Gun control is a difficult subject. Most of us believe this. And what we also must come to believe is it’s a necessity to engage in civil discourse around how to stop the gun violence on our streets, in our homes, in our schools, in theaters and in places of employment. And if we continue on the course we have been on, we will assuredly see many more die.
In one review of mass shootings, 517 people have died in the 50 mass shootings recorded since 1982. Since 2000, there have been three years where there have been no mass shootings in the United States. During that same time period, there have been nine years when there have been multiple mass shootings.
My life has not been very different than many who have lived in the last nearly 60 years. I grew up with guns in the house. My father, a state trooper, kept his service weapons in the house and in his car. I grew to respect guns.
From his experience as a trooper, he was adamant the average person would likely come to harm at his or her own hands or the hands of an intruder before the weapon could be used in self-defense. I suppose that was the beginning of my attitudes about gun ownership.
In my world, as I was growing up, people had shotguns or rifles for hunting. A very few owned a handgun. I do not remember our having the numbers of crimes committed with guns we have today. I certainly do not remember the mass shootings that have become all too common in the U.S.
I have lived and worked in situations that could be considered dangerous. I have lived in crime-ridden areas, and I have done work that has put me at risk of being robbed or of having someone attack me out of anger.
I feel fortunate to live in a neighborhood where I feel my family and I are safe. And yet we have had our share of home and car break-ins over the years. Greenfield as a whole is relatively safe. I am out in both daytime and nighttime. Only occasionally do I feel uncomfortable in my surroundings. I never consider having a gun as a viable option.
My suggestions for gun control are not new or original. They are ideas that are accepted by many including gun owners. They are a first step in the effort to reduce violence with guns.
Licensing and registration of all guns is an important first step. And as with the licensing of drivers and registration of automobiles, there must be certification that the owner of the device has some simple understanding of the use of the gun and how to store it safely. I am suggesting a qualified person test an individual to determine the person has the ability to use the weapon in a safe manner and that written testing shows the person knows the rules for safe storage of the weapon.
And there must be a waiting period until the gun is registered, and the person is licensed to own the weapon. It is also prudent that the proposed owner of a gun undergo a background check. This can be accomplished during a waiting period most of the time.
I think it prudent to talk about at what level these rules must apply.
Illinois has some of the strictest gun control laws on the books. And yet Chicago has a horrendous homicide rate where a gun was the weapon.
And people who oppose gun control cite this as a reason gun control does not work. Yet Indiana has one of the most lax gun control laws in the nation.
Chicago criminals find it quite easy to cross state lines and buy guns legally in Indiana.
Unless we have a uniform gun law across state boundaries gun control laws will only be minimally effective. In the opinion of some, it is against the very bedrock beliefs upon which this country was founded to have the federal government take charge of such a sacrosanct right as gun ownership. And yet for gun control to work, there must be the same law across the nation.
The effort to blend the needs of those who wish to have guns with the need to reduce the high level of deaths from gun use and misuse is a delicate balance. Let us seek that balance. For those who have died, and those who will die, let us strive for agreement before another 517 are killed.
Jim Matthews is a Greenfield resident. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.