Dear Mr. President and the members of Congress,
I am writing this letter to you to address the issues facing gun control in the Senate and eventually the House of Representatives.
First, I want to make it clear that I, like the overwhelming majority of gun owners in this country, want nothing more than for our children to be safe and our streets free of crime. The events in Colorado and Connecticut affected all of us, especially gun owners, because we truly understand the respect and responsibility that comes with owning a firearm and have a vested interest in ensuring others use them responsibly. Unfortunately, political rhetoric and talking points in the main stream media have done a good job of diluting this message.
The goal of this letter is to show that some "gun control" is possible as long as political agendas, ideologies, and name calling are thrown to the wayside. Everyone needs to drop their swords and work together to truly think of legislation that will actually reduce gun violence in the US while not infringing on out civil rights (i.e. not just the second amendment)
With that said, let's look at the facts behind recent events:
A.) The perpetrators all suffered from some level of mental illness that was either untreated or poorly managed.
B.) The firearms were purchased legally or stolen from family members.
C.) The events occurred in locations that publicly displayed signs banning the possession of firearms, even if legally concealed, and thus making those in the immediate area completely defenseless.
D.) They used semiautomatic rifles and/or pistols with standard issue magazines (30 round magazines are issued with every civilian AR-15, except in states with current magazine limits). I believe James Holmes had a 100 round "drum" magazine that apparently jammed - which is not standard issue.
F.) There was no clear motive and the victims were completely random.
Now let's look at each of these individually and see what existing laws, or proposed laws, would have done to prevent or reduce the likelihood of the events like those in Colorado and Newtown.
Mental Health: There is little debating the fact that the perpetrators all suffered from some level of severe mental illness that was poorly documented or reported. With that said, states have done a poor job of reporting relevant data to the ATF for the NCIS background check system. My suggestion, and as President Obama has already done, is that all states need to be held accountable for not reporting said information to the ATF and need to step up their reporting efforts. Failing to do so should result in fines and civil liability should a crime be committed with a firearm that was purchased legally by a disqualified buyer because said state failed to report past criminal information regarding the purchaser to the ATF.
Reporting efforts must include clearly defined mental health information and guidelines. Specifically, reporting those with mental health issues and a history of violence or violent tendencies. It is a known fact that those with mental health issues are no more violent than anyone else and are more likely to be victims of violence. Therefore, punishing everyone with mental health issues is simply not justifiable. In Maryland, if someone is involuntarily committed to a mental health facility or voluntarily committed for 30 or more consecutive days, they are barred from owning a gun, even with not history of violence. With that said, after X amount of years, said person can petition to have their rights reinstated should the evidence show they have recovered from their prior illness. This last portion is absolutely a must or this bill will not pass. Mental illness is curable in a lot of people, just like many other diseases, and said people should not be disenfranchised due to the ignorance of those writing the law.
And lastly, efforts have to be made to increase access to care for the mentally ill. Insurance companies have successfully gutted and defunded mental health programs and it's time to act now. With so many psychiatrists being forced to take cash only due to poor reimbursement rates, it's no wonder people have an easier time getting a gun than 10 minutes with a psychiatrist.
Firearm Possession: Once again, if the proper information is reported to the ATF, this should greatly reduce disqualified buyers from slipping through the cracks. Background checks are worthless if the system is poorly maintained and those caught trying to buy a gun with a known criminal history, are not prosecuted. This too is key. Criminals will continue to push the limits if they know they will likely not be held accountable in the end. This also includes mandatory minimums and NO more plea deals! Laws are worthless if a person can simply plea their way out of a full blown conviction. People should be mad at the courts, and not the NRA and gun owners, for giving known criminals second and third chances. It's too late when an innocent person ends up dead because a judge gave the killer "another chance."
Gun Free Zones: These cannot be taken seriously. Would President Obama ditch his security detail walking into a "gun free zone?" Probably not - so why should everyone else be defenseless? I'm not advocating for soldiers in camo with M4s on their backs patrol our schools (I wouldn't be opposed to it either), but whoever said we could not work to implement voluntary off duty police or retired soldiers to stand watch with a concealed firearm? Democrats are notorious for accusing the right of having a, "It probably won't work so don't even bother," attitude, but that is the same attitude the left has when this idea is proposed. Why is it we use armed guards to protect our money, our leaders, and buildings, but people balk at the idea of protecting the most innocent of people on this Earth, our children, with armed guards? That makes absolutely ZERO sense. Anyone against this is simply a victim of their own ideologies and personal agenda, period. For those of us in the real world, this is a very logical solution to those committed to inflecting random acts of carnage on the innocent.
Types of Firearms: As we have seen this week in Boston, evil will use any means necessary to harm others. What if the events in Colorado and Connecticut were carried out with bombs? Would that make the loss of life any less acceptable? No. So why do so many in Congress see the only solution being to make it harder for the 99.5% of law abiding gun owners to enjoy their rights? That is like trying to reduce drunk driving by banning sober people from buying cars. More kids die in swimming pools each year than by accidental shootings yet people are still fixated on guns. It truly is an irrational fear for those who do not own firearms and is why many gun control measures ultimately fail. Bad people will do bad things using any means necessary.
Randomness: No set of laws, as President Obama has said, will ever prevent every last act of violence. With that said, the human mind is unpredictable and there is no way of predicting these types of events. So if we are going to write new laws, why not write them based on the facts, and not political ideologies and agendas, so that we can be prepared when these events occur?
The Solution: Give private sellers access to the NCIS system and incorporate the suggestions I have just listed. No hidden fees/taxes. No hidden registries. No hidden bans. Just extend the current system to private sellers and make states get their acts together and properly report data to the ATF. That's it. No fine print. No committees that will do absolutely nothing other than waste more tax dollars. There is no reason this could not be drafted up on five pages or less and passed tomorrow. This is the kind of legislation that 90% of gun owners will agree to and truly is, "common sense."