Feb 1, 2013

January 30, 2013: There Are No Drive-by Stabbings, Cold Dead Fingers, My Wife….

“When it comes to questions concerning gun control, let us bear in mind that there is no such thing as a drive-by stabbing”                                                ----from the ‘Quotations of Chairman Joe”

Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the N.R.A. sat, with blood-stained hands, before a Senate committee and testified with a straight face that this country needs no further regulations concerning the sale and handling of firearms.   This is the same Wayne LaPierre who stood before the nation in the wake of the Newtown school massacre and said that the “only thing that can stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun”.  It is clear that the leadership of the NRA will not budge an inch in their efforts to obstruct any attempt at reasonable reforms.
Despite that recent polls show that over 90 percent of the country and over 80 percent of NRA Members favor the creation of universal background checks, an act that would move to check the present situation in which gun sales by private individuals and others can circumvent such checks through private sales and gun shows.  There exists similar support for other forms of regulation such as banning high magazine clips, military-style ammunition, and putting limits on the amount of guns and ammunition that can be purchased at one time.  The NRA in its recent checkered history has even opposed the introduction of technology on weaponry that would make it less likely that a stolen gun would be used in a crime.  We have the technology to put devices on these weapons that recognize fingerprints and prevent the gun from functioning unless it recognized the owner.  The NRA has moved to block such regulation.  If such devices were put in place, the slaughter at Newton may well not have happened.

The old gun-nut bumper sticker says it all.  Not the one that read “When Guns are Outlawed, only Outlaws will have Guns.”  No the one that read “They will get my gun only by prying it from my cold dead fingers”  The mantra that all attempts at gun legislation and control, citing a construction of the second amendment as an absolute prohibition of any such attempt to control firearms, will meet with fierce and determined resistance. 

There are many good proposals now put forward to try to reign in on this madness.  To the usual proposals regarding universal background checks, increased mental health spending and screening, banning of high capacity magazines, cop-killer bullets, etc., I would add the following.

First let us close absolutely the possible ‘holes’ around background checks.  Let us pass legislation that would require a license for a firearm, any firearm, to be renewed annually.

Second, let us provide for liability for the owner of any firearm for its use, no matter who uses it.
Third, the sale of any firearm could only be transacted through a duly licensed dealer.  Thus all private sales would have to be conducted through a licensed third party.  This insures that the sale and ownership of the weapon can be tracked.  Violations of these provisions would be severe, a hundred thousand dollar fine to be in possession of an unlicensed weapon.  

Fourth, we need to return to the wisdom of our forefathers and ban automatic and semi-automatic weapons entirely.  Again to be found in possession of such a weapon would incur a severe penalty, say one hundred thousand dollars, payment of which can be extended over a long period of time, but cannot be bankrupted and would be subject to court oversight.  The owners of such weapons, the survivalists, the conspiracy nuts, the militiamen, would forthright face a choice: keep the weapon and risk the financial liability and penalties, or voluntarily—without compensation—give up the weapons. Such an act would do much to voluntarily flush the system of the most dangerous weaponry on the streets of America. 

Finally, I suggest that we return to our father’s wisdom and require that in order to own a handgun, a weapon with no other purpose that to kill another human being; a citizen would be required to demonstrate to the local authority (it used to be the sheriff’s department) a need for such a weapon.  This is how our ancestor’s handled this issue.  Until recently this is how we historically dealt with handguns.  Now the state has to demonstrate that the would-be gun owner is unqualified, or a clear and present danger. 

Such reforms will no doubt cut the number of gun sales in America, but would concentrate such transactions into the hands of qualified gun dealers so as to mitigate against the diminution of their business.  

There is little here that is new.  There is little here that our ancestors, in their wisdom, have put in place at one time or another in our collective history.  Whether we can get such reforms, or make any progress worth the name toward national sanity when it comes to guns remains to be seen.

I’m reminded of another bumper-sticker I’ve seen, usually on the back of a rusted out old pick-up truck: “My Wife Yes, My Dog Maybe, My Gun—NEVER!”