What now?

52448907_sThe reality of a President-Elect Donald Trump has not yet fully sunk in.  At the same time, I seem to be consumed with the thought of nothing else.  I am grateful and humbled for those of you who have given me your trust and a platform to express those thoughts.

It might sound like a cliche by now–the election of Donald Trump is a wake-up call.  This campaign should have been a wake-up call, but many just did not believe that his message resonated as strongly as it did.  Coming from a county that ultimately had 71% of voters casting their vote for Trump, I can tell you that the support is strong.

What I and many others are struggling with is why voters chose Trump.  Many on the left will say that it is a vote for racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia.  For some Trump supporters, I have no doubt that this was the reason that they voted for him.  But for many others–and I’m personally counting on it being most of his supporters–it was something else.  

I’m hearing the voices of my Liberal friends who are thinking, “Maybe that’s not why they voted for him, but his sexism, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia and xenophobia is going to have a huge impact on his administration and presidency, and ultimately our lives.”  I agree.  And it scares me.  But as crazy as this sounds, that’s not what I want to focus on right now.  If that is your focus and the advocacy route that you are taking, I support you.

I have deliberately been focusing on staying positive–not positive in the sense that there aren’t serious, potentially catastrophic, concerns about a Trump presidency, but positive in that I am focusing on the things that I can do and on the best ways that I know to impact change.   For now, my focus is on these things:

  • What are the factors that have led us to this place?  What is it that makes Trump’s message so compelling and why have Democrats failed to engage many of the very people that they (we) purport to fight for?
  • What do supporters of President-Elect Trump really believe on critical social issues, like LGBTQ rights, civil rights, police brutality and the need for improved training, gun control, healthcare and welfare?  How can Democrats (or me, personally) engage with those moderate, reasoned Trump supporters to advocate for these critical social issues that lift up all Americans?
  • How can we (I) encourage reasoned conversation that comes from a place of kindness and friendship, and minimize the hate and anger that is lying under the national conversation right now?
  • How we we (I) encourage every individual to get involved at all levels of government and engage with their local, state and national representatives?  How do we ALL go back to a system of government that allowed elected officials to represent their entire constituency and make decisions that they felt morally good about, rather than a two-party system that doesn’t allow for deviations from the party line?

I’m honored that so many of you have trusted me and given me a platform to try to make sense of some of this for all of us, and I’m going to do my best to live up to that trust.

Original Intent, the Second Amendment and my nerdy love for James Madison

James Madison Memorial, Library of Congress, Washington, DC

James Madison Memorial, Library of Congress, Washington, DC

James Madison, father of the United States Constitution and co-author of the Federalist Papers, once said in a letter to Judge Roane (Virginia judge and member of the Virginia House of Delegates),

It could not but happen, and was foreseen at the birth of the Constitution, that difficulties and differences of opinion might occasionally arise in expounding terms and phrases necessarily used in such a charter . . . and that it might require a regular course of practice to liquidate and settle the meaning of some of them.

Or to put it in current, less founding father-y language: The US Constitution is necessarily vague and will need to be continuously interpreted throughout history.

Madison knew from the outset that anything that was written in the Constitution would have to be interpreted through the lens of the current period in history.  While I know better than to speak for the “founding fathers” as though they were of one unified opinion, in this they were mostly in agreement.  The Constitution would need to be a living document.

Of course, that idea is still the source of much debate.  (Interestingly similar to the debate about how literally we should take the Bible, really.)  But let’s assume for a moment that we SHOULD interpret the Constitution using original intent.  (We shouldn’t.  But let’s do it anyway.)

What was the original intent of the Second Amendment?

