sought to prevent those who wish to obtain guns for those purposes from doing so. What they have advocated is a policy similar to that of those who own and/or operate motor vehicles.
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Prior to being able to operate a motor vehicle, it is necessary for the applicant to obtain a certain age, which varies from state to state, much like gun laws may vary from state to state. He/she must first obtain a learners permit, which involves producing evidence of identification and age, and take a test indicating that he/she knows some rudimentary tasks associated with driving: what a stop sign looks like, how to properly signal for a turn, and what the average stopping distance is if traveling at 50 mph.
Once that test is passed, a date is schedule for the driving test. The applicant then practices operating a vehicle, either with a formal instructor, or with someone who has already been licensed. At the scheduled date, the applicant takes a driving test with a government employee, who determines if the applicant is sufficiently competent to drive a car. These steps are necessary since the applicant will be operating a large piece of machinery which, if used improperly, can injure and kill
A person who wants to own a motor vehicle must register it. He or she will provide the vehicle identification number to a state-registered agency, who will check to assure that the title (ownership record) is free and clear. The applicant will be presented with a registration card, which must be produced when demanded by a law enforcement officer, and license plates. These items identify the vehicle and its owner. Should the vehicle then, for example, be involved in the commission of the crime, if a witness documents the license plate number, the owner of the car can be located and questioned about the crime.
One wonders why it is asking too much for gun owners and operators to do the same. One can apply for a license to shoot a gun, practice with someone already licensed, and then take a test to assure competency. Before a gun purchase is finalized, a serial number can be produced, and the new gun owner can be presented with a registration form, indicating that he/she owns the gun. Should the gun be used in the commission of a crime, and be located, the owner can then be traced and questioned about the crime.
If a car owner reports that his/her car has been stolen, and the car is subsequently used in the commission of a crime, the owner would not be held responsible; the car was reported to have been stolen and no longer in the possession of the legal owner. If recovered, it can be returned to the owner.
If a gun owner, under these registration rules, reports that his/her gun has been stolen, and the gun is subsequently used in the commission of a crime, he/she would likewise not be held responsible; the gun, at the time the crime was committed, was known to be no longer in the possession of the rightful owner.
Most states have inspection requirements for motor vehicles. Once every year or two, the vehicle owner must take the car to a licensed inspection station to assure that it is in a safe operating condition: that the brakes adhere to some minimal standard, the lights are working, etc. If a car fails the inspection, the owner is advised why it failed, and is given a certain period of time, often thirty days, to make the necessary repairs. If they are not made within that time and the car is still on the road, the owner can be ticketed and fined. This policy is in force to assure at least some minimal standard of safety of all cars on the road.
Some states require some kind of background check for persons seeking to purchase firearms. Convicted felons, people on parole and those with a history of perpetrating domestic violence are generally not able to purchase guns in states requiring background checks. This policy is in force to assure to at least a limited degree that people purchasing guns do not have a known history of violent behavior.
The registering of cars and the licensing of drivers does not prevent unauthorized or incompetent people from operating motor vehicles. The inspections required do not assure that no unsafe cars are ever on the road. Thousands of people die in auto accidents each year. However, these regulations are necessary to establish some level of safety and responsibility. Without them, the number of traffic fatalities would skyrocket
Similarly, registering firearms and licensing those who use them will not prevent gun violence. However, over 30,000 Americans die by gun violence each year. It is expected that that number can be greatly reduced by the registration of guns and licensing of those who use them.
The licensing of drivers and the registration of cars is not the first step toward banning motor vehicles. These regulations have existed for years, and any talk of banning cars would be ludicrous.
The registration of guns and the licensing of those who use them is not the first step toward banning them, although one would think it is from the chorus heard from the far right every time such a thing is suggested. Doing so would not necessarily prevent another Columbine, or another Virginia Tech. But it would go a long way to minimizing the number of victims that result from a combination of rage and easy access to a gun.
Gun control is not a panacea; the culture of violence that is so ingrained in American society will take generations to purge, assuming there was any major desire to purge it. But the enactment and enforcement of reasonable restrictions on the purchase and use of firearms will be a major step in reducing the number of gun tragedies that currently plague this nation. But with studies showing it is not politically convenient, the number of innocent victims of gun violence is unlikely to decrease.
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