Once again we’re anguished over a seemingly senseless mass murder. Well, this time it’s not senseless but obviously driven by ethnic hatred. That hatred itself is senseless but real.
And just like every other time, gun safety comes up followed immediately by calls that now is not the time to talk about guns. We shouldn’t have the discussion because we are too emotional at this time. We need time to heal before making tough decisions. We shouldn’t politicize the grief of the bereaved.
The same refrain follows every mass murdering. So what to do? The NRA solution is more guns – of course. This is the tired good guy with a gun riff. The Walmart in El Paso has several thousand visitors a day so it would be reasonable to assume that there were a few hundred customers and employees present during the recent shooting.
Four percent of Texans have concealed carry permits so that Walmart could have had a dozen or so carrying guns that day. Where were they? Wisely, they were sheltering like any other sane person. To get up and start shooting would put them in jeopardy from the actual bad guy but also from first responders who can’t know the good guy from the bad guy.
It’s way past time for the talk, it’s time for legislation. Neither those with a violent criminal past nor the mentally ill should have access to guns, but loopholes in the law allow that access. It is estimated that one-quarter of all gun transfers occur through private hands where no background check is required. It is illegal to transfer a gun to a felon or one under indictment for a felony unless the seller is unaware. No problem – don’t ask, don’t tell.
That is a loophole worthy of Paul Bunyan’s belt. But it is one that could be easily fixed legislatively. Simply outlaw private gun transfers. If you want to sell a gun, you sell it to a licensed gun dealer. If you want to buy a gun, you buy it from a licensed gun dealer after a background check. If you want to give a gun as a gift, give them a gift card to a licensed gun dealer. See, that wasn’t so hard was it? Is it an inconvenience, yes, but so is maintaining the brakes on your car or attaching your toilet to a sanitary sewage system.
Similarly, licensing, registration, and insurance for guns, like automobiles would be simple and effective in reducing gun violence.
Consider the analogy of handling of prescription drugs. We have through our laws agreed that the distribution of them must be tightly regulated. Just because I have a script for an opiate and therefore can legally possess the same doesn’t mean I can sell them to my neighbor.
There are so many guns out in circulation now that it will take some time to have an impact on the use of guns in violent crimes but it will help. And of course we can’t expect perfection. We can’t expect that all violent crime with guns will stop, but we can expect a reduction.
Dr. Bob Allen is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at Arkansas Tech University.