The text of the ratified version of the Second Amendment states,

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Most people understand this to mean that citizens should be permitted to arm themselves for their own protection.  We often think about the needs at the time of the ratification of the Constitution – protection against Native American attacks, protection against wildlife, the need to hunt for game, etc.  Many people understand, correctly, that this was also an intent to allow the citizens to protect themselves against tyranny, based on the phrase “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state…”

What is misunderstood, however, is that the original intent of the Second Amendment was to appease the groups of Americans who opposed any sort of “standing” army.  A very large contingent of Americans believed that the United States should have no permanent, regular army or armed force.  They believed that protection of the new nation should be in the hands only of state-based, primarily volunteer, militia.  To many, an army that was funded by the central government was the very core of tyranny.

Madison wasn’t totally on board with that.  He knew that a central military that was funded by federal tax revenues would be necessary for viable protection of the country against foreign enemies, but like most US citizens until WWI, foresaw a very small, centralized force supported by volunteer corps when needed.  But to appease those who feared the central military, he included in the drafted Bill of Rights the specific rights for militia to continue to exist.

If you are going to go with original intent, you have to know what the original intent actually was.

I often hear arguments against any revision of gun control policy that point to the “original intent” of the Second Amendment, citing a citizen’s right bear arms in protection against tyranny.  Maybe that was true, but the original intent of the Second Amendment has been invalidated, unless you also prefer to also abolish or drastically minimize the US military.  Of course you don’t.  That’s insane.  Few US citizens today would argue for a smaller military.

I’m not in favor of abolishing the Second Amendment.  I think it has value and I think citizens do have a right to bear arms for protection.  (Yes, even “protection against tyranny”.)  I also believe, as James Madison did, that the US Constitution is necessarily a living document, requiring re-interpretation as the world evolves and changes.

 The world has certainly evolved and changed, and it is time for re-interpretation.

Oh, Wendy.

For my non-Pittsburgh area friends, this blog post probably requires a little back story.

FB_WendyBellWendy Bell is (or was, until very recently) a very popular local news anchor.  Everyone knows Wendy, and through the magic of social media, we all know about her kids, her husband, and her take on family values. Lots of people love her, because they can relate to her.  And everything points to Wendy Bell being a Pittsburgh mom who loves her city, loves her family and genuinely cares about the people around her.

Wendy Bell is almost certainly not a Racist.

Recently, after a devastating mass shooting that killed five people and an unborn child at a backyard BBQ, Wendy took to Facebook to try to make sense of the tragedy.  Read the original post here, along with more context.  A lot of people read her original post and did not think there was anything wrong with it.  (In fairness, even many Wendy supporters could easily see where she went wrong in that original post.)  If you are one of those who didn’t see any issue, though, let me try to summarize:

1.) Making an assumption (particularly one so firmly stated as fact) that the perpetrator of a crime was a young black man is a racist conclusion.  You’ll say that it is based on statistics and history, but that’s the thing about racism.  If we continue to allow it, it is self-perpetuating.  That’s what leads to the systemic nature of racism.

2.) Taking that a step further and making assumptions about that fictional young black man’s upbringing and back story – that he has siblings from multiple fathers, for example – is even more glaringly racist.

3.) Ending with an uplifting story about the young black man working at the restaurant and making something good of his life is not just generally condescending, but blatantly racist.  That young black man might have an IQ of 150, be a student at Carnegie Mellon, and the son of two wealthy professional parents.  Using one young black man as a comparison to another (let’s remember, fictional) young black man is racism.

This isn’t the first time that she’s posted something to Facebook or said something in a public forum that exposed her white privilege.  Her comments on the University of Missouri’s racial tensions made me cringe several months ago (and unfortunately her social media accounts are disabled and I was unable to find the text online).

Again, I don’t think Wendy Bell is a Racist, with a capital “R”.  However, I do think that she is a white woman who sees the world through the eyes of white privilege.  I am also a white woman who sees the world through the eyes of white privilege.  Sometimes I make assumptions and jump to conclusions in my mind that I’m ashamed of.  But I work hard with every thought, word and action to fight against that ingrained racism and white privilege, and I’ll continue to do so for the rest of my days.  Based on Wendy’s readiness to share her thoughts with her immense audience via social media, it’s pretty clear that she doesn’t recognize how that white privilege and ingrained racism impacts the way she sees the world.

