Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What Do You Want Done About Gun Violence?

Watch Raising Adam Lanza on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

I am not particularly "well-read" on the issue of guns and gun control laws. I am trying to understand the issues but these issues have resulted in a highly emotional debate in our country today where angry voices are raised by all sides.  I do have opinions and concerns and I do want change because there is way too much gun violence in America and it is unacceptable to me. I can't believe we can't agree on reasonable laws that will curtail the misuse of guns. 

My husband and I watched the PBS program last night on guns in America and on the Newtown murders of the children, teachers, and Nancy Lanza by shooter Adam LanzaThe Hartford Courant and PBS' Frontline have teamed up to investigate what was behind the murdering spree of Adam Lanza. They presented what is known so far about his motivations and frame of mind (and that is not very much, even now, more than two months after the Newtown tragedy).  My husband is a conservative who highly values personal liberties and privacy and I am a liberal who believes that government has an obligation to regulate personal activities that threaten the safety and welfare of citizens.  We both agreed with one of the conclusions from the program that the gun debate presently in our country breaks down to one side that feels that more guns are the answer to gun violence while the other side feels that less guns are the answer.  This is a cavernous divide that will be difficult to overcome even though no one feels that the status quo is OK.   The murders of  5 and 6 year olds while they were in one of the safest places one can imagine -a school - is truly a tipping point in the gun debate.  Many people who are strong supporters of gun ownership, even the majority of NRA rank-and-file members, now believe some restrictions on gun ownership are in order. 

Everyone agrees that there is too much crime and gun violence in our society.  But I think (and my husband agrees) that what kind of legislation gets passed in our cities, states, and national governing bodies will not be one based on compromise between the two sides, but rather will be the result of who has more power in those governing bodies.  So. ladies and gentlemen, it's time to write and call your representatives to influence their vote.

I've been thinking about reasonable and effective changes that we need to reduce gun violence (while still protecting the Second Amendment) and here are some of my ideas of what might be done:

1. Everyone who buys a gun must have a background check with prohibitions on gun ownership for certain persons deemed incompetent or ineligible to own guns (these might include: felons, mentally ill, minors, non-citizens, etc.).

2. A waiting period (sometimes called a "cooling off" period) between a request to buy a gun and the receipt of said gun (certain exceptions might be made like a court order allowing the person immediate receipt).

3.  A requirement of license or certification to own a gun,  requiring completion of an approved training course (by the NRA, local police or National Guard, and the like) done in-person on the safety, handling, storage, and legal and personal consequences of using a gun. 

4. A requirement that all guns must be stored in an inaccessible/locked location so that minors and criminals cannot access the guns.  Trigger locks, gun safes, lockers at a shooting range might be examples of inaccessibility.

5.  A ban by private citizens of large capacity ammunition clips.

6. A ban on private ownership of certain assault-style or military high capacity, semi-automatic/fully automatic guns.  (I know many gun-owners feel that this abridges their right to own a gun as a source of personal and political protection but let us not forget that the 2nd Amendment was drafted when single shot muskets were in use and our Founding Fathers certainly could not have anticipated the gun technology of today that allows for the random violence and destruction caused by these weapons. Such weapons perhaps could be stored at private gun clubs, shooting ranges, and in locked community-run arsenals for the satisfaction of maintaining "a well regulated militia").

7. A requirement that a gun owner have mandatory insurance to cover the negligent or deliberate use of the weapon in crimes or accidental shootings.  If a gun accident/theft/intentional homicide occurs with an uninsured gun, the gun shall be taken by the state for destruction.

8. A tax on the gun that goes to a gun victim's fund to be dispersed to victims of gun violence.

9. Stronger enforcement of existing laws including mandatory imprisonment for using a gun in the commission of a crime (a person convicted of using a gun in the comission of a crime should NOT be allowed probation - I am shocked at how many pending cases of gun crimes involve criminals on probation from previous gun crimes).

10. "Three-strike laws" that mandate life imprisonment after the third conviction of using a gun in the commission of a crime.

11. Allow for "liability" lawsuits against the manufacturers of guns.  Then perhaps the manufacturers will modify their product to include safety features to prevent accidents as have automobile manufacturers resulting in the decrease of fatalities.  It is perfectly conceivable that gun manufacturers can engineer certain locking devices on guns that can only be used by the owner.

12. Change laws to allow for family members and guardians to have more control over the lives of adults who are "mentally-ill" or substance-abusers in order to make them seek treatment. 

13. Provide more mental health facilities for "troubled" adolescents and adults.

14. Provide non-violent conflict resolution training, domestic violence awareness training, and anti-bullying education to schools and communities. Provide community or school based Mediation Centers to resolve conflicts.

15.  Improve school safety prodedures (e.g. automatic locking doors to sections of schools and classrooms,  silent alarm to police or security personnel indicating violent offender present, etc.)

Our national prolem is that there is such an emotionally charged tone to the gun violence debate that few people listen to the opinions and solutions being offered if it comes from "the Other Side". What do you think? I know there are many ideas out there that will reduce gun violence.  Perhaps you have some to suggest? 


  1. Ouch. I gave up on allowing anonymous. You can fix in your "comments" section.
    As to guns I'm totally discouraged. The western & rural country folks are with your husband on "rights" The city eastern folks associate gun with crime. I'm an eastern rural gun owning former hunter who now enjoys shooting things with his camera. My solution is to appoint Vicki gun czar and adopt her 15 point program...

  2. My next door neighbor, Mary Sherlach, was murdered in the Sandy Hook slaughter. I have difficulty being objective about gun ownership. I say that while at the same time I have a matchlock long gun (ca. 1450) mounted on my wall, inherited from my father's historical collection. I can't imagine even thinking about trying to fire it. I keep it as an artifact.

    Any culture that has 300 million guns (and counting) circulating among its general population has issues about cultural asymmetry. Our culture is characterized by its propensity to violence as conflict resolution—whether nationally, internationally, by drone strikes or in parking lots. We are a culture of loners who sort ourselves into like-minded cocoons that strike out at other loners.

    We don't hear the word "society" being used much any more regarding who we are. But we do hear the phrase "interest groups" being used frequently. We seem to be a paranoid people, driven by consumerism and edgy about people and things that get in our way. And we have 300,000,000 guns (and counting).

    1. wow, Roger, I knew you lived in Connecticut but had no idea your neighbor was a victim at Sandy Hool Elemenrary. I am deeply sorry for her family and friends. Guns in today's culture of incivility and hate-filled media add fuel to the fire that is devouring our social relationships and institutions. The domestic violence and violence against women that is so prevalent is exponentially more dangerous with all the guns flooding our country.

  3. i totally agree with Number 6 - ridiculous to me to not ban the weapons that can kill dozens of people within seconds - weapons which did not exist in 1776

    the psychiatric profession is overall a disgrace and bears much responsibility - orthomolecular psychiatry has been persecuted for over 5 decades yet has proven that most so-called psychiatric disorders can be treated effectively with natural, non-drug therapies -- avoiding the horrible consequences of the violent behavior that can occur as a side effect to very toxic psychiatric meds