It is time to reconsider how we sell, market and license guns in this country.
I say this as a lifelong hunter, longtime member (until recently) of the National Rifle Association and owner of enough guns to arm a revolution in a small country.
Like it or not, guns have become a way to settle grudges, achieve notoriety, advance causes and express one’s self in our violence-prone society.
For years, the NRA and other pro-gun activists have argued that tightening the gun laws in this country would only make it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to buy weapons while criminals would be armed and a threat to society.
That argument became moot last week when Seung-Hui Cho used two handguns he purchased legally to gun down 32 fellow students and faculty members at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA – the worst mass killing on a school campus in American history.
Virginia’s background check system, run by the State Police and considered the model for the nation, didn’t know anything about Cho’s mental problems because his one and only hearing before a judge did not qualify for inclusion in the record.
Yes, that’s a loophole that state and federal legislators are now scrambling to close but even when it’s closed it won’t be the only loophole in laws that put too many guns in the hands of too many people who have no business owning or carrying weapons.
Virginia is also a concealed carry state – a place where anyone with a relatively-clean criminal record and half-day course in gun safety can obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon.
That half-day course teaches the basics of gun safety along with some rudimentary target practice. It does not prepare a person for a potential life-threatening situation where he or she may be threatened with a weapon and forced to defend themselves.
Yet some pro-gun advocates claim that if students and faculty at Virginia Tech had been allowed to pack heat they would have stopped Cho before he took out 32 lives. Virginia delegate Morgan Griffith, the ultra-right wing leader of Virginia Republicans, tried to ram legislation through the General Assembly what would give students the right to carry concealed weapons. Fortunately, it failed.
If Griffith and his cronies had been allowed to turn Tech into an armed camp the odds were good that the body count would have been far higher. Campus police spend most of their time breaking up drunken brawls at frat parties and athletic events. They shudder at the thought of adding concealed weapons to that volatile mix.
I’m not advocating a ban on guns. Far from it. But I do think it is past time that we take a long, hard look at the laws that regulate the sale of guns – all guns – to those who hunt, those to target shoot and those who feel the need to set up an armory in their home.
We license people to drive in this country and some states require a multi-day course in drivers’ education to obtain a permit. Those same states will take away a license to drive for even misdemeanor violations of traffic law. Yet nothing short of a serious felony can threaten a person’s ability to own or carry a firearm.
In a nation where too many guns threaten the peace and security of its citizens it is time to reconsider laws that allow too many murders and too much violence.