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A compromise on gun control

January 18, 2013

 

As a grandfather still grieving over the devastating loss of 80 peoples’ grandkids, I have spent a lot of time in the recent weeks, processing what can really be done to stop these catastrophes. As with all the major problems facing our country, to really be effective, we need an “all of the above” approach.

Guns: As a 46-year member of the National Rifle Association, I have called on its leadership to concede to a limitation of 10 round magazines, such as we have had here in California since 1994. While it probably doesn’t make us significantly safer than anywhere else, it certainly hasn’t done us any harm, and is a reasonable compromise between individual liberty and public safety.

While we are looking at common sense limitations to the Second Amendment, we need to do the same for the Fourth and First, as well.

The Fourth Amendment: the killers at Va. Tech, Tucson, and the Aurora theater were seen by mental health professionals who were concerned about them, but were blocked from communicating that concern to law enforcement because of patient privacy laws.

Mental health providers should be required to notify authorities about risky patients, just as they are in cases of suspected child abuse.  Just as applying for a driver’s license includes consent to DUI testing, applying for a gun purchase should express consent to release mental health information to screening authorities. 

The First Amendment: the most glaring common denominator among suicide shooters, starting with Columbine, is their intense involvement with violent video games. The madman in Newtown had a special room in his home, decorated and dedicated to his ultra-violent games. Anyone willing to touch this one for public safety?

Licenses: Just as we have standardized driver’s licenses nationwide, I propose standardized gun owner licenses. Level 1 would be available to every non-prohibited citizen; requiring a background check (including mental health history) and safety training, such as is presently required in every state to get a hunting license. This level would cover hunting, target shooting and home defense.

Level 2 would be for concealed carry and involve substantial further training and secondary screening by local authorities, which would be paid for by the licensee. Gun and ammunition sales would be allowed only to, and between, license holders, thus eliminating any problem with gun shows, or other private transfers. I’m sure that most, if not all gun owners would be glad to have a “certified good guy” card in their wallet, that would be genuinely effective in reducing guns in bad hands.

The culture: Starting in the 1970s, we shifted to a culture of cowardice. We began to coin the phrases “don’t get involved,” “leave it to the professionals,” “don’t try to be a hero,” and “just call 911.”

Valor became something to be demonstrated only by military, law enforcement, and firefighters. The term “hero” has been watered down by the media to refer to a kid who raises money for a heartwarming cause or someone who rescues an injured animal.

When they are forced to report about a real hero (defined as someone who risks their own safety for others) such as when a citizen comes to the aid of a police officer in trouble, or stops a felony in progress, it is always prefaced with “we don’t recommend that you do this, but...”

Selfless acts of valor should be recognized, honored, and encouraged. Real citizen heroes should be the ones honored at the White House, not athletes and entertainers like the recent Korean “musician,” famous for his obscene and violent anti-American rants.

When Columbine happened, I had two sons at Mammoth High and we talked about what they would do in such a scenario. I told them to pick up a chair or whatever they could, and blitz the threat, as it is far better to take one in the front, trying to save others, than to take one in the back, fleeing or cowering. 

I think it’s a national disgrace that someone is able to shoot 70 people in a theater, pausing multiple times to reload, without being pounced by the dozens of able bodied men present. We should regain the sense of our earlier days, that homeland security is every citizen’s duty, and be prepared to react instantly to public threats.

How many fewer victims would there be if we had such a national mindset? I thought our collective psyche would have changed after 9/11, and Flight 93, but it hasn’t fully yet.

Sadly, the heroic actions of the staff at Sandy Hook Elementary could not stop a diabolically evil individual, but the story of their courageous actions should be forever honored and learned from.

There is no single, simple solution to the terrible epidemic of violence we’re experiencing, but “all of the above” could make a significant difference.

Phil Higerd

Mammoth Lakes

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