I am happy to see that most Pittsburghers agree that her original post displayed (at the very least) an insensitivity to the subject of race.  The division now is – Should Wendy Bell have been fired from her job at WTAE?  Given that it isn’t the first time that she was forced to apologize and that this particular incident was related to one of the most horrific crimes that Pittsburgh has endured in recent memory, I don’t think the station had any other choice.  She’s become too divisive to remain on the air.

I wish the best for Wendy Bell.  My sincere hope is that she finds a project on race relations in Pittsburgh to which she can devote her admirable energy and share lessons on tolerance that are sorely needed in our city.

Celebrate the US Constitution – Raise your voice and stomp your feet.

us constitutionToday is the 228th anniversary of the signing of the US Constitution.  The Constitution was not ratified until almost a year later, but September 17th is “Constitution Day” , the federally recognized anniversary of the document that is the basis on which our nation has been built.

Until recently, I only had some pretty vague notions of the background of the writing of the US Constitution.  A few years ago, I probably would have credited Thomas Jefferson (he was actually in France at the time of the Constitutional Convention) and I would have assumed that the US Constitution was created right on the heels of the American Revolution, with a universal idea that the new nation needed a new guiding document.  I would have been wrong on both counts.  And if you aren’t clear on the history of the Constitution, I’m going to attempt to give you the 30 second version.*

30-Second 5 Minute Version of the US Constitution’s History

During and immediately following the American Revolution, the United States of America looked to the Articles of Confederation as the basis of national government.  The Articles of Confederation provided a very loose framework for a national government – purposely limiting power at the top in favor of state sovereignty.  There were lots of good reasons for this approach, and it is certainly understandable for the colonies who were trying to get out from under the tyranny of the British to not want to create a strong, central government.  The states themselves were also incredibly diverse, and didn’t necessarily think of themselves as “one nation” in a deep sense just yet.

During the Revolution, the inability to coordinate supplies, funding, volunteers… the inability to coordinate the war itself was one of the direct results of having a weak central government.  Only the states could impose taxes or raise funds, and so a coordinated effort for money and manpower was virtually impossible.  General Washington, particularly, felt this burden deeply and saw the need for a higher level of centralized power.

Ultimately, (most of) the states agreed and appointed men to attend the Constitutional Convention.  Rhode Island, historically persnickety, declined to participate.  (Thomas Jefferson, as previously noted, and John Adams were both in Europe at the time, and did not participate.)  The men sent to the Constitutional Convention were charged with one goal – revise the Articles of Confederation.  And as far as that goal goes, they failed.  Or rather, they didn’t even bother to try.

Instead of revising the Articles of Confederation, the delegates started from scratch.  Having unanimously selected George Washington as the president of the Convention, the delegates agreed to Washington’s demand that the proceedings be entirely secret and sealed.  (I’m not sure that they happily agreed, but they did agree nonetheless.)  No delegate was permitted to take notes or to talk about what was being said during the Convention.  The idea was that by keeping all discussion behind closed doors, the delegates could be free to have genuinely open debate, without fear of reprisals or pressure from their home states or other interests.  When they came to an agreement, they could present a united front on the final decision.  It also served the purpose of allowing them to scrap the original goal of revising the Articles of Confederation in favor of pursuing a more sweeping change.  As it turned out, James Madison took copious notes, which is how we know anything at all about what went on.  Thanks, JM.  (I find it hard to imagine that Washington didn’t notice; there is an amusing story about Washington finding a page of notes lying on the floor and flipping his lid.  He wasn’t kidding about the no note-taking thing.)

us constitution signingAnd let’s be clear about the debate – there was a LOT of it.  The delegates didn’t agree on anything.  They didn’t even agree on whether they should be creating a new Constitution in the first place.  Certainly many originally wanted to stick with the idea of revising the Articles of Confederation.  And the debate was not all high brow and academic.  There was name calling.  There was sarcasm.  There were fists on tables, loud voices, stomping feet and probably at least few times when one of the delegates flounced out of the room.

