Monday, January 10, 2011


I was going to write about my kitchen but the events of the weekend struck a nerve and the thoughts I have about one topic rose to the surface and won't leave. I have decided to address them, putting them out into the Internet, knowing that I could get misquoted like so many people who wind up in the pages of

I tend to shy away from controversy. There are things I'll take a stand on and things that I feel are my business and mine alone. Whether you agree with my viewpoint or disagree with it, all I ask is that you respect that it is my viewpoint, formed from my years of watching, reading, studying issues and talking to people. I respect your opinion, whether I agree with it or not.

The horrific events of this past weekend have me wondering when or if we will ever come to a sane regulation of guns. I don't believe, right now, there can be any sane, calm discussion of this issue. It has become so polarized that anyone wandering into the debate cannot stand in the middle without being pilloried by both sides. You either want access to any type of gun or you want them all banned. There can be no middle ground. It's part of a larger problem that we have lost, as a nation, our ability to engage each other in meaningful conversation. We have lost the ability to compromise. We have lost the ability to work together on issues, any issues.

What I don't understand is why we can't regulate guns as we regulate driving and alcohol. You cannot drive a car before age 14 and then, only with parental supervision. You cannot drive by yourself until you are 16. In Illinois, you are restricted further, until you are 18, in how many of your friends you can pile into a car and drive to the movies. You must have insurance. Your car must have its emissions checked. We have laws restricting who and when and where for operating motorized vehicles.

You can't legally drink until you are age 21. Most restaurants serving liquor will ask for an ID if they even think you're too young or they just card everyone. You are not allowed to drink and drive. In Illinois, you cannot have an open container of alcohol in your car. You cannot be publicly drunk. We have laws restricting who and when and where for alcohol.

Yes, we have laws on guns. Yes, they are restrictive. There will be cries about restricting access even further after this weekend. But I am of the opinion they are not the right laws. I do not believe banning guns will remove them from access. The Daily Herald published a series which originated in The Washington Post about guns. If you have not read this, you should. I would vote for it for a Pulitzer Prize. What you should read if you don't want to read the whole series is the article about the guns used to kill Indiana State Trooper Scott Patrick and Philadelphia officer Patrick McDonald.

What I would advocate is a system where there are no sales at gun shows. All sales have to be at a brick and mortar shop. You can show your wares at gun shows, take orders, but no goods are transferred at a show. All gun shows must have safety training seminars.

I think certain types of guns can be allowed below age 18. This would allow fathers to teach their children to hunt. There is no reason a 14 year-old needs to have a permit for a hand gun.

All gun owners should have to go through a certified training session. When they have passed the session, and they have to do it once a year, they get a certificate they take to the gun shop to show they know how to handle a gun.

Once they have their gun, it must be registered with the local police department. It must have a safety which is kept on whenever the gun is not in use. It must be kept in a locked cabinet that has 2 keys, one for the police and one for the gun owner. Every year, the gun must be taken to the police department. Every year, you must take your firearms class. Your permit to own a firearm must be easily accessible in your home. We need a nationwide computer database of all registered firearms, where it was made and when, where it was purchased and when, by whom and where do they live.

I am also of the opinion that allowing concealed handguns is not a good thing. If someone wants your money or your watch or your car, they are going to attempt to take it, whether you have a weapon or not. I think the public danger is greater with concealed weapons going off than it is with them being used against someone hellbent on parting you from your wallet.

I also think some guns should just be banned, period. You cannot buy a tank and drive it down the Interstate. Why should you be allowed to own a semi-automatic weapon? It's not a hunting weapon. "But I collect weapons!" If we allow those kinds of weapons to be purchased, then make them non-firing. You have to take it to the police and show them that the gun cannot be fired. Then you could get a special permit, such as the special licenses we have for antique cars.

What about reenactors? As with antique cars, I think they should get a special permit to have their guns. From the little I know about reenacting, those weapons are designed to fire powder charges, to make noise and smoke and not actually shoot ammunition. Perhaps they could, but that's not what they are designed to do. You take the gun to the police, show them that it's a reenacting weapon and get a special permit to have it.

Yes, there would be fees for all of these permits and those fees would cover the costs of maintaining data bases and issuing permits and inspecting weapons. But I see this permit as similar to any other licenses you need to do certain things.

I don't see my ideas as restricting access to guns. The law abiding citizen who wants a gun can still get it utilizing all the hoops. They prove they are of legal age. They prove they are sane and not a felon. They take a gun ownership class. They wait 5 days for a background check or whatever is the current wait time. They keep it locked and with the safety on. They register it with their local police, county police if they live outside of a city, village or town. They can't have a handgun until they are 18, but they can learn to use a hunting rifle under the supervision of a parent. To me, this seems a sane way of regulating what is proving to be more deadly than automobiles.

There will always be ways around this. The article about the two officers killed by handguns mentions "straw purchasers". That is someone who buys a gun for someone who can't legally own it. This kind of transaction has been going on for hundreds of years. In high school, someone knew someone who would buy alcohol legally for those who couldn't. I knew some parents who did it. "Well, they are going to drink anyway. I might as well keep them in my house if they are going to do it." You also knew who would buy cigarettes for you when you weren't legally able to. You can't stop that. Even levying heavy fines on those who make the straw purchase won't stop those determined to get what they legally can't.

The ideas I have about controlling guns won't stop someone determined to use a gun to commit a crime or take a life. We can have all this in place, be able to track any gun anywhere and if Joe wants to off Paul for some reason, Joe will do it. He may not care about the consequences as we have seen with some people. Shooters, such as the Tuscon man, feel they have no recourse in their lives other than the use of a gun, to kill someone, to get attention, to right what they feel is a wrong. We either get paranoid that anyone can "go off" and start shooting, or we can set up decent, sane laws that allow people to own guns but also allow us to know where they are and that they are in the hands of people who know how to use them.

But that means sane, calm discourse and discussion. That involves compromise. That involves listening to people, caring about their point of view, even if you disagree with it. Unfortunately, we have, in this country, lost that ability to communicate.

Beverage:  Blackberry Sage tea


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