I did go shooting once or twice as a kid -- boy, did I suck -- but the defining gun-related moments of my life came in college. The first came in 1987 when I met Jim Brady, who later founded the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The second was in 1990 when a friend of mine survived a shooting that killed his step-father.
I have been around guns a bit since then -- heck, I live in Maine, where seemingly everyone hunts -- but I don't much care for them, the violence they inspire or the culture wrapped up around them. I think it's well past time that we rolled back the use of guns here in the U.S.
Along those lines -- and with the Newtown shootings and Mark Kelly's and Gabby Giffords' announcement about their new group Americans for Responsible Solutions close in our minds -- here are my thoughts on how we should move forward with gun laws in this country.
- Create one set of federal gun laws, not a hodgepodge of varying federal and state laws that make no sense in the context of the United States of America.
- Create a functional, nationwide system of background checks and licenses for gun owners, who will need to renew their licenses annually after proving that they meet various physical criteria (vision, etc.), mental criteria (no history of mental illness), knowledge of safety issues, and legal criteria (no criminal record, no owed taxes, no overdue child support, etc.).
- Create a functional, nationwide system of gun ownership records. As with cars, guns should be re-registered and taxed annually.
- Create a functional, nationwide system for tracking stolen guns.
- Close the "gun show loophole" and require all private sales of guns by made by licensed gun dealers. People who want to get rid of them guns should only be able to sell them back to licensed dealers. No more person-to-person gun sales (or other transfers other than through inheritance) should be allowed.
- Ban all private ownership of automatic and semi-automatic weapons. For the first few years of this transition, let owners turn in their weapons with no punishment. After that, start increasing punishments. After 10 years, ownership of these weapons should be punishable by 10 years in prison.
- Ban both high-capacity clips and so-called "devastator" bullets, which are intended for warfare only.
- Tax the sale of bullets 100%. Put the money toward buying bullet-proof vests for cops.
- Ban environmentally toxic lead bullets. We got the lead out of almost everything else, so let's do it for bullets, too.
- Lift all "stand your ground" laws.
- Place limits on bulk ownership of firearms and ammunition. One gun per hand ought to do it, with a possible exception for legitimate collectors.
- No guns in the workplace, at schools, in churches or government buildings.
- Restrict concealed carry permits to people who have displayed a documented and certifiable commitment to safety and responsible gun ownership.
- Create a responsible system for all other carry laws, where weapons must be fitted with trigger locks while they are are in transit.
I know a lot of people won't like my suggestions. Whatever. I think this is the direction the country is moving and I hope to see us take a few steps closer toward it every year.