Driving our guns
One gun owner’s musings on better gun regulation
I frequently hear this odd rationale that somehow advocating for better gun regulation is equal to banning guns altogether. Whenever I dare broach the subject that not everyone should be allowed to have a gun-- and those who are should be subject to some reasonable training or restrictions—I inevitably find myself shouted down like I've just proposed that every person in this country must be involuntarily sterilized.
In Arizona you can buy a gun at a gun show or box store with only the bare minimum federal background check. I once bought a shotgun at Wal-Mart and was walking out of the store with it in 45 minutes (with several boxes of shells). You can holster your handgun on your hip or concealed on your person and walk around in public with no permit or any training in its use. You can carry your gun into a bar or saloon unless the bar owner expressly prohibits it. Want to carry your assault rifle to a protest rally? Go right ahead.
Now we have a bill pending allowing professors and students to carry guns on university campuses and State Senate President Russell Pearce has declared that Senators who are packing heat can come into the Senate chambers (despite a state law prohibiting it. Believe it or not, I'm not the only person who has a problem with this.
We impose far more stringent restrictions on other things we all take for granted in our country. Most of us drive cars. We must be trained before getting behind the wheel, we must be licensed to drive, we have to register our vehicles with the state and are required to obtain insurance. We even have to be a certain age before we're allowed our learner's permit.
These restrictions are all considered reasonable because cars can be deadly if improperly used. But for some reason we hear nothing but opposition and hyperbole when it's suggested that we all follow reasonable steps to ensure better safety with firearms.
When our nation passed the 2nd Amendment there was no such thing as semi-automatic, fully automatic, extended clips, or even six guns. They were using ball and musket in those days and reloading was very slow and tedious. Reasonable regulation of these "improved" methods of killing should not be considered radical. And they are not a call for removal of all firearms either. Equating regulation with banning guns is simply an overused straw man argument that must be exposed (or "shot down", if you will) every time it raises its tedious head.
Sure we have a constitutional "right" to bear arms, just like we have the "right" to free speech. But it's been upheld numerous times that both speech and arms are subject to reasonable oversight and regulation. You cannot verbally threaten people with violence or engage in speech that conflicts with other values and rights.
With rights comes responsibility and we've been shown the results of excesses of violent rhetoric, as in the case of the California gunman who admitted he was influenced by FOX News commentator Glenn Beck to go and shoot people at the Tides Foundation and ACLU in 2010.
Irresponsible speech, like freewheeling guns, has caused a boatload of grief in this country, yet there are still those who seem to believe we haven't had enough.
Most Americans believe we have the right to own a gun—for protection in our homes, on our persons or hunting—and I'm one of them. But we do not have to use AK-47s for any of these purposes. We don't need extended clips (unless the home you're defending is the Alamo) nor should we insist on walking around with guns on our persons until we've shown we're capable of doing so without blowing our foot off… or we've ably demonstrated that we don't believe the government is controlling our thoughts. This is only reasonable, and reason is sorely needed nowadays.
The shootings in Tucson happened so quickly that even the bystander who was carrying a gun at the event had no chance to react or to use his gun safely. But accused shooter Jared Loughner was able to buy his Glock, even with a failed military drug test, several minor run-ins with the law and after being kicked out of college because of erratic and frightening behaviors. He was able to purchase his extended clips simply because a ban on them had expired.
Both of these things were preventable without causing unreasonable restrictions on law-abiding people's ability to own firearms. Yet the reaction on the part of gun proponents and our leadership is to advocate a further relaxing of the already flaccid gun regulations in this state. This twisted logic that more guns in people's hands will magically prevent folks from getting shot is increasingly harder to swallow.
It's time for us all to call for a renewed ban on assault weapons and extended clips, many of which flow out of gun shows and stores straight to the cartels in Mexico. We also need better oversight on all other guns.
As a gun owner I'm more than willing to go through as many steps as I did when I learned how to properly and responsibly drive my car. To argue otherwise can only be construed as laziness.
Despite what the gun lobbyists may tell you, the majority of Americans support stronger gun regulations.
Will better regulation end all gun crimes? Of course not, but it if prevents even one death—whether or not that death just happens to be someone you know or love—then the benefit is incalculable.
Amy is an Arizona resident whose passion about human rights has evolved into activism since the passage of SB 1070. She’s originally from Maine, where she was part of the tourism industry for over 20 years. Her writings have appeared in the Tucson Sentinel, Truthout, and Open Salon. Her full-time work is as a volunteer and clinic director at a nonprofit free clinic she co-founded in downtown Phoenix.