Justice Stevens forces me to eat my words. And I’m annoyed.

Last night, I finally had enough of the false narrative that pro-gun control liberals who support the March for Our Lives movement were out to repeal the Second Amendment.  It’s just not true, I insisted.  And I posted this:

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12 hours later, I was eating my lunch and browsing the news sites – and I see this headline: John Paul Stevens: Repeal the Second Amendment.

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Let’s start by saying, I stand by my statement that the overwhelming majority of people do not support a repeal of the Second Amendment.  (Former Justice Stevens is, in fact, a Republican.  Not that this makes any difference whatsoever, but it feels like it is worth mentioning.)

I cannot, however, deny that I owe someone an apology.

Is there any validity to Justice Stevens’ recommendation?

There is value in reading Stevens’ op-ed in the Times, which outlines how he landed at his “repeal the Second Amendment” conclusion.  It’s interesting.  Interesting, but not valid.

Stevens argues that for the first 200 years of our country’s existence, it was generally understood that the Second Amendment did not preclude the government from passing gun control legislation.  (Curious about my take on the origins of the Second Amendment?  Of course you are.)  The NRA became a powerful lobbying force only within the past 20 years, at which point “gun control” became thought of as the antithesis of the Second Amendment.

Okay, Stevens – so far, so good.

He then points to the 2008 Supreme Court decision in the District of Columbia v. Heller as the turning point – a decision that enshrined the right for an individual to bear arms for any reason – as the moment that the NRA took over the narrative.  Stevens dissented on this ruling, and continues to believe that this ruling should be overturned.

But this is where the Stevens takes a weird turn.

If the 2008 ruling was incorrect, the solution – which Justice Stevens refers to as “simple” – is to repeal the Second Amendment.  It’s a bizarre conclusion in the best of times, but in our current political environment where the country is so divided – particularly on this issue – it’s just irresponsible.  You can have whatever personal opinions you want to about the Second Amendment, but to distort the current movement into one of a full repeal of the Second Amendment is counterproductive.  It’s either an effort to deliberately derail the movement, or a naive and idealistic understanding of politics.  Real political and cultural change comes in compromises.  It comes over time.  Positive change is never achieved by making the worst fears of a large chunk of citizens come true overnight.  (The irony of that statement given the last election is not lost on me, y’all.)

I know I have some liberal friends who are reading this and thinking that I’m a sellout and a centrist.  Maybe I am.  Maybe in another ten years, I’ll look back on this blog post with embarrassment.  But for now, I’m going to remain the pragmatist, striving to find the common ground and looking for the solutions in the space between.

 

 

 

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.

Hope and Love Last Longer

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Some days the madness in this world takes my breath away.  And some days it simply breaks my heart.  After the shooting at Pulse in Orlando, to say that my heart is broken feels like an understatement.  But more than sadness, there is anger – and an almost desperate need to take action.  To create change.  To promote healing.

But I’ve struggled with what to say or if I should say anything at all.  There’s too much and anything that I have to say is not enough.

Do I focus on drawing attention to the victims?  Young men and women gunned down, many of whom were just at the beginning of their lives.  What could they have accomplished?  What have we missed out on because they were taken from us too soon?  Take a moment to listen to the names of those who were senselessly murdered.  (Anderson Cooper, CNN.)

Should I talk about the attack on the LGBT community?  A community that I feel so personally connected to and yet I sometimes forget how dangerous it is for my friends and loved ones.  I forget how brave you have to be, even in 2016, to be out, to be proud and to still choose love in the face of hate. (Kevin Chorlins, Facebook post)

Is now the time to remind everyone that your words matter?  Every time you marginalize the LGBT community, you feed the hate. Every time you sneer at affection between same sex couples.  Every time you insist that the Bible tells you that someone else’s love in invalid. Every time you use the words faggot or dyke.  Every time you equate homosexuals or transgender individuals with pedophiles and sexual predators.  Maybe you are just joking.  Maybe you are just uncomfortable.  Maybe you think you are doing the right thing.  You wouldn’t pick up a gun and shoot someone you don’t understand, so why are your words important? Your words are seeds that get planted in the fertile soil of someone looking for a reason to hate and to act on it.  Choose them carefully.

Do I get angry and lash out at those who insist on placing blame?  Was religion a factor?  Was the shooter a IS sympathizer?  Is right-wing Christianity as much to blame for the persecution of the LGBT community?  Was the gunman mentally ill? Does any of that even fucking matter?  Call it terrorism.  Call it a hate crime.  It is both.  Blame society, but we are all “society” and if we aren’t working to be a part of the solution, then we are, indeed, a part of the problem.

Is it too soon to pull out the soapbox and talk about gun control? I see the Facebook posts about how President Obama (the Democrats, the Liberals…whoever) want to take away the guns from law abiding citizens as a reaction to this violence.  That is complete bullshit and perpetuating that myth keeps us from making any real progress.  There’s a real debate to be had about reasonable gun control and how we protect the second amendment, but we can’t have it until the lies coming from special interest groups are taken out of the discourse.  (PBS Newshour, President Barack Obama to gun owners.)

Can I bring myself to put all of the negative aside and ask you to choose love?  Is it naive to have hope, even now, that that world can change for the better?  Now, more than ever, we need to remember that “hope and love last longer”. (Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tonys acceptance sonnet)

Community Protector or Vigilante?

