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The Rational Center | Commentary by John Zaring
| Tuesday, Feb 5, 2013

johnzaring2012In Minneapolis on Monday, surrounded by law enforcement officers, President Barack Obama said, “The only way we can reduce gun violence in this country is if the American people decide it’s important. If you decide it’s important. If parents and teachers, police officers and pastors, hunters and sportsmen, Americans of every background stand up and say this time it’s got to be different — we’ve suffered too much pain to stand by and do nothing.”

How important is it to you, Santa Clarita?

It is my opinion that doing nothing is unacceptable.  Undertaking some sort of rational, reasonable gun control isn’t just the right thing to do; it is also the smart thing to do, and it is the necessary thing to do.

What does a rational solution look like?

I believe the answer should include addressing America’s obsession with violence in our entertainment and video games, as well as fixing the deficiencies in our country’s mental health system – but that can’t be done quickly.  If we wait to try to solve everything all at once, more of our citizens will needlessly die. So, for purposes of today’s column, I’ve focused on what must be done now.

I offer up for your consideration a simple six-point plan:

1. Require universal background checks for all gun purchases made anywhere in America.

2. Actually prosecute the people who lie on background checks or are caught purchasing weapons for others or caught possessing guns illegally.

3. Require gun owners to pass a mandatory safety class and nationally standardized test.

4. Reinstate the ban on the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons.  However, allow these banned weapons to be available for use at licensed gun clubs by licensed gun users.  I’d also require people who currently own “grandfathered” weapons to store them at the gun clubs as well (but in reality, I admit this provision is less likely to achieve bipartisan support).

5. Ban the sale of high-capacity magazine clips with more than 10 bullets and all armor-piercing bullets; however, allow their use at licensed gun clubs by licensed gun users.

6. Track all ammunition purchases (via the national database) to prevent an individual from loading up on bullets (like the Aurora shooter did); pay for the administration of the national database with a tax on the purchase of ammunition.

OK, let’s break down my suggestions.

First, to me, the idea of universal background checks is a no-brainer, and apparently the majority of Americans agree.  According to a CBS News/NY Times poll (taken Jan 11-15), 92 percent of all Americans support it, as do 85 percent of National Rifle Association members.   This must be done nationwide, with all states sharing their records in a national database run by the Justice Department, paid for either by a state tax on gun purchases or by prospective gun owners paying an application fee.

This brings me to our dirty little prosecution secret, which is that people lie all the time on existing background checks or purchase weapons for those who can’t qualify, and statistically, pretty much no one gets in trouble.  Why, you wonder?  Well, let’s start with the fact that the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco & Firearms’ budget has been largely eviscerated by a Congress that owes its elections to the pro-gun lobby – the same politicians who, by the way, have refused to confirm, for more than six years now, a full-time director of the ATF. (The acting director is a federal prosecutor from Wisconsin who shuttles back and forth to his part-time, unconfirmed position).  Toughen the laws, and make trafficking in weapons a federal crime.

Next up: My suggestion of requiring gun owners to take a safety course and pass a test in order to purchase and possess a weapon is not radical; in fact, it is already the law of the land in several states, including Massachusetts.  Licensing the user of a gun is like requiring a driver to pass a driving test or a pilot to pass a flying test.  The test should be the same regardless of what state you live in, and administered by certified instructors in licensed gun clubs, not by a new DMV-like bureaucracy run by the government.

And now for the “big one” – my argument to reinstate the assault weapons ban.

Let me start by disarming the notion that I am anti-gun (or anti-Second Amendment).  I’m not.  I support the right to bear arms, and I have no problem with you owning a gun.  Now, should you be able to own whatever kind of weapon you want, be it a rocket launcher, machine gun or yes, even an AR-15?  No, I believe a line has to be drawn, and in fact, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government does indeed have the right to regulate the types of weapons ‘We the People’ can own and keep in our homes.

Fully automatic weapons, for example, have been banned since the days of Al Capone, and no one seems to mind.

To be honest, I would love to fire off an automatic or semi-automatic weapon.  Every time I drive into Las Vegas and see those billboards along I-15 offering up the experience, I always ponder going.  But even though I’d love to fire one, I don’t need to own it.  And neither do you.

So how can I have my cake and eat it, too?

Mine is a common-sense solution that all free market-loving Republicans can get behind: Allow banned assault-style weapons to be rented at licensed gun clubs.  This way, we can all go to the local club and fire weapons of war to our heart’s content, and as a bonus, the economy gets a boost.

I propose we apply the same rule to high-capacity magazines, and limit clips to 10 bullets.   Still, as with banned weapons, big clips can be legally accessed at licensed clubs, giving us a safe place to open up a can of whoop-ass.

Armor-piercing bullets, however, are needed by literally no one other than a soldier or a cop.  Duh.

Finally, we must track ammunition sales to give our government at least a fighting chance at keeping crackpots like the killer in the Aurora movie theater – you know, the guy who died his hair orange and dressed up like the Joker – from buying thousands of bullets online over the course of a few days with absolute impunity.

This can all be paid for by instituting a fee on the purchase of ammunition, because while you are entitled to your Second Amendment rights, nowhere it is written that we can’t put a price tag on it.

In recent years, too many lawmakers have been cowed by the NRA and other pro-gun lobbyists funded by the billion-dollar gun industry to accomplish any of this. But like the all and powerful Oz, exposed by Toto and ruby-shoed Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” the NRA’s power is largely perceived.

Point in fact: Despite spending millions upon millions, the NRA and its allies failed at their No. 1 priority last November, which was preventing President Obama his second term.

Some folks in Washington might still think it’s bad politics to tackle gun control, but I disagree.  I believe the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., changed the national discussion and altered the political landscape for a generation.

President Obama knows it, too, which is why he has laid down this gauntlet.

Congress must act, and it will, if you’ll just speak up.  Tell our congressman, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, how you feel via email at Buck.McKeon@mail.house.gov or by telephone at 661-254-2111.

Do it now, while you’re thinking about it, because Newtown could just as easily have been Newhall.

 

John Zaring describes himself as a reformed Republican turned moderate Democrat who believes democracy works best when its government actually functions because its leaders are working together. He serves on the Castaic Area Town Council’s Land Use Committee, Castaic Middle School’s Site Council, the Hart District’s WiSH Education Foundation, and he is the West Ranch High School representative on the Hart District’s Advisory Council. A self-proclaimed “New Democrat” a la Bill Clinton, he lives in Castaic with his wife of 21 years and their daughters, Fiona, 16, and Kylie, 12. His commentary publishes Tuesdays.

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. “I believe the answer should include addressing America’s obsession with violence in our entertainment and video games, as well as fixing the deficiencies in our country’s mental health system – but that can’t be done quickly.”

    So…let’s shred the Constitution a little bit out of convenience.

  2. johnhender says:

    So just because you don’t need it means i can’t have it either. We are in America not the USSR . Do you really think criminals obey the law ? I will get rid of mine as soon as all the criminals and police give up theirs first .

  3. Dick says:

    So lets not only limit our right to bear arms, lets limit free speech. Give me a break.

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