Listening to the debate on gun control, it seems to come down to simple things.
What kind of responsibility is involved with owning a gun? It is by design a tool to cause damage, and deadly. It seems to me that owning a gun inherently carries a significant amount of responsibility for the owner. He must know how to safely handle/use the gun, see that only people who are likewise competent have access to the gun, and those who are not don’t. He needs to be of sound mind, ethical/moral, and prudent in his use of the gun. And he needs to take reasonable care to guard his gun from those who might steal or otherwise misuse it. A failure in any of these areas could lead to serious harm or death.
How do we as a society treat other, similar responsibilities? We require testing/proof of competency, insurance against liability (because great damage can be done), and license/registration of the item that generates the responsibility (i.e. a car, for one example). It seems reasonable that we might apply similar requirements for gun ownership; that to own a gun you must show that you are responsible and competent to be entrusted with such a responsibility. Further, it could be argued that those guns with a greater potential to do harm (i.e. semiautomatic weapons with large ammunition clips, or say special ammunition that can pierce armor or is of an especially powerful character) require an even higher standard of competence.
Some hold up the second amendment as evidence of unfettered gun rights. The constitution is a living document whose principles must be applied to our country’s current circumstances; while it may permit private gun ownership (debatable), it doesn’t prevent society requiring proof of competency from its would-be gun owners.
Others say that criminals have easy access to weapons, and so it’s a necessity that each citizen should too. I think guns are easily accessible to criminals presently, but why should we concede this to criminals? If we hold merchants and gun owners to a stricter standard, we can gradually (yes, it will take a long time) make it harder for the lawless to get guns. Additionally, by doing more to assure that guns are only in the hands of the responsible, we may prevent a significant portion of the gun violence that happens in domestic situations and ensure gun accidents that claim the lives of children are less common place.
Stricter gun control will not prevent every tragedy like New Town, but they can help lessen the likelihood of them occurring. There are other things we need to address on that score (mental health treatment availability and de-stigmatization, an honest discussion about what we allow our kids to be exposed to through various media, stiff sentences for gun-related crime, etc.). Still, holding gun owners to a higher standard than present will make a difference. It’s the responsible thing to do.
Ken Vaselaar, pharmacist