Further controls on guns will not hurt responsible gun owners
The following is a work of opinion submitted by the author.
Every time one of these mass shootings happens, I post a link to news articles on Facebook accompanied by my liberal commentary, and without fail, one of my much-loved friends — who is a hunting enthusiast — will reply to me saying tightened regulation will only hinder his ability to enjoy his favorite sport.
I don't hunt, nor do I think having a gun for home protection would make me feel safer. When people feel threatened, they tend to act more quickly and nervously. In the event of an intruder, I don't feel comfortable shooting someone, nor do I wish to get shot because I'm exceedingly threatening.
My wonderful, responsible friend, who undoubtedly knows what he's doing with a firearm, is not my worry. And while I'm completely uninterested in guns, I fully support his second amendment right to bear arms.
If gun owners are using their weapons for the right reasons, changes to the law will likely not affect them and will help the rest of society.
Too easy to own, too hard to trace
Not all gun owners keep their guns inaccessible to anyone but themselves and not all gun owners acquired their possessions legally.
In cities — like Philadelphia, which is riddled with gun violence — where firearms are useful only for home protection or to take somewhere else, it's important to have proof that a person is fit to own a gun.
To own a gun legally in Pennsylvania, the state requires only that a person be 18 years old, have no violent crime convictions, give a name, address and description, and wait 48 hours.
No registry is required. There is no test to ensure one is either mentally sound or knows how to use a gun. Though a required mental assessment in exchange for gun ownership is a violation of a person's rights, it may be something worth thinking about.
Gallup reported in 2011 that 47 percent of Americans (about 146 million of the total population) reported having a gun. In the same year, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) reported that there were approximately 65,000 Federal Firearm Licenses engaged—only 50 percent of which were in full compliance.
Making matters worse, gun ownership is exceedingly difficult to trace. A New York Times article stated that it takes about an hour for ATF officials to run an urgent trace by sifting through files and making phone calls. Slowing down law enforcement in this way can allow a killer on the run to do more damage.
Having methodically found solutions to cope with anxiety for 15 years instead of popping pills, I know better than many that the only thing an individual can control is him- or herself.
Schools and shopping malls are creating their own emergency plans. Various news outlets noted that the Oregon mall shooting in December could have been worse if not for the actions of store employees. And schools across the country are limiting access to the building during school hours, adding security cameras, drafting hiding plans and numbering doors for police responders.
But the question is: Are gun owners preparing as well?
While schools have the responsibility of protecting countless young lives every day, a sane gun owner may not think they have that same duty to uphold.
There are two common threads when it comes to most mass shootings: mental instability and easy access, either through purchase or through someone else who owns a gun.
One Pennsylvania state lawmaker has given up hoping gun owners will take responsibility for themselves. He wants to make certain kinds of guns unobtainable.
"I do think that we have to begin to address this issue at the state level," said Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Phila). "I believe that it's not just a Philadelphia issue, it's not just a state issue."
Farnese sent out a press release mid-December vowing to propose a ban on assault weapons, or semi-automatic rifles similar to those used by the military, in 2013 — even though a similar bill was introduced and rejected with a bundle of bills in 2011-2012.
Assault weapons, he says, are not for used for hunting or home protection.
"These are weapons that are designed to do one thing and one thing only, and that's to kill large amounts of people in a short amount of time," he said. "They're not for sportsmen, they're not for people who are collecting."
While such a ban would not likely end gun violence and mass shootings, perhaps it would help put pressure on more gun owners to restrict access to their guns and to always only use them properly.
Lane Blackmer is a contributor to NewsWorks.
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