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American Tragedy

by Lynton L. Hanson

People using guns, and the deaths and maiming they cause each day in the United States, is out of control, and a national tragedy. Guns cause death: that is what they are designed to do. Aim a gun, pull the trigger, and it is expected that the result is death. The fact that many guns are used to shoot at paper targets and clay disks does not change the fact that guns are designed to kill. Thousands of people are killed by guns in this country every year.

There are an estimated 240 million guns in the United States. That is approximately one gun per person. That number is increasing by five to seven million a year, and so is the number of our horribly wounded and dead citizens.

The second amendment says: ‘A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’ If the reason disappears, the right remains. The words ‘well regulated Militia’ becomes a moot argument as a cause to bring common sense to gun ownership.


The second amendment found its way into our Constitution, as it was being written in the 18th century, as a compromise between the Federalist and the Anti-Federalist movements. The Federalists believed in a strong central government, with a standing, professional army for defense. The Anti-federalists believed in the Jefferson model; an agrarian society of farmers, where our national defense was based on the citizen soldier.


The Anti-Federalists demanded a Constitutional amendment allowing all citizens to own guns. They formulated the second clause, ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’ The Federalists, Washington and Madison, understood that an armed population was no substitute for a professional army and so added the phrase, ‘A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State’.


T
he second amendment is ambiguous, and presents contradictory phrasing. It's the lynch pin with which gun interests have stymied progress of common sense law and created the tragedy we have today.

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The English equivalent of the American second amendment is more to the point. The English Bill of Rights specifies that subjects ‘may have arms for their defense suitable to their conditions, and allowed by law.’ Calculate the number of lives and grief that could have been avoided in this country if the framers of our Constitution had used the English version as the model for our second amendment.

Gun sense can not be instituted by Constitutional amendment. The majority is not in charge. Two out of every three Americans favor stricter gun control. However, in order to revise the constitution by amendment a favorable vote of two thirds in the House of Representatives, and a two-thirds vote in the Senate is required. But that's not all.

Then, a favorable vote for the amendment by three quarters of the states is necessary. As few as thirteen states, voting nay, would block its passage. It's not hard to imagine which thirteen states would stop a gun amendment. As little as four and one-half percent of the population would block passage. Understanding that gun sense can not be obtained by Constitutional amendment, legislation is the only recourse.

T
he second amendment stipulates that all citizens can own guns, but we are not bound by the Constitution to put guns into the hands of those who would abuse the right. We can stop criminals, the mentally ill, children, or those who are just unfit or just plain incompetent from owning guns.

There are two reasons why a person gets shot. The first, by accident and the second on purpose. There are three general categories of gun misuse. Criminals using guns. Incompetent citizens using guns. Children using guns because of incompetent citizens owning guns.

I
ts true that there are plenty of laws directed at criminals using guns. Besides jail time, its against the law for a person convicted of a felony, after his release from prison, to own a gun. This is a limitation of constitutional right to own a gun. That's common sense. It's illegal for children to own a gun, more common sense. But it's not against the law for incompetent citizens to own guns, and that is our collective failure.



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American Tragedy

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Common sense propositions abound. If you accept that guns don't kill people, people do’, then people must be held accountable, and they must know this before owning a gun. People who are shot and killed by firearms have no recourse in our courts - they are dead. Saying, I'm sorry, while mitigating a jail sentence, rings hollow to those left to grieve their loss.

Let us get serious about gun safety by ‘exclusive use’. Existing technology applied to gun design could be a prime method of reducing death by firearms. We could build ‘Keys’ into every gun.

A gun Key would be an electronic-mechanical device that would arm a gun when on and disarm a gun when off. A gun owner would enter the ‘Key’, a series of alpha/numerical characters, to arm a gun and select a single ‘key’ character to disarm the gun. The gun would remained armed, unattended for a specific time, and then automatically return to the disarmed mode.

For every gun sold, only the owner would know the ‘Key’. The ‘Key’ would be changed on transfer of the gun, and could only be changed by a registered authority. Removing or any attempt at replacing a gun ‘Key’ would render the firearm un-operable, and preferably damaged beyond repair.

This is not rocket science. The ‘Key’ could be designed, manufactured, and placed on all new guns offered for sale within a short time. Lets not kid ourselves, the gun is the nexus of the problem, and common sense gun design can go a long way in solving the problem.

An active program of removing guns without a ‘Key’ could be developed. Citizens would be encouraged to turn in guns without ‘Keys’, replacing them with modern guns. It may seem an insurmountable task because of the number of guns in our society, but we must start now, no matter how long it will take.

