Truly Responsible Gun Ownership as a Way to End the Carnage

No one can credibly claim that semi-automatic and automatic weapons are useful for hunting or even that they are necessary for self-protection. A handgun with six to eight rounds in it ought to be enough to deter a criminal attacker, or even attackers, in almost every instance.

But if anyone proposes that assault weapons ought to be banned, the proposal will reinforce the Far-Right fantasy that Big Government—and President Obama in particular—exists primarily to take guns away from private, law-abiding citizens. The NRA will pour millions of dollars into targeted campaigns to remove from office every legislator who voted for such a bill, but especially those legislators in states with moderate to high levels of gun ownership.

So, instead of a ban on assault weapons, here is what I would propose: legislation that emphatically reinforces the concepts of personal responsibility and responsible gun ownership.

Because some will argue that carrying one standard handgun with six to eight rounds may not afford enough personal protection in every instance, allow anyone who now qualifies to carry one such handgun to carry two of them—along with a bandolier of bullets for each gun.

Furthermore, allow anyone who wishes to own assault weapons to continue build a veritable personal arsenal of them. In case the End Times come, each American can then be adequately prepared to protect family, home, and property from the equivalent of a battalion of Marines.

But mandate that no private citizen can transport an assault weapon outside of his or her home or off his or her property except in the closed trunk of a vehicle. If someone is found carrying such a weapon on his or her person anywhere but at a shooting range or a gun shop, there should be a mandatory hefty fine. If anyone points such a weapon at another human being, other than an intruder in his or her own home, there should an mandatory short prison sentence. If anyone shoots another person, other than an intruder in his or her own home, with such a weapon, there should be a mandatory lengthier prison sentence. And if anyone kills someone, other than an intruder in his or her own home, with such a weapon, there should be a mandatory life sentence without chance of parole—or a mandatory death penalty for multiple murders.

Moreover, if someone other than a gun owner uses or steals a semi-automatic or automatic weapon from the owner’s home and kills another human being, not only should the user be subject to the penalties just outlined, but the gun owner’s personal property and personal wealth should be subject to seizure and sale, with the proceeds going to the victim(s) and the immediate family(-ies) of the victims: that is, if someone feels the need to protect his or her home as if it were Fort Knox, then he or she should be prepared to secure the weapons to be used in that defense as thoroughly as they would be secured in Fort Knox.

To those who will argue that such penalties are too draconian, I can only say that gun owners have always insisted that it is not enough to reinforce standards of responsible gun ownership but that the criminal use of guns must be dramatically curtailed before anyone will be convinced that carrying guns for personal protection is largely unnecessary. So if enforcing draconian penalties for the criminal use of assault weapons, or for having provided criminals with access to such weapons, is the cost of convincing responsible gun owners that we are very serious about taking or keeping such weapons out of the hands of criminals, I am now willing to support such penalties.

Of course, none of these things would have directly prevented some of the recent rampage shootings. Likewise, there are so many unlicensed guns in America that nothing will change things–nothing will stop the slaughter–in the short term. But if we persist in a grim determination to reduce this kind of violence, if we attach a terrible stigma to it–instead of responding as if it is something beyond the reach of our condemnation–it will inevitably diminish.

It is time to insist that the NRA’s long-made case for responsible gun ownership be given some real teeth.

It is time to insure that everyone’s Second Amendment rights are absolutely protected so that those who do not wish to avail themselves of those rights are also protected.

It’s time to let the non-violent drug offenders out of jail and to put the perpetrators of gun violence in those prison cells instead.

It’s time to send a message to everyone in this country that we, as a nation, are taking a zero-tolerance approach to anything other than the truly responsible, legal use of guns.

It is time for Americans to become dead serious about an issue that is leaving too many Americans dead.

It’s time to try to put an end to the recurring mass murder of innocents.

It is time to denounce anyone who resists any meaningful solutions to this carnage for what they are–heartless fanatics who cherish their dark fantasies about a gunless America more than they value American lives.



