Let’s Talk Guns—NOW!

Let’s Talk Guns—NOW!


Leonard Zwelling

I am not against the ownership of guns. I needed to get that out on the table up front.

I am actually licensed to carry a handgun. I don’t own one, because I am afraid to have one lying about in the house, even under lock and key, but I reserve the right to change my mind on that one. That’s my right as an American, as far as I can tell.

BUT—and this is a huge but, there simply has to be some limit on who can own a gun and what kind of gun a regular American citizen can own. After all, beyond cigarettes, guns are the most deadly product on the market even when used as designed.

The recent events in Las Vegas may be explained as a defect in both aspects of the gun control debate—who and what.

The media and the police as well as several federal agencies are busy trying to understand why the shooter did what he did. It is possible with this one that the answers to that question may not be readily obtained. The shooter appears to have been someone who would not have been precluded from owning a gun after a background check. He does not seem to have been ISIS-inspired, as far as anyone knows, but let’s reserve judgment given his connection with the Philippines. He seems to have been a 64-year old resident of a retirement community with a girlfriend that police are now debriefing, but who appears to have been without fore knowledge of the attack. Given the number (42) of guns he had both at the hotel and at his house, it is hard to believe that she did not know something was up and if she did and said nothing and fled the country rather than tell authorities, she may have committed a crime.

That being said, the who aspect of these mass shootings is pretty hard to handle with legislation other than to keep guns out of the hands of felons, the known mentally deranged, and people on the TSA no-fly list. That background checks ought to apply to all gun sales, even private ones, is a small step in the right direction that would never interfere with anyone who wants a gun from getting one as long as he or she is not in that list of “never should own a gun.” But that one person could amass an arsenal as this shooter did ought to be knowable to authorities. A searchable national database might have flagged the shooter as a person of interest.

The what side, on the other hand, is a little easier to deal with although the NRA still opposes any restrictions on guns. Handguns should be legal. They are going to remain the primary means of self-defense and are also used by hunters and sport-shooters. I have fired several different handguns at targets and it is fun.

Long guns should also be legal. They are the primary choice of sportsmen who hunt. This is a time-honored form of outdoorsman ship and “mostly male” bonding that is as American as apple pie, especially in the more rural parts of the United States. Fine.

But semi-automatic rifles are not needed for hunting. They are weapons of war and are primarily manufactured to be sold to people whose job it is to kill other people in defense of their country or their community. Those people are called soldiers and law enforcement officers. Regular citizens do not need automatic or semi-automatic weapons for hunting or for self-defense, as far as I can tell.

Now, with the scenes in Las Vegas fresh in our minds, is precisely the time to launch a reasoned and reasonable national conversation about why America is so prone to this public gun violence. It is not because we have more crazy people in America. I am quite comfortable with imagining that Europe has its share of the mentally ill. The primary difference between America and the rest of the world is the availability of these weapons of mass destruction like the ones used in Las Vegas and the ease with which they can be purchased. Whether it turns out they were retrofitted semi-automatic rifles that became machine guns, or grandfathered pre-1986 actual machine guns, these weapons have no business being in the hands of regular Americans.

I am well aware that the NRA does not want to hear what I have to say. The NRA seems to feel that any constraint on gun ownership is a government intrusion on the 2nd Amendment. But that simply is hogwash. The Second Amendment was written when muskets were the weapon of choice not AK47s.

The current President of the United States should initiate a dialogue with Congress and the American people on the issue of some sorts of controls on who can own a gun and what kind of guns Americans can own. It should start now, before another scene of carnage fades into the rearview mirror and America forgets that about one American in 10,000 may die due to gun violence.

Does it have to get to one in a thousand for us to do something?

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