Editor’s Opinion: Why We Must Have a Discussion About Guns

I was born and raised in South Georgia, where many young men (and women, let’s not be sexist here) hunt with a gun before they could walk really well.  It’s in our blood – our DNA.  I remember the thrill of getting a BB gun when I was younger and the sadness I felt when I killed an innocent bird — because I simply could.  I remember in high school it was common for many students driving trucks to have a gun rack in said truck that had at least one gun, a hunting rifle or a shotgun — or both.  No one thought it weird or dangerous.

Times have changed and more to the point, people have changed.  Now before you start going off on the “we need more God” mantra, let’s not.  I don’t believe in a supreme being and if I did, I can safely say that he’s told everyone to screw off and we’re on our own.  No, we need to have civil human to human discussions about the issues that we face today.  No one is going to get us out of this except for us and we’ve done an awful job of it so far.

Let me start by saying — I don’t want your guns.  I don’t want you to have to give up your guns.  If you like guns, fantastic.  I own a couple myself (for full transparency they were handed down to me by my father; otherwise I probably wouldn’t have a gun more powerful than a pellet gun in the house).  However, I do believe it’s an issue when a person can go into a store and buy a gun just as easily as they can buy a 2 liter Coke from a grocery store.  Our system has failed.

We’ve attempted to do the right thing.  We have background checks before a gun can be purchased, but either those are being circumvented or they just aren’t working — or a combination of both.  It varies from state to state, but after a background check (which can take mere minutes most of the time), a person can walk out of a store with an AR-15, a 9mm handgun or whatever they want — legally.  Some states do have waiting periods from 24 hours to 10 days.  So what’s wrong with the system here?

First, there doesn’t seem to be any uniform requirement of the waiting period.  Each state makes its own rules and for the states’ rights advocates, that’s exactly what they want.  This is a flawed system.  How does it make sense that some states don’t require any type of waiting or “cooling off” period and others mandate 24 hours, 7 days or 10 days?  It doesn’t.  There should be a default waiting period across all fifty states, no exceptions.  There’s nothing you are doing that is so important that you can’t wait a few days before you buy your perfect example of masculinity.

Second, the waiting period is important for two reasons and they’re being ignored or discounted.

  • Waiting periods, or “cooling off” laws, create an important window of time for gun purchasers to reconsider their intentions, which can lead to a change of heart and a saved life. In addition, waiting periods provide additional time for the completion of a thorough background check.
  • Under the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a dealer may transfer a firearm to a prospective purchaser as soon as he or she passes a background check. If the FBI is unable to complete a background check within three business days, the dealer may complete the transfer by default.

Suicide prevention and a more thorough background check — I think those are pretty good reasons to have a nationally required waiting period on the purchase of guns.  A background check isn’t the end all method of stopping someone from purchasing a gun and then shooting up a school because nothing in their check raised a red flag, but it’s a step in the right direction.

More than 26 million background checks were performed against the NICS database in 2016 with over 260 million being performed from 1998 to 2017.  NICS is populated by records and information submitted by the individual states, which means the database is only as good as the information provided to it.  However, States cannot be mandated to submit records to NICS due to the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution[1].

States must improve the NICS database by submitting any and all records establishing an individual is a prohibited person, such as mental health records showing someone is an “adjudicated mental defective” or involuntarily committed to a mental institute, as well as official government records showing someone is the subject of a domestic violence protective order, a drug addict or subject to another prohibited category.[2]

Thus, the background check system is broken.

Third, there’s the debate over what the founding fathers actually meant, what their intent was when the 2nd Amendment was added to the Constitution.  Some will argue that you can’t apply a law that was created during a time  when nothing remotely like an AR-15 existed.  Others will argue that our founding fathers were brilliant men and knew that no matter how advanced weaponry became, the intent of the 2nd Amendment would still serve its purpose.

One needs to keep in mind that until 2008, the Supreme Court had come down on the side that there were no federally protected individual rights to own a gun.  In one of the first rulings, U.S. v Cruikshank in 1876, the court said the right of each individual to bear arms was not granted under the Constitution.[3]

Ultimately, their early rulings, and the 2nd Amendment, does not prohibit states from setting their own rules on gun ownership.  I believe this set the stage for the broken system we have today where it’s left up to each state to create and maintain their own gun laws.  Even with the 2008 ruling that essentially reversed 132 years of precedent, the federal government can’t force the states to make or adhere to any type of common sense gun legislation (not that the federal government has done any better).

As I’ve said before, I have no problem with individuals owning firearms for defense, or target practice or hunting.  What I do take issue with is the fact that no one, NO ONE, needs a semi-automatic assault style rifle for self-defense.  NO ONE.  If you feel the need for one of those, join the military.  They’ll fix you up!

This all boils down to the fact that we need to actually have discussions about how to deal with this issue.  We’ve been reacting, each and every time we have some type of mass shooting, whether it be in a school, a concert or whatever.  We need to discuss prevention, not reaction.  Each side is damned and determined their way is the one and only right way when what we really need is consensus — a common sense approach to saving the lives of our children, our loved ones.

This issue isn’t a Republican issue, or a Democrat issue, it’s not a conservative or liberal issue.  It’s a human issue.  The conservatives will scream that the liberals want all the guns.  The liberals will scream that the conservatives are violence prone and only care about the money (i.e. NRA contributions to their campaigns).  Regardless if there is any truth to any of these claims, the bickering gets us no where, except more dead kids.

I don’t want your guns.  I want gun legislation that helps to save lives and allows those that want to own firearms to be able to do it safely and legally.  It’s amazing how such a simple idea is so tough to implement.


[1]  The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

[2]  FixNICS

[3] The Second Amendment & the Right to Bear Arms

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