The 3/5ths compromise that made slaves count for just 3/5ths of a person?  That was a Northern compromise, because the North didn’t want them to count at all.  The South wanted them to be counted fully as part of the population.  No one intended to allow black voters, of course, but counting them as part of the population gave the slaveholding states more representatives in Congress.

Another key compromise was also on the issue of representation.  The Senate would have two representatives from each state, regardless of size, but the House of Representatives would be based on population.  And any bills related to raising funds (ie taxes) would have to originate in the House.

The majority of delegates ultimately agreed that the US Constitution should be kept as short and simple as possible.  The argument for a Bill of Rights, most vehemently waged by George Mason who ultimately refused to sign the Constitution because it lacked one, was countered with the argument that if the Constitution didn’t specifically give the federal government the right TO do something, then the federal government could NOT do that thing.  In other words, there was not a need to specifically protect free speech, because the Constitution didn’t give the federal government any right to limit free speech.  As it turns out, this would come back to bite them and a Bill of Rights would be added shortly after the Constitution was ratified.

The “Founding Fathers” (as people are so quick to call such a disparate group of individuals) did not have a common set of values.  They didn’t even really have a common purpose, except for one of self-preservation.  Some wanted very limited government.  Some wanted a larger, more centralized federal government.  Some wanted to abolish slavery within the first draft of the Constitution, and others wanted to make sure that slavery was protected within the Constitution.  Standing armies, central banks, public education… these were all issues on which they just did not agree.  They even argued about what to call the head of this new government.  But they found the middle ground and they did the best they could.

228 years later, that end result still governs our nation.  We still argue about it.  Some of us want a stronger, centralized government.  Some want small, limited government.  Gun control, universal health care, banking regulation, marriage rights… there are a slew of issues on which we still just don’t agree.  There are days when I feel overwhelmed with the differences in beliefs, frustrated that someone doesn’t see things my way.  So I stomp my feet, raise my voice, pound my fist on the table – and I hope that I can live up to the expectations of those Founding Fathers by seeking out compromises and finding that middle ground.

* So I failed that that particularly objective.

Executive Orders, Gun Control and the Power of Creative Journalism

What is an Executive Order?

Executive Orders have long been a controversial power of the President of the United States.  Their very existence is based on a loose interpretation of the US Constitution’s grant of “executive power” to the President.  While typically used to help manage the agencies under the purview of the executive branch, Executive Orders have stirred controversy throughout history with occasional claims that an order exceeded executive authority.  When you agree with the President, Executive Orders are necessary for the function of the country.  When you don’t, they are a way to work around the will of the people.

Executive Orders have been challenged legally throughout history, with a Supreme Court ruling in 1952 – over an Executive Order signed by President Truman that gave federal control over all steel mills – that found that order invalid because it “attempted to make law, rather than clarify or act to further a law put forth by the Congress or the Constitution.”  (Quoted from Wikipedia, because my research is shallow like that.)

Who cares about Executive Orders?

Apparently today – everyone.  President Obama issued the highly anticipated “gun control agenda”, which included 12 points of proposed legislation and 23 executive orders.  And almost immediately, we hear “TYRANNY!”

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), during an appearance on Sean Hannity’s show on Tuesday night (prior to the official announcement of the proposal), said:

“I’m against having a king. … Someone who wants to bypass the Constitution, bypass Congress, that’s someone who wants to act like a king or a monarch. We will fight tooth and nail and, I promise you, there will be no rock left unturned as far as trying to stop him from usurping the Constitution.”