ImageWe all know the basic story of the shooting of Trayvon Martin.  (If you don’t know anything about the case already, you’ve been living under a rock and I can’t rehash everything.  Wikipedia has an amazingly detailed post with cited references.)  Here’s my best efforts at an unbiased nutshell:

George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch coordinator for a gated community, fatally shot Trayvon Martin on the streets of that community.  Zimmerman cited self-defense; it was later confirmed that Martin was unarmed.  Zimmerman was tried on second degree murder charges, but found not guilty under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” defense.

It’s never quite that simple.

Trayvon Martin was a young, black man walking alone in a multi-ethnic gated community.  George Zimmerman, having noticed Martin during a drive in the neighborhood, thought that he looked “suspicious”.  He called the police.  On that phone call, he told police that the young man looked like he was “up to no good” and “on drugs or something” and seemed concerned that Martin was looking at the houses in the community.  Martin started to run away during the course of Zimmerman’s call to the police (per the transcripts) and the dispatcher told Zimmerman not to follow him.  Police were on their way.

If the story ends there, it is unlikely that it ends in tragedy.  Zimmerman did his job as a community watch coordinator.  The story, of course, does not end there.

Zimmerman got out of his car and followed Martin.

From this point, we only have Zimmerman’s statements to police to go on when it comes to what happened next.  It does seem clear that there was an altercation – which Zimmerman claims was provoked by Martin.  (Read his statement to police.)  During that altercation, Zimmerman fatally shot Martin in the chest.

Community Protector or Vigilante?

In the months and weeks leading up to the shooting, the community had experienced a number of break-ins, with suspects identified as young, black men.  From the descriptions that I have read, the entire area sounds like a powder keg ready to go off – and George Zimmerman had taken the role of leading the community protection.  Neighbors overwhelmingly describe him in a positive light – as someone who offered security.  For a man who was finishing up a degree in criminal justice with hopes of one day becoming a judge, that must have been a pretty powerful feeling.

After months of home invasions and vandalism, it isn’t hard to understand why Zimmerman took to the streets.

Where did it all go wrong?

You could argue that it went wrong when George Zimmerman decided that Trayvon Martin was suspicious based on the color of his skin.  You could argue that it went wrong when a community chose to create an armed community watch program.  I personally would argue that it went wrong when George Zimmerman got out of his car with a gun to follow a “suspicious” young man after police had already been dispatched.

Was it criminal?

At the end of the day, that’s the question.  I want to say that there’s a simple answer, but course there never is.  If George Zimmerman felt remorse for his actions, I would feel some degree of sympathy.  He made a tragic mistake and an unarmed teenager died.  Being a “mistake”, though, doesn’t mean that it isn’t still a crime.

Yes, I believe it was criminal.  Manslaughter, at the very least.  Unfortunately, in Florida, the laws are extremely forgiving when it comes to self-defense, due to the now-infamous “Stand Your Ground” law.  The law allows for an individual to use deadly force without the necessity of attempting a safe retreat if he/she feels their safety threatened.  “Stand Your Ground” laws exist in many states; in Florida it does not only apply to crimes committed in your home (as many states limit), but extends to any other location.

This post feels far too balanced.

After writing this post, I feel like my viewpoint sounds far too balanced.  The reasonable side of my brain recognizes that this case is complicated.  The truth is that I’m horrified that as a nation, we continue to kill innocent people because we make a decision based on the color of their skin.  The details are complicated, but that truth is simple.

And here’s another simple truth – we’ve set a precedent.  We’ve said that it is okay to take the law into your own hands.  We’ve okayed racial profiling (although in fairness, we okayed that centuries ago).  We’ve okayed the use of deadly force if you feel threatened.

The worst part?  Zimmerman will continue to have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, despite a history of poor decisions leading to a fatal shooting.

Side note about media bias:  It is absolutely clear that the profiles of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin were subject to extreme media bias.  In media outlets sympathetic to Martin, the photo most often used of Zimmerman showed him wearing the standard orange jumpsuit worn by those held in detention centers; while Martin was show as a fresh faced teen.  For those sympathetic to Zimmerman, photos of Martin with facial hair using obscene gestures (and sometimes photos of OTHER young black men, because apparently accuracy doesn’t matter) and Zimmerman in a suit and tie dominated the visuals.  The saddest part of that, though, is that it matters – that by changing what photo we share, our perception of who Trayvon or George are changed.

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.

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.

Surely we can do better than this.

I want for there to be an answer.  I want stricter gun control with bans on automatic and semi-automatic weapons to stop the violence.  I want improved diagnosis and treatment of mental illness to prevent tragedy.  I want an end to the sensationalism in the media to stop a killer from taking that terrible step.  I want a ban on realistic violence in video games to prevent young people from feeling like killing is unreal. I want security measures in our schools to protect our children beyond a shadow of a doubt.

I want for there to be an answer.  A simple one.  One that will definitively end the violence that is far too common in our modern American society.

I know that answer doesn’t exist.  There is no single solution that is going to end the violence.  Over the past few days we’ve certainly been talking about any number of contributing problems.  Can we agree that we have to start somewhere?

obamaPresident Obama expressed this very sentiment earlier today – much more eloquently than I can.

We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society, but that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely we can do better than this.

– President Obama, Newtown Memorial, December 17, 2012

It’s time for us to do better.