Gun violence is a public health crisis in need of immediate redress and the best way to prevent gun violence is to reduce the number of guns in society, improve tracking of those guns, and to ensure that all gun owners meet legal requirements of gun ownership. As someone said recently, if more guns made us safer then Baltimore City would be one of the safest cities in America but clearly it is not.
So, we need to reframe the conversation. This is not a political issue; it’s a civic issue. What kind of society do we want to be? My recommendations are as follows and I invite you to share yours, too.
ENFORCE ALL EXISTING LAWS.
For example, when courts order that guns be removed, such as when a restraining order is issued for domestic abuse, only about 7% of the time does anyone go to collect the guns. There are other examples of existing laws not being enforced.
IMPROVE DATABASE FOR GUN PURCHASES.
In the Parkland school shooting, the gun dealer said there was nothing unusual about the sale of the AR-15 to a 19-year old. That’s a problem. There were multiple warning signs that he was not stable and may be a menace to himself and others. We need a database that flags multiple sources to find out if there is anything outstanding. And if there are flags, we at least need a waiting period.
The Maryland Firearm Safety Act was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond. This law requires individuals who wish to purchase a handgun to obtain a license from the state prior to the purchase. To obtain a license one must first pass a gun safety course, submit one’s fingerprints to law enforcement authorities, pay a $50 fee, wait for the license to arrive in the mail, and upon purchase, one must register the gun in a statewide registry. A registry will reduce straw purchasing of weapons that are subsequently used to commit acts of violence.
ELIMINATE “WEAPONS OF WAR.”
We need to remove assault type weapons from being sold to the general public. Some Americans believe that they need a gun for protection. This isn’t necessarily true. We already have more than 300 million guns in private hands. There are more guns than people. So, while there are divergent views on gun ownership, there is broad consensus that automatic and semi-automatic assault weapons have no place in gun shops, gun shows, gun catalogs on our streets or in our homes.
The courts have agreed that “weapons of war” are not protected by the Second Amendment.
It would seem that all parties agree that there are limits to what sort of firearms should be available to whom, where, and when.
REDUCE SELF INFLICTED HARM.
Not all gun violence is aimed at others. According to Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, each year there are 11,000 gun homicides in the United States and there are an additional 20,000 gun suicides during those same 12 months. Reducing access to guns would not eliminate suicides, but it is possible that it could curb the number of suicides since suicide attempts are sometimes impulsive acts that are instigated by an acute crisis that could be mitigated given time. Firearm regulation advocates argue that their proposed policies would provide that gift of time and, for some, life.
We need to stop people from being able to purchase a gun quickly. According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, requiring a license to purchase a handgun will reduce homicides by 40% and suicides by 15%.
CHANGE THE SUPREME COURT.
In 1791 the Founders drafted the Second Amendment for a specific purpose at that time, which was to provide safety to the community. Today, those words can also be interpreted to protect our community. It’s time to get a Court to have an honest and correct reading of what it means for a “well ordered militia” and the right to bear arms – in 2018.
- Gun purchases should be limited to those age 21 and over. Those who own guns also should be held responsible for keeping guns out of the hands of children, not eligible to purchase firearms.
- We need a thorough study of gun violence in America. It’s time to lift the ban on gun violence research by the Center for Disease Controls. Gun violence is too important of an issue to not have reliable, trusted data when considering public policy for our children and the future.
- Red Flag Laws, which are used to reduce gun violence before it happens, needs adequate resources for enforcement. Too often those who are charged with keeping us safe are over taxed, understaffed and poorly funded to take action to follow court orders.
What are your ideas? You can share your thoughts here. But let’s move from conversation to action!!!