Even the late conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia noted in the landmark 2008 Heller decision that the edict did not preclude reasonable restraints on gun ownership.
ONCE again our nation has been hit by a horrific, unspeakable, unfathomable gun tragedy. In the coming days and weeks expect lots of chatter and empty promises from both sides of the political aisle. The end result is depressingly familiar — to parrot the words of Macbeth — there will be “lots of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
With more than 2 million Americans shot since the turn of the millennium, gun violence is one of our nation’s most significant public-health problems, and inarguably its most neglected. A child growing up in the United States is 14 times more likely to be killed by gun violence compared to other industrialized countries. Gun violence is a defining American characteristic and impacts our daily habits. Yet, we as a nation continue to ignore it.
Some are saying that in the aftermath of a horrific shooting it is no time to discuss what we can collectively do to reduce the chances of the next occurrence. They are wrong. Some will say there is nothing that can be done to end the senseless killing and heartbreak. They are wrong also.
Now is the time to talk about what can be done. There are several reasonable steps we can take that respect the rights of gun owners and still have a meaningful impact. Even the late conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia noted in the landmark 2008 Heller decision that the edict did not preclude reasonable restraints on gun ownership.
In a poll last year of more than 500 Washington and Oregon voters, 66 percent agreed that banning military-style assault rifles made sense. These firearms can shoot more than 100 bullets a minute and have been cynically marketed for their combat “realism.” No reasonable hunter would consider their use as sport, and if someone wanted them for target practice, they could be made available at gun ranges.
A second reasonable step, along with banning military style assault rifles, is to legislate a 10-bullet limit on all ammunition magazines. In a mass shooting such as Columbine, the most opportunistic time to stop an amateur shooter is while he is changing out his gun’s magazine. In the heat of the moment, taking one magazine out and putting another in can be a transfer that can consume critical seconds, which might mean life or death. And it’s hard to imagine that any homeowner who purchases a gun for protection will need more than 10 bullets.
A third reasonable path to reducing the chances of the next tragedy is a free market-based technology approach. Smart guns that can be fired only by the authorized user have the potential to reduce gun violence by more than 25 percent. Smart guns would eliminate the hundreds of child-gun accidents as well as many domestic-violence deaths involving a suspect grabbing a weapon. Significantly, they could save thousands of lives from impulsive suicides involving a third-party firearm. And, finally, they would render as inoperable the hundreds of thousands of guns stolen each year by criminals.
In two months, we will mark the fifth anniversary of the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary school that took the lives of 20 innocent first graders. Don’t we as a society owe it to the next generation to do everything possible to create a safer and less fearful community? We’re never going to completely eliminate gun violence, but ignorance, inaction and empty gestures are not acceptable. Please join us in promoting rational and reasonable actions that actually signify something meaningful.