6 dead and 13 wounded in Arizona by a madman. Whether or not he is insane is for the courts to decide, but, without question he is a madman. And he is not alone. The right and the left have jumped on the bandwagon each saying the other is politicizing the tragedy and each correct. Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, the 70 year old democratic sheriff of Pima County, who is leading the investigation into the shooting in Arizona, has made some statements that has the righties up in arms. He spoke of the vitriolic speech that incites to violence those already inclined. It sounds logical. He did not mention one party over another. He did not accuse the left nor the right. And yet the left championed his statements and the right vilified them. And that is more telling than the sheriff’s words
It is extremely disturbing to see targets overlaid on the faces of political opponents. Even if we know that the meaning is not to incense violent behavior, it emotionally sets a stage. There are politicians who have said: “Make my opponent afraid to leave his house!” We have all read and heard the campaign rhetoric that reeks of violent, vicious and virulent allusions. Calling one’s opponent a traitor, fear-mongering some doomsday scenario if the other side wins, these words set a tone. I believe that words lead to actions. In Hebrew the word דבר means both word and thing, as in deeds. Thoughts lead to words and words lead to actions. Do we have to be reminded how a charismatic leader spewing hateful and fearful words can lead people to do unspeakable horrors? Words have power, power to hurt and power to heal. Compare our President’s words to Tucson and Sarah Palin’s “blood libel” speech.
But it is not the only challenge that we face. The other is the tools of violence, guns. For the sake of full disclosure, let me say that I am that contradiction, the ‘gun totin’ liberal. The United States was birthed with guns and raised with guns and, for good or ill, it is part of our cultural heritage. I shoot targets and I have hunted. I have a license to carry my weapon and I do so in every legal venue. I recognize the debate about gun control and it is a valid one that should be aired in openness and without animosity. It is fraught with emotion and the logic can be lost to that emotion. For righties, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It is their belief that the Constitution guarantees the right for all citizens to be armed. Whether that is factual is a debate for another time. Lefties of course point to less violent crime in countries where guns are banned. They will tell you that a gun makes it easier to take a life.
Ok, so now that I have alienated the righties and lefties let me offer a solution. My solution has to do with the automobile. From its inception there have been laws regarding automobiles some rather silly ones are still on the books. Yet there was and is a fundamental recognition that cars are dangerous and have to be treated with respect. Car safety is of prime importance and that takes two forms. Cars have to be safe and drivers have to be safe and there are tests for both. Cars have to be registered and owners have to be licensed. I suggest that we follow a similar policy for guns and gun owners. All guns should be tested, no more of what we used to call ‘Saturday night specials.’ All guns should be registered with a ‘vin’ number and when sold, the new owner must send a copy of the pink slip to the ATF or some other agency. License plates on guns is a little much but some form of recognition should be on file. There should be standards and tests that all guns need to pass. And the same should hold true for gun owners and gun carriers. I picture a written test on gun safety and rules of the road so to speak. I envision a ‘driving test’ in which a person wishing to own a gun has to load and shoot with some degree of effectiveness while demonstrating good shooting safety. That person should also be competent in field stripping and cleaning the weapon. Persons who are caught with guns while under the influence can lose their right to own guns for limited time or permanently, as we do with automobiles.
There is much more to this than my simple answer but, we have to start somewhere. I know the lefties are going to complain saying that my solution is not enough. They must realize that it is part of the cultural heritage of US Americans to have a fascination with and desire to own, carry and shoot guns. Our country would not have come into being without them. It is also true that Native Americans would have held onto their land if we did not have guns. So unless you are willing to move back at least to the original 13 colonies or unless you are a Native American, shut up.
As to the righties who say that my suggestions are impinging on our ‘God given right’ to own guns, nonsense. There has always been gun control in this country. Contrary to Sheriff Dupkin’s remarks regarding Tombstone, in 1881 Marshall Virgil Earp (Wyatt’s brother) enforced an ordinance that made carrying a weapon illegal in the town limits. No one was allowed to carry a gun in Tombstone. What I am suggesting would offer much more freedom to gun owners, so, shut up.