I came home from playing cards on a Tuesday night, having missed the news, to discover that there had been another shooting in a school. Lots of people are dead, maybe as many as 25. Wow.
And somewhere out there, thousands, perhaps millions, of folks, including lawmakers, think that more restrictive gun control is bad. For all you folks, go ask some of the parents of the innocent children who got mowed down for no apparent reason what they think. According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, not exactly a mouthpiece for the left, a gun in the home for protection is 43 times more likely to kill a family member than an assailant. Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that the study is way off. Not 20% off, not even a more outrageous 35% off, but a radical 50% off. Gee, then a gun is only twenty times more likely to kill a family member. Lovely. Accoriding to a recent piece in Time magazine, the number of youths murdered by firearms went up 153% from 1985 to 1995.
Even given the legality of guns, fully automatic machine guns and anti-tank rockets aren’t legal for ordinary citizens. Even the NRA doesn’t push this stuff (at least, I don’t think so), so there’s some evidence that this is a reasonable policy. Presumably, because these things are really dangerous–so they should be banned. Of course, a typical deer rifle is also pretty dangerous. So where to draw the line? So here’s a radical suggestion: If an object has no purpose other than simply killing people, it should be banned. The deer rifle should be legal, and so should duck hunting shotguns, because they have more or less legitimate sporting uses beyond killing people (I won’t get started on the whole hunting thing). However, handguns are out. People don’t hunt deer with handguns. The only thing a handgun is useful for is killing another person. Handguns are small machines designed to end people’s lives–killing machines. (Sure, target pistols can be excepted.) If the sole use for an object is killing people, it shouldn’t be allowed. Period.
OK, maybe that’s simplistic. How about this: For every firearm sold to the public, a ballistics workup (e.g. firing pin signature) is done and stored in a nationwide database. When the firearm is sold, the buyer and the ballistics workup are linked. Then, if the gun is fired in the commission of a crime, then ballistics can trace the person responsible for the firearm. That person should be charged with that crime, even if they didn’t commit it–because they were a part of the crime by enabling the bearer of the firearm. For instance, in these school shootings, whoever’s guns those actually were should be charged, along with the kids, for the murders. After all, the murders wouldn’t have happened if the kids didn’t have access to the guns, now would they? This is vaguely like a CAP law, but much higher octane.
Why wouldn’t this be reasonable? This should never come into play for law-abiding gun owners, which is who the NRA claims they’re trying to protect. (Why these law-abiding citizens have needed things like teflon-coated stainless steel bullets, which can pierce Kevlar, is still a mystery.) Of course, the NRA would probably argue that innocent gun owners would be penalized if their guns were stolen. Wrong–this is overly simplistic. They would be charged. The gun owners would have the rights to a trial just like any other suspected criminal. If they can prove in a court of law that they took every reasonable measure to ensure that the gun was not used in commission of a crime (leaving a loaded gun in an unlocked drawer, for instance, wouldn’t cut it), then they’d be innocent. If you really feel the need to own a deadly weapon, you’d have to take responsibility for it. Conservatives are always going on about personal responsibility, so why shouldn’t people be personally responsible for what happens as a result of their need to own killing machines?
On a related ironic note, the Colorado legislature just passed a bill attempting to head off lawsuits against gun manufacturers by cities (according to the NRA’s website, dated April 16, 1999). Perhaps the governor, in light of current events, can see his way through not signing this into law.
(original date: 1999.04.21)