Guest Editorial, January 19-22, 2013 |

Guest Editorial, January 19-22, 2013

Steve Lewis, Park City

In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, consider the following pertinent facts about guns in America:

1) With nearly 300 million privately owned guns contributing to more than 25,000 gun-related deaths annually, the U.S. is responsible for 80 percent of the gun deaths in the 23 richest countries combined. That is over 70 every day, and nearly equal to U.S. highway fatalities.

2) Our video games and movies are not more violent, and we do not have more criminals or wacky people, than other economically similar countries.

3) As demonstrated by those who try to take guns onto airplanes, our Second Amendment right to bear arms is not unlimited.

Too many people die from "lead poisoning" in America. So what should we do? Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the Brady Center for Prevention of Gun Violence, and others advocate the following steps:

  • Eliminate public sale and ownership of automatic weapons and high-capacity clips and magazines, including a buy-back, or disabling program for the existing privately held inventory.
  • Require thorough background checks on all gun buyers, with an enhanced national database to facilitate those checks.
  • Reasonable limitation of where and how guns may be carried and used (i.e. near schools, and other public gathering places).
  • Mandatory registration of all guns, which would obligate gun owners to meet safe storage standards, with periodic renewal (as with auto registration), and make the registered owner responsible for documenting background checks and registration of the next owner.
  • Hold the last registered owner legally liable for any criminal use, or negligent damage caused by misuse of their weapons, unless reported stolen.
  • Establish national standards for gun-safety training, including demonstration of competence in use (similar to that required of Utah hunting permit applicants), with higher standards for concealed carry permits.
  • Make unlawful gun trafficking a federal crime, with stiff penalties.

    To reduce gun deaths, restrictions of this type appear to be both essential and, according to recent polls, acceptable to a large majority of Americans, despite strident opposition from the NRA. However, recognizing that gun violence is a multidimensional cultural problem, we should consider adding culturally oriented steps like the following:

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  • Stronger limits on minors viewing violent video games, and giving highly violent movies an "X" or "XV" rating, with similar action toward TV violence.
  • Remove incentive for "blaze of glory" suicides by voluntary adoption of a national media policy not to identify by name anyone accused of mass murder.
  • Institute publicly funded health programs for inpatient treatment and rehabilitation of the dangerous or suicidal mentally ill.
  • A national advertising campaign to raise awareness of gun safety and responsible gun use (in my dreams it would be funded by the NRA and titled "Guns don’t solve problems, people do.")

    The primary right of every citizen is to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." That does not require "taking away our guns." It just needs a reasonable balance between our Second Amendment rights and public safety. Please urge Congress to take prompt, thoughtful, and comprehensive action on the president’s recommendations.

    After decades of concerted effort to make American automobile travel safer, despite a huge increase in travelers and miles driven, highway deaths are at their lowest level in more than a generation, without taking away anyone’s cars. We can do that for gun violence too.

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