Editor’s Note: People are talking about guns. Between school shootings, freeway shooters and deadly shots fired in reaction to perceived threats, guns get the blame for too many of our tragedies. On one side of the debate is a fierce defense of 2nd Amendment rights. On the other side is a deep desire to do something to 'just fix it.' But, can anything be done that will actually help prevent or reduce deaths? This week we are presenting a series of opinion pieces to start as a point of discussion and dialogue.
I'm a gun owner. I own two handguns and two rifles. I believe in my right to bear arms and enthusiastically believe in maintaining my ability to protect my family, home, and self from enemies foreign or domestic. I believe owning these weapons helps me, maybe just a little, in case there is an unfortunate circumstance out of my control in which I need to use lethal force for protection. I also greatly enjoy guns for sport. But, I also believe firearms are way too easy to procure.
TRAINING & LICENSING
We have training and licensing to operate a vehicle. But not for guns. We have training and certification to become a certificated pilot. But not for guns. You can get your pilot's certificate revoked for having certain medical conditions. But not for guns. The military trains their recruits, in detail, how to operate their weapons. But civilians get zero training (unless they are smart).
Now, many are going to say, “but driving and flying are not rights, they are privileges.” Yes, but certification and training for these respective “privileges” did not start until it was obvious too many people were getting killed without proper training. Rights and privileges must be maintained.
LET'S TRY TO START SOMETHING AND FORGET ABOUT TRYING TO STOP SOMETHING
Why can't we at least start with a process of training and certification for gun owners. Maybe we will uncover a few people along the way that shouldn't have guns and maybe we will also create a few safer gun owners along the way. This means at least a few things in my book:
- Make background checks required at gun shows - this really isn’t a big deal.
- All background checks and certification process should involve a mental health background check. HIPPA Laws? Forget it. People with chronic depression, suicidal thoughts, etc, from a clinical viewpoint, should not own firearms, period.
- Create a program for those that want to conceal and carry on a NATIONAL basis. That program would include background checks, training, re-current training, certification and the right to carry anywhere except the obvious like planes. Students at schools is up for debate but I am leaning towards allowing certified / training students of legal age to do so….
- If a person chooses to only have a firearm for home protection or for sport, training and certification is not required.
- If a person gets caught carrying without proper certification - mandatory jail time and fine.
- Lighten up on the war on drugs, that's not working either, and heavily penalize anyone who is illegally carrying a firearm.
THE GOVERNMENT'S GUN FREE ZONES ARE WORTHLESS
The government has put us in a tight spot. Everyone can own a gun, but we can't carry our guns everywhere, which creates gun free zones and opens up a big problem. And, we all know we can’t stop every bad guy. But we have to start looking at what we can do because all this bickering has not produced any improvements to our freedoms and safety.
Now, I know the standard rebuttals are going to start flying.
- "We've earned the right to bear arms." - Have we really? Didn't our forefathers years ago earn that right. I believe we inherited that right but we have not lived up to their expectations. We have not maintained that right and in order to do so we need to prove we are responsible to that right. It is a different world, whether we like it or not and we need to adapt. Let's prove our right to gun ownership by showing the government that we deserve the right to carry, should we choose to do so, and be willing to certify ourselves and create a process that may just save a life or two. Doing nothing in this regard is apathetic.
- "By forcing us to certified or license ourselves implies that it is illegal to own firearms and it is not illegal, it is our right." - Yes, it is our right to own firearms. So, anyone that wants to can. But, if you want to carry around your firearm, let's get trained and keep earning that right and the government must allow us to do so because they certainly can't guarantee our safety.
- "We are not going to stop all the bad guys." - It has been already stated that we won't. And, I'm not interested in stopping bad guys. I'm interested in saving lives and opening up our rights to protect ourselves more effectively.
- As stated earlier: “but driving and flying are not rights, they are privileges.” Yes, but certification and training for these respective “privileges” did not start until it was obvious too many people were getting killed without proper training. Rights and privileges must be maintained. We must evolve.
- It will create a new training industry ran by private companies. Jobs that are all about safety, training, accountability and mitigating risk. A great example of such an organization is the AOPA - Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. The world's largest aviation community in existence with hundreds of thousands of members. The AOPA provides training resources, legal counsel, events, and education materials to its membership and the public at large. The AOPA has done a fantastic job at making the pilot population a safer population. I believe the NRA should morph into this type of organization. The NRA is nowhere close to being what the AOPA is and I believe they could truly change into a respected organization that represents the public at large instead of just the hardline gun owners and lobbyists.
- Mental health has to be looked at hard in this respect.
- We are not going to stop all the bad guys, but I bet over time if we develop a new gun safety culture in our country, we may develop citizenry dedicated to gun ownership, safety and respect. As the culture shifts, we may just see a lot of bad guys stopped by good guys who are helping our government and first responders. Why don't we see more good guys stopping bad guys? Because not enough good guys are allowed to do so. Create the process, get rid of these so-called gun free zones, change the culture and let's start saving lives.