Time for sensible gun regulation

Guest Columnist

I am a long-time Republican, an avid hunter, target, skeet, and trap-shooter, and an owner of shotguns, handguns, and hunting rifles. Nonetheless, I support reasonable gun control legislation. The Parkland tragedy, the latest in a long string of such senseless tragedies, proves that it’s long past time to sensibly regulate firearms ownership.

In reaction to a 1996 mass shooting, Australia banned semi-automatic rifles and shotguns.  Citizens were required to relinquish non-conforming weapons in exchange for compensation. Over one million semi-automatic weapons have since been returned. Australia imposed a 28-day waiting period for gun purchases, required a justifiable reason to obtain a gun license–self-defense not being one of them–and prohibited the issuance of licenses to “prohibited persons.” Since these measures were adopted, firearm homicides have dropped by nearly 50% and mass shootings have declined to ZERO. Knives are currently the weapon of choice in Australian homicides, followed by fists… hardly weapons suitable for mass killings. Of course, Australia does not have a Second Amendment. But their experience is instructive: reasonable firearm regulations can reduce gun violence, especially mass shootings.

In our country, background checks, lengthy waiting periods, age minimums for gun ownership, and a ban on high capacity semi-automatic firearms would go a long way in reducing gun violence. Those with a violent criminal history, those on psychotropic drugs, or those with documented mental illness should not be permitted to purchase or own guns. If you’re not old enough to purchase alcohol, you’re certainly not old enough to purchase a weapon. If you need a gun in a hurry, it’s likely for the wrong reason. And outside of the military and the police, no one needs to own an AR-15, AK-47, or any other semi-automatic weapons capable of accepting large magazines, commonly known as “assault weapons”.

Rational gun regulation is not, as the NRA would have us believe, the first step down a slippery slope to the abolishment of the Second Amendment.  We regulate the ownership and operation of cars, boats, aircraft, and innumerable other potentially deadly devices. We require training, testing, and licensing to operate cars and aircraft in order to protect the safety of both the operator and the public.  Rules and regulations governing cars and aircraft take up volumes in law libraries, and yet no one is seriously concerned that cars and aircraft will be outlawed.  Just as the right of free speech is not absolute (which may come as a surprise to those who have not had a constitutional law class), neither is the right to own weapons under the Second Amendment. The Supreme Court has upheld reasonable regulation of gun ownership, including restrictions on automatic weapons. Requiring background checks and waiting periods, imposing minimum age restrictions, and prohibiting military-style assault weapons are reasonable and defensible as necessary for public safety. They will hardly lead us down an inexorable path to a ban on all gun ownership.

Today’s NRA is not my father’s NRA. In my father’s time–and he was a lifelong member–the NRA served to promote recreational gun use and safety.   But today’s NRA is primarily a lobbying organization that vigorously opposes any regulation of gun ownership, no matter how limited or sensible. Not only do they oppose background checks, age minimums, and prohibitions on assault weapons, but they threaten to blacklist any congressman or senator who might even think of compromising on these issues. The NRA has joined ranks with Syria, North Korea, and Iran in opposing the UN’s global arms trade treaty.  Perhaps the NRA should open a chapter in those countries, where extremism and intolerance is celebrated and dissent is silenced. The NRA has become a right-wing extremist organization, and I applaud any senator who stands up against its tyranny. To be on the NRA’s blacklist should be a badge of honor. It’s time for politicians to have the courage to stand up to the NRA and enact rational federal gun regulations.

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