We at Milpub recently had a 134-comment thread on the Newtown shooting tragedy; after 134 comments it is clear that we are neither able to define the problem nor are we even able to agree if there is a problem.
Ranger hearkens back to 1973, when he commanded the 3rd Army Marksmanship Training Unit. It became apparent to him at that time that the leadership of the National Rifle Association (NRA) was transforming itself and its magazine, The Rifleman, into a Right-wing mouthpiece for the Republican party. The magazine shifted its focus in the 1970's from the shooting sports and gun collecting to political matters. Soon, the agenda became aligned with the Christian Right, an affiliation which has been maintained through today.
This far-Right stance was adopted after Nixon's 1968 Presidential election politicized and radicalized a fraught nation with his law enforcement emphasis. This focus was a thinly-veiled racial agenda since being tough on crime meant being tough on black criminals. The nation was riven, Right and Left; the divisiveness continues today, hence the problem agreeing upon the "gun issue".
Ranger will try for a definition by asking the questions:
- Do we have a gun problem? Of the 300 million guns estimated to be in private hands, perhaps 30 million are "kill your neighbor" guns. Let us assume that the 270 million collector and curio firearms are not the problem. (These guns are still regulated the same as the neighbor-killing guns.) Therefore, is the problem with the weapon itself, or its maintenance?
- Do we actually have a "gun storage" problem? Should we require legally-acquired firearms and ammunition to be properly secured away from casual contact? Would this reduce the number of tragic random shooting episodes?
- Should we allow firearms in households where a member is adjudicated criminally insane, or even mentally defective? Should these homes be subjected to special regulations? Who will define the status of the mentally defective? Can a person be a head case yet still adjudicated non-violent and not a danger to himself or others?
- What sorts of mental disability would invalidate one's gun rights? Should soldiers suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) be denied gun ownership? What about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD)?
- Should safe handling courses and hunter safety courses be required before firearm possession? If so, who will teach the courses and create the program?
Well, it is a start. These are the sorts of issues that we should discuss, and probably even enact into law before considering more Draconian measures like weapons bans, magazine restrictions and all of the other initiatives being bandied about by the anti-gun lobby.
If we pass laws that require education and safe handling, to include safe storage and this does not work to mitigate the spree killings that have our public up in arms, then it will be time to consider tightening up the requirements of ownership even further. But short of these initial efforts it seems injudicious to pass by the simplest controls which have proven effective in countries like Canada and Germany.
Doing other than this is similar to starting a presumptive war without first exhausting all diplomatic possibilities in order to avoid the ultimate conflict.
We should contemplate all possible solutions before jumping headlong into a needless battle.