Sensible Gun Safety Proposals from George
People – men, women and children – living in the United State are 25 times more likely to die from being shot than those living in all of the other industrial nations combined.
There would seem to be but three explanations for our abysmal status.
First, Americans could be crazier than those in the other industrialized nations – maybe possessing up to 25 times the mental health problems.
Although greater attention to mental health would be good for our country, mental health doesn’t hold water as a explanation for our monumental level of gun deaths. All mental health statistics show Americans do not suffer more from mental illness than people in the industrialized nations. For example, our suicide rate is in line with those in these countries.
Also, the practicalities of identifying those who are mentally unfit to possess a firearm are nearly insurmountable and, in any case would have marginable effect. What would be the mental health criteria for barring someone from gun ownership? What diagnoses would it take? Depression, for example, would be problematic even though most of our mass shooters have bee reported to be depressives. Depending on the information source, 15% to 20% of the US population is taking an antidepressant and outlawing all of them is ridiculous.
In addition, the notion of testing the mental health of gun purchasers is preposterous and there would be a major and likely unsuccessful battle over reporting on patients by mental health providers. It would be vehemently opposed by the NRA in addition to privacy advocates and healthcare providers.
We then are left with weeding out those few who come to the attention of law enforcement and social services by tips and other happenstance but are still left with defining the criteria for barring their possession of firearms.
Next, maybe Americans are far more violent people that people in the other industrialized nations. This also isn’t plausible whether by nature or nurture. Even the most right-wing gun advocates would reject the notion that Americans are genetically the most violent people in the world or that they have become the most violent people in the world via video games, the way we are raised, or the core elements of our culture and values.
That leaves only the third possible reason – access to guns. With 3% of the world’s population, Americans hold 50% of the guns held by civilians in the world.
There is no way around the fact that our access to guns is at the core of our unprecedented problems with gun deaths and injuries. Of course, better background checks that close loopholes and better attention to warning signs would be beneficial but they will not come close to getting our gun violence levels in line with those of other industrialized nations.
A great folly is the NRA-backed notion of arming teachers. FBI agents are highly trained in the use of firearms and fire well over 1,000 rounds per year in practice. FBI statistics show that agents, who in rapid fire on the range can put 85% or more of their shots on target, only put 18% of shots on target in real world shooting encounters. That is, more then 4 out of every 5 shots miss the shooter entirely and go somewhere else – into things and people in the background. One can only imagine where shots would go when fired by a teacher who is far less trained and far less disciplined as a shooter than an FBI agent. Teachers would be many times more likely to hit children in the background than the shooter. Putting maybe only 1 in 10 shots on target, they would be a greater danger to kids in the hallway or classroom than to the shooter.
If you want to end our epidemic of gun violence, the steps to me are clear.
- Guns should be treated in the same way as we treat motor vehicles – all should be registered, all transfers should require notification and re-registration, gun owners should be licensed with appropriate gun range and paper-and-pencil testing together with periodic retesting, and all gun owners should be required to be insured for liability regarding death, injury and property damage (including such as losses in robberies) from any weapon for which they are the owner of record; that is, they remain liable if they failed to notify a transfer or theft. [It is certain that insurance companies would specify that their policies would be null and void in these situations and the liability would be personal.]
- It is insufficient to simply block manufacture and sale. This does not reduce the number of guns. For any banned gun or gun-related product, possession should be a felony.
- We do not have to get into an endless debate as to what constitutes an assault weapon. This is a canard that only distracts and delays. The issue is the number of rounds that can be fired before reloading. I would suggest that 5 or less should be the limit for long guns and 13 or less for pistols/hand guns. We should ban the manufacture, sale or possession of any weapon capable of more than these limits and any device (clip, magazine, etc.) that makes them so.
- We need to ban not just bump stocks but any device or kit that can turn a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic weapon.
- The federal government needs to implement a fairly-priced buy-back program for any and all banned weapons, devices and other related products. Expensive but essential.