Gun violence continues on an almost daily basis in the United States. Some, like the church shooting in South Carolina, are racially motivated. Others are directed at police officers such as the recent shooting of police officer Charles Joseph Gliniewicz in Chicago. Still others tend to be the work of a lone and likely deranged gunman who just seems to want to kill as many people as possible. Finally there is the continuing horrific violence in our urban centers that is taking the lives of so many of our young people.
These incidents certainly reflect quite a variety of serious issues that need to be addressed in our society. Yet there is one common factor in all of these cases and that is the use of a gun. When there are this many deaths by gunfire in our country, and when this record compares so poorly with gun violence in other industrialized countries, it seems it is time to take a serious look at steps that can be taken to reduce gun violence.
There is a large and powerful, though minority community, that finds any talk of gun legislation unacceptable. Because of that stance there are clearly many steps that are currently off the table. Yet, I believe there are also areas of agreement which are being missed because of the tone of the discussion.
Let’s look at some areas where I believe all Americans can agree regardless of what they may believe about the Second Amendment. All are horrified at the terrible tragedies that are occurring, especially when they involve small children. All agree that guns need to be kept out of the hands of those who should not have them. All agree that the mentally ill should not have access to guns.
There are a couple of difficulties that prevent movement. First is the question of who should not have a gun. Second is determining what level of mental illness should serve as a disqualification for gun ownership. Finally, and most problematic, is determining what steps to take to ensure that guns are kept out of the hands of those who should not possess them.
None of these issues can be resolved easily, but my point is they should produce bipartisan agreement on the need to work toward solutions. The National Rifle Association and strong supporters of the Second Amendment should be at the forefront of developing strategies for achieving such goals.
It is likely that meaningful gun legislation at this point can only come from those who are strong advocates for gun ownership. What are needed now are useful suggestions from the gun lobby and gun owners to develop practices that will indeed prevent and remove guns from those who should not have them.
Both sides working together can help create a country where children don’t have to fear going to school or playing in the school yard. We need to be able to go into a movie theater and enjoy a movie without feeling threatened with gun violence. Guns need to be less available on city streets to protect the futures of our young people.
Of course we cannot prevent all acts of gun violence. Bad guys will still find a way to get guns. But we need to move away from the notion that we are stuck with a country where 30,000 Americans will lose there lives each year by gun violence. We can do better, together.