Let’s take a look at the sweeping gun control changes President Obama has committed to via Executive Order:  (From 01/16/2013 NYTimes.com article, “What’s in Obama’s Gun Control Proposal“)

  • Issuing a presidential memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
  • Addressing unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
  • Improving incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
  • Directing the attorney general to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
  • Proposing a rule making to give law enforcement authorities the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
  • Publishing a letter from the A.T.F. to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
  • Starting a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
  • Reviewing safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
  • Issuing a presidential memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
  • Releasing a report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and making it widely available to law enforcement authorities.
  • Nominating an A.T.F. director.
  • Providing law enforcement authorities, first responders and school officials with proper training for armed attacks situations.
  • Maximizing enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
  • Issuing a presidential memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun violence.
  • Directing the attorney general to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenging the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
  • Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
  • Releasing a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
  • Providing incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
  • Developing model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
  • Releasing a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
  • Finalizing regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within insurance exchanges.
  • Committing to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
  • Starting a national dialogue on mental health led by Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, and Arne Duncan, the secretary of education.

In the interest of giving Senator Paul the benefit of the doubt (I’m feeling generous tonight), his comment was issued prior to plan having been released.  I am completely unable to identify even one moderately controversial item in this list of Executive Orders.  In fact, many of the items in this list are recommendations made by the NRA, such as exploring mental health issues, training first responders and teachers, and enforcing existing laws.

But surely, now that the details have been published, the controversy around the Executive Orders has died down. Oh, contraire.

wtfAnd here is where we get to the creative journalism, also known as mis-reporting facts.  

I surfed around a bit looking at various articles about today’s announcement.  The major news outlets reported the facts accurately, albeit certainly with various slants based on their audiences.  CNN.com seemed to focus on the tough fight ahead for any legislation to pass, while Fox News focused on specific aspects of proposed legislation and their perceived threat against second amendment rights.

But it’s the less scrutinized, small publications that seem to have no issue with blatantly mis-representing information.  If I were the kind of person who actually believed the stuff that I read online, I would be woefully mis-informed.  An article published today by Outdoor Life – admittedly not a highly reputable “news” source – starts with this paragraph:

As anticipated, President Barack Obama unveiled his sweeping gun control package Wednesday, only instead of issuing the anticipated 19 executive orders, he delivered 23 presidential fiats that include an assault weapons ban, outlawing ammunition clips that hold more than 10 bullets and requiring background checks for every gun buyer in America.

Well…no.  That’s simply untrue.  Because I’m still feeling generous, I am going to chalk this up to really poor research and no journalistic integrity.  Because if that’s not the case, then I’d have to believe that this writer is simply lying about the facts to stir up fear – and that can’t possibly be true.  (It’s Outdoor Life – a mediocre, special interest magazine.  Why am I getting so worked up about it?)

Kudos to the reader who had already pointed out to the author that his facts are wrong.  I wanted to add my own comment, but it required me to connect their magazine to my Facebook account and I just don’t care enough to give them access to my personal details.

Sorry.  This post was a bit ranty.

I do typically aim to publish more cohesive posts – but I’m dumbstruck by the negative reaction to today’s gun control proposal, and for now, the best I can do is to rant about the mis-representation of the executive orders.

“As an atheist, I believe that there is no divine force that will save us. We are going to have to try to save ourselves. That means we’ll have to work together, in spite of our religious disagreements.

Thus, my atheism moves me to care for and love my neighbors—it is not an excuse for violence. “

I know that some days I sound like a Chris Stedman fangirl.  I am. He manages to put words around the way that I choose to live my life better than I have ever been able to do.

Addressing the subject of gun control is kind of like lighting a match next to a gas tank.

GuncontrolI’m starting this off with full disclosure: I hate guns.  The idea of being around guns scares the hell out of me.  I don’t want them in my house.  I’m aware that my personal feelings about guns significantly impact my feelings on gun control.  However, I also believe that I’m a rational, intelligent human being who can form opinions based on things other than personal emotion.

