Gun Control was a very difficult subject when I was running for the Iowa House. Not because I was afraid of the subject, I wasn’t, but because the forces that disagree with anything short of the proliferation of firearms would rise in obstinate (and loud) opposition.
Money gets thrown in to defeat you, and even a fearless candidate has to weigh the possible backlash and outcomes. That, of course, is exactly what the gun lobby wants to happen and why movement toward sanity is still a non-reality.
I am no longer a candidate, and even if I throw my hat in the ring in the future (and this article gets trotted out), I am not going to shy away from this discussion. Disagreements should not only be acceptable, but are healthy in a free society. My principle is to be forthwith and transparent with my views, hoping to have conversations with genuine depth and not expedient political rhetoric containing all-too-common double-speak.
This article was in the news last year (sadly there are many stories just like it): https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/07/16/he-thought-the-gun-he-was-cleaning-was-unloaded-now-his-6-year-old-daughter-is-dead/
It would be hard to imagine a story any more relevant to explain gun control. But, first let me be clear about my own stance: I am not against gun ownership. What “gun control” is about is not the elimination of guns, but logical standards of compliance so that events like this, that betray responsible ownership, become less likely.
There is an inherent flaw in the argument being put forth by those calling themselves defenders of the Second Amendment or “Constitutional purists.” They claim that they are holding the values of the amendment sacrosanct and that there can be no room for elastic interpretation; “the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
The NRA has stated: “The NRA proudly supports the right of law abiding Americans to carry firearms in defense of themselves…”
That, in itself, is an elastic interpretation as it ignores the amendment’s prefatory clause: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state.” That means, on the most elemental level, that Americans have the right to keep and bear arms in defense of their nation. And in the context of the time, that meant from foreign invaders. What it did not imply was personal defense from other Americans.
With parameters of interpretation existing on both sides of the gun control argument, it is incumbent upon us, therefore, to look at the risks presented in our present state of affairs. The story linked above is sobering. On average, in America, there are over 250 accidental shootings a year by children under the age of 18 due to careless storage of firearms. Half of them are fatal. The NRA can argue that with 300,000,000 privately owned firearms in America that is a low percentage, but to those victimized families that is little consolation. Those tragedies were avoidable and that is where gun control can be defined.
And this is where I stand in the debate. Guns are legal and they are also lethal. Sure, anything can be lethal, even a container of aspirin, but no other instrument is created as a personal cannon to fire a lead projectile at the speed of sound. Hatchets, automobiles and even butter knives, can be dangerous when used incorrectly, but they were created to serve our domestic necessities; a firearm is created specifically to obliterate, destroy, and kill when they are deployed.
That necessitates an understanding and respect that demands a higher level of responsibility. If the father of the child who fired his rifle had been compelled to comply with certain standards, the other child could be alive today.
Just like traffic laws, no rule, regulation or law, eliminates the negative results they were created to stop. Traffic laws, however, remain in place even though some people violate them, and for the most part they restrict bad drivers and reduce traffic accidents. They are society’s demand that we hold ourselves accountable to a standard of skill to avoid mayhem and even death. When we violate those laws, and are caught, our freedom to drive is suspended or revoked.
The father has been prosecuted and convicted, but that consequence will not bring back the victim of his careless mistake. A control has to precede the potential for tragedy. I would advocate for firearm aptitude certification. That is not an encroachment of government as some gun owners will surely claim, rather it is an encroachment of common sense. After a background check (that includes second party sales and gun shows), a potential gun owner takes an exam to indicate essential knowledge of deadly force before they can legally possess.
A hassle? Maybe. Logical? Of course it is. And it isn’t an offense of the 2nd Amendment; it is an admission that the 2nd Amendment must command our utmost respect.
Would taking an exam that included questions about safe storage have stopped this tragedy from happening? Not necessarily. Anyone can answer correctly without genuinely believing in what they answered. But, maybe, knowing that unsafe practices are a violation of the certification they earned would have created a different outcome.
A couple of months ago I was driving in the country when I came upon a stop sign and I stopped. A full stop. There wasn’t another car within a mile and no one would have ever known if I hadn’t stopped completely. There was no reason to….except for the fact that it was a requirement of the license I earned to exercise my privilege to drive.
That was conscientious traffic control. Just as gun control can be.