Sunday, January 16, 2011

It's The Guns, Stupid

In the week since the shootings in Arizona, there have been many comments about Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, and civility.
And comparatively very little has been said about guns.

And what limited discussion about guns there has been, has largely focused on how it's pointless to make guns laws more strict, and how we should make it easier for Americans to get their hands on a gun. How much easier could it possibly get? And yet, the NRA and its many followers in civilian life and Congress, keep making the most twisted arguments in favor of a Wild West gun mentality.

I'm tired of hearing people say, "Criminals will always find a way to get a gun, so why punish law abiding citizens with stricter gun laws?" Jared Loughner could easily have been prevented from getting a gun because a far more thorough and lengthy background check would have turned up many red flags. And even if, at the very least, he was forced to spend much more time in search of a gun, that might have given authorities the chance to catch up with him before he committed his crimes.

Why should gun background checks be instant when just about everything else we want in America takes so much longer? Anyone who has closed on a house, knows that process can often take several weeks, or even months, and require hundreds of pages of documents and records. On a smaller scale, when you order cable for your new place, it can often be at least a week before you can get an appointment. And then you still have to wait four hours waiting for the cable guy to arrive. Neither closing on a house or getting cable installed is a life and death matter, although some people treat it as such. Yet we put up with the inconvenience of waiting, because frankly, we can afford to wait.

Any law abiding citizen who wants to buy a gun can also afford to wait. Anyone who objects to a thorough background check, no matter how long it takes, clearly has something to hide. And it's not the Constitution. This should apply to gun shows as well. As the laws in most states now stand, anyone can stroll up to the kind of gun show held so tastefully this weekend in Tucson, and buy the assault weapon of their dreams on the spot.

Why does any law abiding citizen need an AK-47? Are they a hunter seeking to eradicate the entire deer species all in one afternoon? Or are they expecting an invasion by a foreign army in their sub-division? The same goes for the extended ammunition clips Loughner used with his Glock 19. What law abiding uses are there for shooting 30 rounds without needing to reload?

How can it possibly be so difficult and controversial for Congress to reinstate the assault weapons ban which expired in 2004, due to the cowardice of both Republicans and Democrats? Even if you think the Constitution gives you the right to bear arms, those arms do not include weapons of mass destruction like military-style assault weapons. And if you think you should be able to buy any kind of gun at any time, why not expand your options to missiles and bombs too?

Some people say we need assault weapons for the day the government will attack its people by going door to door and taking away their guns. If you truly believe this scenario, you don't need more guns, you need a psychiatrist. But they are not alone.

The craziness of this past week is not confined to the Arizona shooter. If the people of the United States, and its representatives in Congress do not insist upon doing everything in their power to prevent what happened in Tucson from happening again, this country can rightfully be considered crazy. No one is talking about "taking away your guns". We need the kind of exhaustive, effective federal background checks that, while not foolproof, will at least make this country much safer than it is now. And to ban the kinds of weapons only the military and law enforcement personnel really need.

Because being civil to one another requires changing our gun laws so that we are once again a civilized society.