Addressing the subject of gun control is kind of like lighting a match next to a gas tank.  Everyone is going to gasp and hide, because one tiny mistake and I could cause an explosion.  It’s just asking for trouble.  For the record, it’s not my intention to cause that explosion – and I’m going to be as careful as I can to stick to facts.

A Nation of Gun Owners

I have always felt strongly that our nation is far too obsessed with firearms.  It’s not hard to understand why, with our relatively recent history of being intruders in a less than friendly land.  Just a couple of hundred years ago in most of the country, it was not just accepted but necessary to own a gun for protection from wildlife and, sadly, the native population that we displaced or the neighbors who might attempt to claim your land.

And of course, we are still a nation of active hunters.  7% of our US population hunts, with 12.5 million people over the age of 16 hunting annually.  (Statistics as of 3/30/2012 from Hunting Business Marketing)  Frankly, I found it close to impossible to find statistics on hunting in any other country – not because there aren’t hunters across the world but because it isn’t quite the same industry that it is in the US.

To some extent, I can understand and accept that we are a nation of gun owners.  It’s not a part of American culture that I’m proud of, but I can accept it.

But how many guns are too many?

The United States has – by a large margin – more guns per capita than any other country in the world.  Notice I didn’t say any other “developed” country.  Any. Other. Country.  Yemen is number 2.  (Data is from the Small Arms Surveyas summarized by The Guardian following the Aurora massacre.)

In the US there are roughly 9 guns for every 10 people.  I had to re-read that statistic several times over.  9 guns for every 10 people.

Violence versus Gun Violence

In my research for this blog post, I came across a really interesting quote/statistic that summarizes why I feel that gun control is so vital:

The U.S. is not a uniquely violent society, said Wintemute, who practices emergency medicine and conducts research on the nature and prevention of gun violence. Our overall rates of violence are similar to Australia, Canada and Western Europe. Where the U.S. stands out, Wintemute said, is in the homicide rate.

“That’s a weapon effect. It’s not clear that guns cause violence, but it’s absolutely clear that they change the outcome,” said Wintemute.

– Dr. Garen Wintemute, of the University of California, Davis, Medical Center, from the Huffington Post

Gun Safety

I nostalgically remember a time when the most hotly debated issue around gun control stemmed from gun owners who were careless with the storage and safety of their guns, causing accidental death to children in the home.  That’s still a huge issue, but it almost seems quaint.  But since I’m going to try to address as many solutions as I can before my fingers get tired from typing:

(1)  Required Gun Safety Course:  Can we all just agree that every single gun owner should be required to take some level of gun safety course?  (This is already required in most states.)

(2)  Renewed Gun Safety Courses:  I suggest that we also institute a requirement that in order for your ownership of your guns to be legal, you renew your gun safety courses regularly and at your own cost.  (I’d like to suggest annually, but I can see where every 5 or maybe even 10 years might be more reasonable.)

(3)  Gun Safety Course relevant to the type of gun you own: I would also recommend that we don’t have a single type of gun safety course, but one that is specialized to the type of guns that you own.  Hunting rifles and handguns require a different type of knowledge.

Waiting Period and Background Checks

Many states have no waiting period to own a gun.  (Pennsylvania has a 48-hour waiting period.)  In researching this topic, there are a number of articles and blogs arguing against the efficacy of a waiting period – specifically pointing out that background checks can be done almost instantaneously and that any argument about a person having time to cool off before doing something crazy is illogical.

This specific post talks about the other ways a hot-headed murderer might strike.  True, but a.) most individuals have no idea how to purchase a gun off the black market, and b.) murder by firearm is far more likely than any other method that requires far more planning and physical strength.

This gentleman also refers to individuals who feel that they need protection immediately and that the waiting period prevents that.  I sympathize, but strongly believe that anyone who rushes into a gun purchase is not likely to be thinking clearly about safety or consequences, and more likely to do something he/she will regret.  (I’ll happily debate domestic violence prevention at another time.)

