To be sure, we did not agree on everything -- there were many sticking points, among them whether or not we even need to do anything. In the post which sparked our conversation, I tried to get my head around some of the key points raised by folks who do not support additional gun control legislation, including what Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's spokesman, put on the table after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
I admitted that I'm not a gun lover, but also affirmed my belief that gun ownership is a right, albeit one that I believe can be reasonably 'controlled', just as our right to free speech is 'controlled' by legislation designed to protect me and others from irresponsible speech.
Here are a few of the areas where we struggled, at least initially:
- whether there's a need to respond to 'outliers' such as Newtown, Aurora, Tucson, VA Tech, Columbine and the like, given that they account for such a small percentage of gun crimes and deaths.
- what to call the weapon of choice in these mass shootings. I conceded the term 'assault weapon' was misunderstood, poorly defined in legislation, and inflammatory. I declared my preference for the term 'the gun that an evil sick bastard just used to kill a bunch of innocent people' which admittedly is more inflammatory but also more to the point and not as open to confusion.
- whether it was logical to include things such as death by high school sports injury, death by drowning, death by poisoning, etc. as more dangerous than guns because more people are killed by them each year. I thought this was silly; he thought it pointed out the need for a discussion on where we apply our limited resources.
- whether any legislation would have an impact on criminals, who ultimately are the ones who use guns for the wrong purpose.
- whether it would be reasonable to put any restrictions on the news media, relative to how they report on crimes of this nature.
- whether or not we could collectively rise to the challenge, assuming that agreement could be reached that something needed to be done.
- People choosing to exercise their right to bear arms need criminal and mental health clearance. Yes, this is background checks, and yes, it's intrusive to a certain degree, but it doesn't feel unreasonable to me.
- Registration of all gun purchases on a federal gun license. I'm okay with a federal license; I appreciate states having different tolerances for gun legislation and ownership, but certainly in the case of concealed carry permits, we need one law, not many.
- Mandatory safety training for each type of firearm purchased. This is so simplistic it's ridiculous, and I'm not sure whether it's already the law of the land, but if not it certainly should be.
- Yearly renewal of the federal gun license, including proficiency testing. Again, not rocket science. He suggested not only proficiency, but also moral simulation, to gauge a person's decision-making ability, such as when to fire vs. when to de-escalate, which I think is a fascinating approach.
- Reducing the price of ammunition, thereby making it more readily available so people can practice with their weapons. I had a hard time with this one, but coupled with all of the other things we'd change, and a couple of qualifiers, I decided I could live with it. My qualifiers? Eliminating Internet ammunition purchasing and adding mandatory reporting of large volume ammo purchases, similar to how banks are required to report large cash deposits.
- We agreed we need to eliminate black market gun sales, but neither of us offered anything here. I'm not sure how to do it, other than good old fashioned police work, finding out who's selling guns illegally and stopping them. It'll take quite a bit of effort, but coupled with other changes, it may be possible to make a dent.
- Require states to submit all necessary information into the background check system, so that it's truly viable and prevents criminals from getting guns.
- Enforce gun laws already on the books, including prosecuting people who attempt to buy guns when they know they legally can't, and prosecuting people who have other people purchase their guns for them, regardless of the reason.
- If a gun - handgun, rifle, 'gun that an evil sick bastard just used to kill a bunch of innocent people' or anything in between - is used during the commission of a crime, there needs to be a minimum mandatory sentence for using the gun. And, that sentence gets served first, before the consecutive (not concurrent) sentence for the other crime. We need to make the criminal use of a gun very unattractive.
- Gun legislation cannot have anything unrelated added to it. Politicians cannot attach a jobs bill or welfare benefit or unemployment changes or tax cuts or anything else to gun legislation. Period. If they try to do it, charge them with bribery.
- People with family members with mental health problems should not be allowed to legally posses guns. If you buy into the theory that the reason Adam Lanza did what he did was because he had mental health issues, and his mother knew about them, you should be furious that she not only kept guns in the house, but taught him how to use them.