Americans are a diverse mix of cultural and social values and attitudes, and each of us has a God given right to express our ideas on anything we feel strongly enough about to speak on. Rarely, however, do we temper our emotions and speak from positions of impassionate common sense. This is not good. We used to refer to reactionary outbursts of emotional expression as “knee jerk” reactions. Wiser people maintain cooler heads and speak from positions of thoughtful practicality. Hard to do, I know. Especially when one is ‘worked up’ emotionally by the tragic circumstances sometimes associated with an issue, such as mass murder that could have been prevented by the application of appropriate safe-guards. Considering the fact that these types of incidents continue to occur, it should be obvious that we must do something to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future. But, what? Better social engineering? Clearly, there is much that could be done in that area, and there needs to be a serious discussion about that at all levels, from community and Church leaders to academic, collegiate, medical and political circles as well. It will take years of hard work and cooperation of the entire population to bring about a return to the kind of value system that characterized America up until about fifty years ago. Whether this can be accomplished or not depends on us as a nation.
What about ‘gun control’? Opinions differ on what that should look like, but radical, even unconstitutional legislation cannot and should not be a legitimate approach to stopping the carnage that results from lack of adequate measures of controlling ownership and use of lethal weapons. Some people are dead set against any kind of restrictions on the free exercise of 2nd Amendment rights to ‘keep and bear arms’. In today’s world of badly compromised values and diminished appreciation for the value of human life, that isn’t a realistic position anymore. However, a knee jerk reaction to tragedy that promotes a ‘no gun’ approach would never work in America, and isn’t even a realistic goal. We must take a common sense approach to finding solutions for minimizing and eventually eliminating instances of wrongful death caused by firearms, wielded by people that either shouldn’t have them, or who have them and have made decisions to use them against others, for whatever reason. This will be a multi-faceted process.
On the matter of obtaining a firearm, we must initiate and then enforce screening procedures required for anyone to purchase a gun, of any sort. Anyone who sells a gun to another must be required to have the purchaser fill out an informational form to be processed prior to the sale, with strict enforcement and stiff penalties for non-compliance. With these rigid background checks, most people who should not be allowed to acquire a gun would be prevented from buying one. To make this work, we must develop a database of information that traces the records of people with a history of anti-social behavior, from middle school to adulthood and beyond. Such information should be expected and required to be documented by school and military officials, health providers, including therapists and mental health practitioners as well as law enforcement agencies at all levels. It should be accessible only by authorities given the responsibility for screening people for fitness to acquire and maintain ownership of a firearm as well as law enforcement agencies and certain hiring authorities requiring security clearances for people being considered for highly sensitive positions. All these procedures would form the basis for registration by the sellers of each firearm sold, certifying that the required background check had been completed and purchaser approved. This would have to apply to private party sales and ‘gun show’ type transactions of firearms as well. If such a complete and up to date data base were to be created and maintained properly, wait times for qualified citizens to buy legal firearms should be minimized
So far, I’ve only covered regulation of guns being purchased from a point forward. However, to be thorough in any quest to improve the regulation and control of firearms to minimize misuse of them by people who are unqualified to have them, we MUST be certain that guns already owned be registered with local law enforcement, and that all registrations include names and ages of any and all parties who have access to them. This will probably be the hardest facet of all to accomplish. Americans are highly distrustful of any notion of gun registration, although most states have had registration laws on the books for years. Consequently, it is likely that there are presently hundreds of thousands of unregistered guns in the hands of individuals that could fall into the hands of bad actors in the future. However, unless the existing gun inventory is on record with law enforcement, the threat of unfit and irresponsible people having access to guns is only half addressed. To complete the process of sensible gun control, training in gun safety and proper use must be required for anyone who is going to be allowed to handle a firearm, and a license issued to all such qualified persons. The most important requirement for licensed gun owners to provide the highest assurance that their guns will not fall into unqualified hands, is some form of gun cabinet or other secure enclosure that can be secured with lock and key.
Finally, practically speaking, the closest we can get to protection of school children or any other large population centers for that matter, from the threat of mass shootings is design and implementation of defensive measures. Arming school employees, such as teachers and other staff people isn’t a realistic idea, because most of them want nothing to do with the responsibility associated with carrying a firearm. Also, few parents like the idea of ‘non-professional/untrained’ school personnel being put in that position. On the other hand, former military or law enforcement persons, trained in the use and maintenance of firearms would be welcomed by most school boards and parents to patrol hallways and grounds for protection of students and teachers. Many so called ‘gun free’ zone ordinances would have to be modified to allow for this, however. Even more necessary for defense of schools and other high-population buildings is various devices being put in place to restrict access. Many public buildings, especially court houses and other government buildings already have such security measures in use all over America. The use of such measures should be locally determined and put in place, but Federal assistance to defray costs should be made available, if such could be done without strings or regulations.
Many common-sense measures can be utilized to make our schools about as secure as possible, and with common cause and reasonable attitudes at play, American students and teachers would be able to be almost without fear of harm from deadly intrusions. While some reasonable and justifiable restrictions do need to be placed on acquisition and ownership of guns, no harsh and radical infringements on Second Amendment rights are necessary to accomplish the goals we all seek in today’s unpredictable and dangerous world.
Arthur Bruce Robertson