We can protect life and respect people’s gun rights



The debate over guns in our society is a highly contentious one, and people on both sides of the issue argue over it endlessly. It is an issue I take personally because I enjoy going out to the range with friends to shoot yet my family and I were directly affected by gun violence when our next-door neighbors were shot and killed with a handgun¹.
What we often gets lost in the bickering is four out of five Americans, gun owners and non-gun owners², as well as a majority on the Supreme Court³ agree on many gun rights and safety issues. We agree people who have committed violent crimes or are mentally unfit should not own a gun. We agree that upstanding citizens in good mental health should be allowed to own a gun. We agree that gun owners should know how to use and store guns safely.

A slight majority (51%) of Americans believe we should ban military-style “assault” and semi-automatic weapons² but, in this case, the Supreme Court has a different point of view. The Court ruled the Second Amendment protects ownership of pistols and other guns “in common use³.” With close to 4 million AR15-style guns in private hands(4), these weapons have become common, making it difficult to ban them at the Federal level.

Fortunately the 2008 DC v Heller decision³ that protects gun ownership rights also makes the point, “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” and provides a road map of measures, like background checks and “conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms,” that do not infringe on the Second Amendment.

With that road map in mind, there is a lot we can do to reduce gun violence and crime:

  • We should create an improved, faster, more accurate background check system that completes checks in seconds instead of days. We do this everyday with credit card purchases, why not background checks?
  • All gun buyers, including buyers at gun shows and private sales, should pass a background check. (Many people think this is already the case . . . but it is not.)
  • When someone fails a pre-purchase background check, that information should be recorded and forwarded to law enforcement.
  • Anyone buying a gun should complete a class covering their safe use and storage before completing the purchase.
  • We should ban high-capacity and extended magazines.

Once our background checks take seconds instead of days or minutes we should limit the sale of ammunition to people who pass a background check.
The sad thing for me is I do not know if these measures would have saved the lives of my neighbors, but I have no doubt these measures will save many other lives without infringing on the Second Amendment.

Jaime Downer Vote GraphicOur Congresswoman’s record on gun safety is alarming .

                


Footnotes:
1) San Francisco Chronicle, Couple’s Death Investigated as Murder-Suicide, Feb 25 1997, http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/EAST-BAY-Couple-s-Death-Investigated-as-2853184.php .
Personal Note: These were my next door neighbors. The boy who discovered the bodies was one of my son’s playmates. My wife, son, and I were evacuated from our home by a SWAT team because the police they were concerned the gunman might still be armed and alive.
2) Pew Research Center, Continued Bipartisan Support for Expanded Background Checks on Gun Sales, Aug 13 2015, http://www.people-press.org/2015/08/13/continued-bipartisan-support-for-expanded-background-checks-on-gun-sales/ .
3) Antonin Scalia, Heller vs Washington DC, Majority Decision, Section III, Supreme Court of the United States, June 26, 2008. https://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/07-290.ZO.html .
4) Justin Peters, Slate Magazine, How Many Assault Weapons Are There in America? How Much Would It Cost the Government To Buy Them Back?, Dec 20 2012, http://www.slate.com/blogs/crime/2012/12/20/assault_rifle_stats_how_many_assault_rifles_are_there_in_america.html .
5) To meet the legal definition of being “mentally incompetent,” an individual must be found, “a danger to himself or to others” or “[lacking] the mental capacity to contract or manage his own affairs,” as defined by 27 C.F.R. § 478.11 and 18 U.S. Code § 44, https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/27/478.11.

Other resources:
Barry, Colleen L., After Newtown — Public Opinion on Gun Policy and Mental Illness, New England Journal of Medicine, March 21, 2013, http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1300512#t=article
Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post, There are now more guns than people in the United States, Oct 5 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/10/05/guns-in-the-united-states-one-for-every-man-woman-and-child-and-then-some/1 .
Ben Casselman, Mathew Conlen, FiveThirtyEight.com, “Reuben Fisher, Gun Deaths in America,” http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/gun-deaths/ , retrieved October 25, 2016.

Image Credit: Justin Wilder, One Bullet-2, http://www.freeimages.com/photo/one-bullet-2-1568937