There are many examples of gun violence. It can include random street violence, violence associated with gangs, or armed robberies. A common type of violence we also see are mass shootings, many of which result in the deaths of victims. I won’t list them or single any of them out here. You can look that up for yourselves if you are so inclined. I highlighted a few of them previously in my article titled, They Don’t Want Gun Control. Following each one, there is an increased awareness of these senseless acts with a call to tighten up gun policies. Our politicians seem to act concerned and unified and speak out staunchly for a moment, then they get quiet until it happens again. Then they act concerned again for a moment and get quiet again until it happens again. It goes that way over and over again. That’s the cycle of violence.
All types of gun violence need to stop. On average, there are roughly 30,000 deaths lost every year due to gun violence. The discourse often focuses on ways to stop it. It’s probably not likely that it will be stopped completely, but I have some ideas that might help reduce the number of guns that get into the hands of people who should not have them. These are my own personal recommendations, recommendations I believe would make a difference.
First, fix the private sale exemption, otherwise known as the gun show loophole. This is a provision in gun laws that allow gun sales without the requisite background check if it is a private-party sale to an unlicensed resident of the same state. This occurs a lot at gun shows. As long as the seller has a reasonable belief the purchaser is legally authorized to own or possess a firearm, namely, that the purchaser is not a felon or that the purchaser is prohibited from possessing a firearm due to a court order. So, here’s the thing. If I am a gun seller, how in the friggin’ world am I supposed to know this without the benefit of a background check? I’m certain that many people who shouldn’t have a gun obtain one via this method more often than we’d like to envision. Gun sellers want to make a profit, so I imagine they look at customers with blinders on, evaluating them in a vague and over-broad manner, a manner that’s just as vague and over-broad as the gun law is. This needs to be fixed. All gun purchasers need a background check.
Second, reevaluate the laws around persons with mental illness owning or possessing firearms. Contrary to most public discourse on the matter, there are already laws that restrict firearms by persons with a mental illness. The challenge arises when you try and create one law that violates another law (especially a Constitutionally-protected law) without some measure of due process. The prevailing law that addresses mental illness is the Gun Control Act of 1968. This law prohibits a firearm by an individual who is legally “adjudicated as a mental defective “ or by someone who has been “committed to a mental institution.” A new reversal order is required before that individual is legally permitted to possess a firearm. The law has specific definitions about mental defective and the level of mental incompetence required to meet the statute. You can look all that up for yourselves if you are interested (Gun Control Act of 1968, codified as amended in 18 U.S.C. § 922 (2012).
Third, everyone who owns a firearm needs must be required by law to (a) attend and successfully complete a government-sanctioned gun safety awareness program, and (b) safely secure their firearm at all time either via a gun lock or a lock box. Quite often, guns are often “borrowed” from a friend or family member who everyone knows keeps their firearm in a shoebox on the closet shelf or in the dresser drawer. Gun owners who do not comply with these two requirements should be held civilly and criminally liable their firearm is used by someone to commit a crime.
Finally, police agencies need to have monthly “no questions asked” gun turn-in, buy back events. Many agencies do have them, but not on a monthly basis. Doing this monthly would be a big step in getting guns off the street. The first reported program of this nature occurred in Baltimore, Maryland in 1974. (Parry, Robert (December 8, 1974). “Guns of Baltimore: Why Did Bounty Stop?” The Blade. Toledo, Ohio: Toledo Blade Company. Associated Press). In that event, Baltimore purchased more than 13,000 firearms from citizens at $50 per gun. The current national average is around 925. Agencies need to budget for this. Many smaller police agencies most likely work with stretched budgets already. Many agencies don’t realize the funding available from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (a component of the US Department of Justice), in the form of grants earmarked for criminal justice agencies. These funds could help stretch an agency’s operating budget exponentially.
I won’t try to say all guns should be taken from citizens; however measures can be taken to better manage gun sales, and these ideas of mine might be a good start. There are probably many other things that could also be done to help curtain gun violence. But now, not much at all is being done. So, we can expect to see much more of the same before it gets better.