I don’t believe just anybody should be allowed to own a gun, but I believe I should be allowed to own a gun. Then again, I’ve never been arrested. I’m schooled in firearm safety, and nothing in my background would indicate I’m psychotic, no matter what the droogs down at my local may say.
I find myself caught in the middle of the Great American Gun Debate, disappointing some of my more liberal comrades when I suggest it’s impossible to eliminate our country’s guns and gun culture, and disappointing my more conservative brothers and sisters when I admit I’m in favor of stronger gun sales laws and that I don’t believe anybody is coming to take our guns away.
Of great annoyance to me are those who suggest somebody is trying to take our guns away thereby unduly inflating the price of ammunition. You see, I’m an avowed target shooting enthusiast with a confessed .357 Colt Python fetish.
I’m not concerned about home defense and I have no interest in loafing around town strapped. The idea of me trying to stand up to our government’s $621 billion per year military budget with my pistol is silly and ridiculous. I just like firing guns.
Too many others seem determined to use guns as the weapons they are admittedly designed to be. And too many of those people should not or are not allowed to own them. So how are they getting them?
The largest number of illegal gun purchases go through shady federally licensed dealers. Pawn shops, while not all corrupt, are not exactly known for their dedication to the letter of the law. This could be combated to some degree by mandating background checks for employees of licensed dealerships and that all gun sales at such dealerships be video recorded. That would require U.S. Congressional action, so nobody hold your breath.
The second largest number of illegal gun purchases occurs through those who make a business of dealing in guns but pose as private sellers, thus avoiding federal licensed-dealer requirements.
Those are the people President Obama aims to bring under regulation with his recently announced executive actions, which are not unprecedented and not unconstitutional. The President is directing the ATF to consider these casual dealers to be in the business of gun sales that they obviously are, and get licensed or face prosecution. I do not consider this unreasonable, and any characterization of it as, “Obama is coming to take all our guns,” is fatuous nonsense.
There are other practical solutions to combat illegal firearm sales, such as laws requiring the reporting of lost and stolen guns to law enforcement and limits on the number of guns purchased at one time.
Straw purchases, where a decoy person is used to purchase a firearm for the actual buyer, play a role in nearly half of all ATF gun trafficking investigations. Dealers have an obligation to ensure their guns are not being straw purchased, and we have an obligation to make sure dealers are accountable because most of these guns end up in the hands of convicted felons and drug gangs, the biggest perpetrators of firearms violence in the United States after those we call suicide victims.
We also need more uniform gun laws across the country to combat interstate firearm trafficking. But again, don’t hold your breath for any of this to happen because our national conversation on this issue is simplistic and stupid, taking on the banal, moronic forms that continually disfigure our politics and thus our self-governance.
Everything is treated as an all or nothing proposition, and arguments of nuance are accepted or rejected from caricatured preconceptions. And that’s part of the problem with our culture. We are too quick to shoot and then aim, not entirely sure what we are firing at, or why.
No matter what the President proposes some people are determined to see him as some sort of Stalinist Islamic Kenyan, hellbent on taking their guns and destroying our freedom. I don’t see how a measured study of the facts could produce that absurd conclusion. President Obama is not taking all our guns away or destroying our freedom, and his executive actions are not even going to prevent the majority of gun violence.
They won’t even stop the next psychotic rampage that will shatter our fellow citizens’ lives and break their loved one’s hearts. But to make more headway, we need collective community support for reasonable restrictions on who is allowed to have firearms. We need uncorrupted political courage and honesty in a way rarely seen in American lawmaking.
On a more macro level, we need to manifest a culture and a civilization that alleviates the desperation in our fellow citizens’ lives that brings forward the drug addiction, alienation, paranoia and division that drives so much of firearm violence.
Until we invest in ourselves in such a way, and legislate common sense standards to keep guns out of the hands of the people who must not have them, we can only expect more of the sad same, where nobody is surprised to read the news of the latest unconscionable tragedy.
D.C. DeWitt is a writer and man of sport and leisure. He has also written for Government Executive online, the National Journal’s Hotline, and The New York Observer’s Politicker.com. He is the Associate Editor of The Athens NEWS in Athens, Ohio. DeWitt can be found on Facebook and Twitter @DC_DeWitt.