As a person who holds an advanced degree in U.S. History, I disagree with gun advocates who point to the 2nd Amendment as where the have gained the right to own guns. The 2nd Amendment was only meant to allow for a fully armed state militia, as it clearly states. This amendment was created as a reaction to British laws that attempted to limit the ability of any single state to defend itself. That individuals can legal, and Constitutionally, bear arms comes from the fact that the US Supreme Judicial Court has never written a decision that in any way defines the limits of the individual or government with regard to gun ownership. It is the absence of definition that allows individuals to purchase and own weapons as they do today. The other nine of the amendments of what we call “The Bill of Rights” have had numerous and lengthy SJC rulings that have given very exacting definitions to each of those rights.
The entirety of the 19th Century, for example, there seemed little motivation or even thought over gun control. America was largely an agrarian society where, once you left the cities and their immediate suburbs, law enforcement dwindled. Moreover, it was not until the 2nd half of the 19th century that the more modern aspects of guns were invented, the metal jack integrated round, the revolver, the multi-round rifle, and finally at the beginning of the 20th century, the machine gun and fully automatic weapons. But even so, for the first half of the 20th century, violent crimes were largely a product of urban America and with few exception, suburban and rural America were relatively free of such a burden.
In his book “Streetcar Suburbs,” Sam Bass Warner describes the economic movement of Americans from the city to the suburbs and beyond. A large part of the reason was given to the idea of the mobility of the average American. Where up to the 20th century most Americans never traveled more than 25 or 30 miles from where they were born, the advent of the streetcar, and then of course the automobile, change that forever. After World War II the Interstate Highway System changed that dynamic even more. Violent crime rapidly moved from the cities to the suburbs and now, as we have seen, to rural America.
Gun lobby people and gun apologists are going to claim that the massacre of Newtown Connecticut was unavoidable. They will point to the fact that each of the weapons was properly purchased by an otherwise responsible citizen. The irony there, of course, is that she was killed by a weapon she had purchased, something gun law advocates are quick to point out. But is it reasonable to say that gun laws could have made this event avoidable? Possibly, but short of banning the ownership of any weapons, there of course can be no guarantee.
I am a steadfast believer that Americans should be able to own whatever weapon they desire and in whatever quantity the desire without exception. Sen. Diane Feinstein has already indicated that she will sponsor a bill in the U.S. Senate that will bar the sale of all assault weapons. That bill is dead on arrival, guaranteed. What is more reasonable, and necessary, is a bill that regulates the sale and ownership of guns. A bill that spells out who can own a gun and what tests they must pass before gaining access to and ownership of a gun, just as is done with anyone who wants to fly an airplane.
But what I cannot understand for the life of me is why the NRA in particular is so against the formal registration and tracking of all weapons purchased and owned in the United States. By their logic we should repeal all laws regarding the licensure and ownership of automobiles, airplanes, who can own them, and who can drive or fly them. Each of these, cars and airplanes, has a set of physical, mental, and examination requirements to be renewed at regular intervals. Why is it such a stretch for peace-loving, and peace desiring, Americans to require the same sort of thing for those who choose to own weapons? As far as I can tell, the NRA is fully in favor of the irresponsible ownership of guns regardless of anything else. What does that mean?
What I would like to see is at the time of the purchase of a weapon a person has to show his license to purchase such a weapon, that being the license to own fire arms. He would then fill out a form that would tie the make, model and serial number of that weapon to a national data base. That weapon would be directly tied to a particular individual until such ownership is legally transferred or the weapon destroyed. He would sign a document that spelled out the requirements and responsibilities of gun ownership. He would agree that he was responsible for the safe keeping of the weapon. That if he sells the weapon he must notify his local police department of its sale together with the appropriate paperwork where the buyer would become the person attached to that particular weapon. Gun owners would understand exactly what securing their weapons in their homes means and would agree to those terms. They would understand that if one of their weapons, for whatever reason, was lost or stolen, they would be required to immediately notify their local police department together with the guns registration paperwork. And while I would not put a waiting period on the time between the purchase of a weapon and the person taking its possession, I would require that each purchase be accompanied by paperwork that submits the purchaser to a background check and that if a person is found to have knowingly fraudulently purchased a weapon he would be arrested and feloniously charged.
The NRA loves to make the claim that gun regulation will ultimately lead to the prohibition of gun ownership. They know that is not true but it works as a very effective scare tactic for its membership. The NRA in particular, and gun lobbies in general, will never acceded to the removal of any sort of firearms from public ownership. To that extent I am in full support of their desires.
Gun have one purpose only, to kill. While in the military is spent many hours learning how to use my weapon, how fire it, how to clean, and how to keep it safe. None of those things comes naturally. All have to be taught and learned. Anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool. But the NRA categorically opposes any legislation that would require exactly that sort of regimen. Why?
My desire is only to place in the minds of gun owns the extensive responsibility that goes with owning a weapon. They must be well-trained as owners. They must accept full responsibility for the safe-keeping of the weapon. And they must submit to providing proof that all weapons in their possession are properly registered and account for as long as they own them. It is possible that Adam Lanza, the gunman, may have been at least slowed down, if not stopped entirely had there been stricter, or any, regulations regarding the safe-keeping of weapons. Although that is certainly not a sure thing, anything that gives pause to a person who wants to use a weapon on innocents cannot be a bad thing.