By Marsha Sutton
My Dec. 20, 2012 column titled “Twenty dead children have to matter” – about the Newtown tragedy and the renewed debate over gun control – elicited reactions across the spectrum that reminded me how far apart we are in our views on the proliferation of guns.
Yet I also found reasons to be hopeful. Everyone without exception wants kids to be safe at school. And almost everyone who wrote in agreed that sensible gun laws consistent from state to state (depending upon one’s definition of “sensible”) need to be combined with better and faster treatment of the mentally ill.
Violent movies and video games are also contributing factors, and most said ways to protect schoolchildren should be considered.
Clearly, several approaches are required. Gun control alone won’t do it. Actually, nothing will do it completely, and that’s a fact. But steps can be taken to reduce these horrific shootings, and we can make progress if we stop thinking they can be eliminated altogether.
Thanks to knowledgeable readers who clearly know a great deal more about guns than I do, I learned that gun laws in California have been tightened since I last visited the local gun show (which admittedly was a while ago and I’m still traumatized by the memory).
In my column, I wrote that it was easy to buy guns of all sorts at gun shows, “immediately, with little if any waiting period.”
Actually, there is a 10-day waiting period, even for gun show purchases, which must be made through a licensed dealer, according to the Calif. Dept. of Justice Office of the Attorney General.
However, gun shows are still frightening exhibitions of killing machines, no matter how long buyers have to wait to receive their weapons.
And rules are not so stringent in other states. According to the Campaign to Close the Gun Show Loophole, about 40 percent of the 5,000 gun shows across the country each year allow unlicensed sellers to sell guns without conducting a background check: “Although 17 states have taken action to partially or completely close this loophole, 33 states have not.”
So the overarching point of my previous column, that guns are far too easy to access, stands.
Some would repeal the Second Amendment. Others say all guns and all kinds of ammunition should be legal. Two extremes. Is there no place to come together in the middle and reach compromise? Most certainly.
Despite what some have charged, gun control supporters are not trying to “punish” citizens by taking away their constitutionally guaranteed rights. In fact, even many gun advocates support more responsible ownership and believe there are reasonable limits that should be placed on the right to own firearms, given how this right has been abused by criminals.
Gun owners are generally law-abiding citizens who also want, obviously, these murderous rampages to stop. After all, shootings give gun owners a bad name. So we are in agreement on that for certain. This, at least, is a place to start.