(4)  Waiting Period: I think a waiting period is critical, and that during that waiting period a prospective gun owner should be instructed to confirm in writing that he/she has completed training, has a proper and safe storage unit and is prepared for gun ownership.

(5)  Complete Background Check plus Substance Abuse considerations:  I think a complete background check (at the expense of the gun owner) is also critical.  For a first time gun purchase, I think something beyond a simple on-line criminal check is necessary.  I believe that other factors – including history of substance abuse – should be taken into consideration.  Subsequent gun purchases may require less stringent checks.

Gun Registration

I was actually pretty horrified to learn how rarely guns in the United States are actually registered and tracked to the owner.  There are arguments that the government could use that registration to track gun owners and prevent “resistance”.  That argument just blows my mind, frankly, so I can’t really respond to it.

Registration of guns – and requiring re-registration in the event that ownership is transferred – is not going to hurt lawful gun owners.  What is going to do, however, is to require that they take responsibility for the location and safety of the weapon.  If it is stolen, they are then responsible for reporting it immediately or accepting consequences when it is used to commit a crime.

(6)  Register every gun: I think every gun in the country should be required to be registered to the owner, with current address, photo and gun safety training history.

(7)  Re-register for any transfer in ownership: In the event that the gun ownership is transferred, the registration should be updated.  (We have to do this for our cars!  How can we possibly not be required to do this for our deadliest weapons?)

Assault Weapons and High Capacity Magazines

I don’t really know that much about guns, so for me to try to define what should constitute an assault weapon would be silly.  There is, apparently, some debate about specific definitions.

Shouldn’t we be able to agree that any weapon that is designed to release a high volume of bullets very quickly and with little effort should be banned from private ownership?  If you feel as though you require this weapon for protection, you need to move.  I realize that is ridiculously reductive, but I struggle to think of a single positive thing that can come out of private citizens owning automatic or semi-automatic weapons.  The same is true of high capacity magazines.

(8)  Ban Assault Weapons: I strongly and passionately believe that assault weapons should be banned from private ownership, without exception for weapons that are already privately owned.  At the same time, I realize that literally taking someone’s gun will cause absolute chaos and undoubtedly cause violence, so I’ll compromise on ending the private sale of these weapons.  Law enforcement agencies and the military should be the owner legal purchasers.

(9)  Ban High Capacity Magazines: High capacity magazines should also be banned from private sale.

I know this won’t end gun violence

There isn’t a simple answer to ending gun violence.  Some gun owners will react to say that the steps above will only restrict guns from law-abiding citizens and not keep guns out the hands of criminals.  The problem with that line of thought is that a.) the more guns that are in circulation, the more likely that those guns fall into the hands of criminals – even if unintentionally, and b.) law abiding citizens turn into criminals because they experience terrible circumstances and make horrific decisions.  Gun control laws make it more difficult for someone to make an atrocious decision in the heat of the moment.  I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t own a gun.  (I would if you asked me personally, but I’m not doing so right now.)  I’m suggesting that if you are, in fact, buying a gun with the right intentions around safety and usage, you won’t mind waiting, having a background check, or registering your weapon.

There are, of course, other factors that have led to recent massacres in Aurora and Newtown.  Violence in video games and entertainment.  The fear culture that is created by the media.  Mental illness is a topic that needs to be addressed.  (This is a blog post for another time.  I’m not suggesting that mental illness automatically makes someone more violent.  My own anxiety is a mental illness and I’m the least violence person I know.  But anyone who can commit atrocities like Newtown IS mentally unstable and we need to talk about how to diagnose and treat illness before it becomes deadly.)

I think this is the time to stop allowing the NRA and the gun manufacturers to lead the public debate.  I hope that we can all stop and think logically, sensibly about the changes that we need to see.