4 thoughts on “Truly Responsible Gun Ownership as a Way to End the Carnage

  1. I wish that people made decisions based on proper risk analysis, but they do not. I don’t think this would curb gun ownership any more than the statistics about how likely you are to kill a family member or yourself; people think, “I’m smarter/more responsible than that. That would never happen to me.” Maybe if the laws were VERY draconian they could scare a significant number of people out of the risk, but I actually don’t think that most people who aim guns at people (which is already a crime punishable by a prison sentence) or who carry assault rifles around (which is a crime some places) are really the ones who’d be scared off from owning them. And I don’t think ruining individual lives forever by imprisoning, stigmatizing, and institutionalizing them is a good solution either. We use prison as a solution to far too many problems which are not really solved by prison. I think we might have to stop making gun owners feel quite so defensive before we can start working on reducing the pro-gun-culture that leads to so many of our most avoidable gun-violence problems.

    • The problem is that your comment is much more reasonable than what one can ever hope to get from the NRA-influenced side. What I was trying to suggest in the blog post is that since we can no longer even start, never mind profitably conduct, a conversation about guns that starts from reasonable premises, then we need to start the conversation from the talking points of the other side: specifically, let’s define very precisely what we mean by “responsible gun ownership.”

      Very shortly after the massacre, Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert suggested that the Newtown massacre could have been prevented if the principal and the teachers at the elementary school had been carrying handguns, and after he’d had some time to reflect on the meaning of the massacre, Mike Huckabee, who has sometimes been, incongruously, characterized as a “reasonable conservative,” suggested that the “absence of God” in our schools, and not the ready availability of assault weapons, is the root cause of “school violence,” including this massacre.

      You mention that pointing a weapon at someone is already against the law. Actually it no longer is clearly illegal in the many parts of the country that have adopted “Stand Your Ground” laws. It is apparently not even clearly against the law to use a gun for “self-defense” when the unarmed teenaged pedestrian whom was being menacingly stalked finally turned on and confronted his pursuer, or when the teenagers playing loud music on a car audio system refused to turn it down and thereby “threatened” another shopper at a convenience store (note: it was not even a resident who lived next door to the convenience store and may have been more justifiably tired of the noise, but another shopper who was presumably running in and out of the convenience store and could simply have gotten into his car and driven away from the noise). Both of these exemplars of the “Stand Your Ground” mentality are now facing murder charges, but only because the public outcry demanded more accountability than the authors of the laws would have themselves allowed.

      This is a very complex issue–or, more precisely, set of issues–that will clearly require a variety of solutions much beyond finding some way to discourage the proliferation of assault weapons. For instance, if one looks at the broader spectrum of incidents of gun violence, there are clearly issues related to the availability and adequacy of community mental health services, related to the endemic lack of economic opportunity in communities that are plagued by gang violence, and related to the efficacy of the conduct of the “war on drugs.” But addressing the other issues is close to pointless if we allow the continuing and completely unquestioned proliferation of weapons used in other parts of the world in war zones.

      The point of the post is to say that every American has the right to hunt and even to carry a handgun for personal protection, but gun enthusiasts cannot keep insisting that the ownership of assault weapons, which serve no legal purpose beyond satisfying a hobbyist’s interest or providing some reassurance to a “doomsday prepper,” is some sort of incontestable right. If we cannot agree that discouraging the possession of assault weapons and ammunition clips that hold fifty to a hundred bullets is a reasonable starting point for addressing the pandemic of gun violence in this country, then I wonder where a reasonable and efficacious starting point is to be found.

      • I applaud your suggestions, especially the ones that make the “law abiding” gun owner responsible for abeting the commission of a crime. We need to call it what it is, TJ Lane used his Uncle’s pistol, Adam Lanza used his mothers, Columbine killers had a straw purchaser, two firemen killed in upstate NY by a gun purchased for a paroled murderer, and the beat goes on. None of the people who purchased the guns(except Lanza’s mother) paid a price for their conduct. The media hardly mentions where the wepons came from, yet that may be the most important part of the story. All guns start as legal, but the NRA and certain freinds in Congress prevent any reasonable way to stop gun trafficking. Keep up the drum beat and make the responsible gun owners truly responsible.

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