A
citizen would be required to demonstrate the ability, and accept the responsibility and liabilities of gun ownership. Ask any gun owner when lethal force can be used. A shrug of the shoulders, blank stares, a mumbled and honest ‘I don't know’, are typical reactions. Those who own a gun for protection can't say when its legal to use lethal force. If you can't answer that question, then you shouldn't be allowed a gun.

Every gun owner would require a license. There would be tough gun courses taught by professionals, and no one would be allowed ownership without a passing grade. Retesting for the license, in a reasonable time limit, would be mandatory.

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Liabilities would include fines and criminal prosecution. If you don't live up to the responsibilities of gun ownership you would be liable under the law for your guns misuse, by you and others. If your gun is used in a felony by a second party due to your negligence the right to own a gun would be withdrawn, and you will answer for your negligence in court. Penalties should be universal in all states.

All guns should have a title. Guns must be traceable to the owner of record. Those who investigate crime could solve more homicides if all guns could be traced back to their owners. Just as cars, a gun title would expire when a gun is sold. Guns could not be transferred to a new owner until a new title is issued. If a person no longer wants to own a gun, and not sell it, a gun could be turned into authorities and the title would be canceled.

Hand guns that are designed to be concealed, with barrels of five inches or less in length, should only be allowed by permit. The permit is given on reason why the handgun must be concealed. When the permit expires, so does the right to own that gun. These guns are typically referred to as belly guns, because even the best shooter can't hit what he's aiming at over twenty feet. You have to push it into the belly of whom you want to shoot and pull the trigger.


With the NRA’s political clout, and Congressional Republicans determining the agenda, its not likely that any reasonable gun legislation will be enacted. After the Columbine tragedy and others, it became apparent that the House Republicans were either in denial, or unaccountably influenced by the gun lobby. They choose not to link the killing with guns. Most people accept that the fifteen fatalities at Columbine were due to gun shot trauma, and not that the offenders couldn't recite a prayer.


Representative Henry Hide, Republican from Illinois, put the blame on the entertainment business. He added to a House crime bill, then working its way through Congress, ‘making the selling of overtly violent or sexual material to a minor a felony with mandatory jail terms’. We might ask, who would decide what is ‘overtly violent or sexual’, and while many could support this legislation, it has nothing to do with common sense gun law.






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Fortunately, 127 House members of his own party voted against his amendment. They refused not to defend the second amendment by trampling on the first amendment. Henry's reply was, ‘People were mislead and disinclined to oppose the powerful entertainment industry.’ I suppose he had forgotten those who are mislead and disinclined to oppose NRA, (National Rifle Association).


T
om Delay, a Republican from Texas, after much rhetoric on the House floor, telling us what has gone wrong in American, did not once mention guns. He was able to add an amendment to the crime bill , ‘to allow the display of the Ten Commandants in public schools’.

Where is Tom's mind at? Could he oppose the fact that there are to many guns in this country, and that they are easily available to undesirable elements, innocent and criminal, and that guns in the wrong hands kill and do irreparable harm.

The next day a measure to eliminate the Senate's proposed waiting time of purchases at gun shows failed in the House. Again, elected officials would have us believe that guns aren't the problem. ‘It is, that we as a nation, have forgotten the importance of family values and have expelled God from the public sphere.’ If we could just get our children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and say a prayer in our schools each day the problem would be solved, and gun legislation would not be necessary. It would be safe to continue to allow guns to be placed in the hands of criminals, children, and the incompetent.

Y
ou can get in touch with your Senator, House Member, and State legislator and find out what is their stand on common sense gun control. Find out if they are taking campaign contributions from the NRA and other gun lobbies. If they don't have or support a common sense plan to reduce gun violence, then support the candidate that has.

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The apathy of the honest gun owner is monumental. Tragedy will not knock on their door. It only happens to others. But after the door is opened it can't be shut. The NRA says that the government wants to abridge our rights under the second amendment and take our guns away.

The same NRA that argued for the sale to the public of teflon coated bullets. These bullets are designed to penetrate bullet proof vests. Common sense tells us that until deer begin to wear steel jackets the only reason to use this ammunition would be to kill a policeman. Where is the outrage at such ignorance?

We can't create a utopian society where violence does not exist, nor would we wish to create a Orwellian society of big brother watching our every move. But the killing must stop. Like it or not, the second amendment says, almost demands, that we own guns.

There will be a time in the future when a majority of citizens will not feel it necessary to own a gun. At that time, it will no longer be necessary for our police to carry guns. But now we are mired in a bloody gun society. What we must do is find common ground and use common sense to prevent the misuse of guns.

Death by gun is an American tragedy, and our national shame. Americans take pride in their freedom, but no one is free in this country from the threat of gun violence. We live with it every day. Common sense demands that we unite, rid ourselves of unwanted guns in our neighborhoods, towns, and cities, and stop the flow of blood on our streets.


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