Sensible Gun Legislation: Does Such a Thing Exist?
In today’s day and age, there isn’t a more hot button topic than gun control. I know what you are thinking. “You guys are a firearms training company. Of course you are in favor of everyone having guns!” But just for a moment, let’s take an OBJECTIVE (i.e. not political) look at some of the current issues when addressing this topic. Some things that must be taken into consideration:
New Gun Sales
2020 broke just about every gun sale record ever. And it wasn’t just firearm enthusiasts buying them. Purchases by first time gun owners set an all time high. According to the National Sports Shooting Federation, 2020 brought us almost 5 million first time firearm owners. In Michigan, NICS checks were conducted on over 1 million firearm purchases according to FBI. That’s more than double what it was in 2019. Trying to find ammunition? Well…best of luck to you. What this all equates to is there are a lot folks, who own a lot guns, and do not have a lot of experience or training with them.
The COVID Pandemic
There isn’t a single segment of our society that has not been affected by COVID in the past year. Consider people who are stuck in abusive, shitty living environments that have been forced to stay in those environments with little to no alternative. In talking to some of our law enforcement friends, they have confirmed cases of domestic violence have increased. The same can be said for mental illness. Take away someone’s ability to receive treatment or interact with folks is detrimental to anyone who needs help with their mental health. All the research supports this. An increase in cases of suicide and depression has occurred since March of 2020, largely due to the lack of interaction with other people and normal functions. And we are not even mentioning all the folks who lost their home / business / primary source of income for a multitude of different reasons associated with the pandemic.
Mass Casualty Incidents (MCI)
In the past two weeks the country has been witness to MCIs in Atlanta (GA) and Boulder (CO). Eighteen people lost their lives in those two incidents. And although these investigations are ongoing and most information is preliminary, the weapons of choice of the shooters appear to be a semi-automatic pistol and an AR-15 variant pistol. Anytime we experience one of these incidents, the same issues arise: background checks, mental illness, magazine capacity, weapons of war, etc. Turn on any major news network and you will hear these arguments verbatim. And although every year more people are killed by knives, fists and drunk drivers than with AR-15s, we have to collectively acknowledge the exposure these types of events receive. After all and regardless of your agenda, never let a crisis go to waste, right?
Decrease in Police Resources
Notice we didn’t use the other “D” word, because defunding the police is a topic for another day. But here is what we know: whether it’s not enough cops on the road, not enough funds to properly train them or too many good cops leaving the profession, like the old adage goes, “When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.” There is a movement in our society reference self-preservation. About being able to keep you and your loved ones safe. And that’s a good thing. In many communities, people are facing up to the fact they cannot always count on the police to respond in time to prevent a tragedy. But without a specific standard or baseline for folks to carry firearms responsibly, there is the potential for problems. Yes, I know. It is your constitutional right to bear arms and protect yourself. We 100% support that. It is also my right not to get accidently shot by you because you don’t know what the hell you are doing, you never practice and you shot (and missed) at the guy stealing a cordless drill from the hardware store. Just saying.
It’s the perfect storm, so-to-speak. But where do we go from here? Although not conclusive by any means, here’s a start:
Increased resources dedicated to mental illness.
There are commonalities in all MCIs: lots of people, most likely unarmed and located in a confined space. But the mental health of the shooter, or lack thereof, is almost always a factor. And this is clearly the case in the two most recent ones we spoke about. We need to have strict, objective mechanisms in place to ensure those with mental illness do not possess firearms. Get rid of the loopholes. And don’t talk to me about HIPPA. If I am your brother and you talk about shooting up your workplace and you are looking to go buy a gun, give me a tool to report that so you can’t walk into the local sporting goods store and buy one. But to add to that, let’s ensure we are treating people with mental illness. Give them access to all the tools and resources they need to be successful. How about we take a small fraction of the BILLIONS of dollars we are giving to other countries and dedicate to treating the mentally ill here at home. Seems like a novel concept.
Mandated / Ongoing training to carry a firearm in public.
I know some states have constitutional carry. No license, no class, just go ahead and carry your firearm. Some states, like Michigan, require an 8-hour course, which includes written exam, live fire proficiency and a legal segment. Other sates fall somewhere in between. It’s all over the place. And why is it when you have to renew your driver’s license every few years you have to go into the Secretary of State so they can test you and check your vision. But, want to renew your concealed pistol license? Just check this box on this form and you are good to go. See you in 4-5 years.
It hit me today when I listened to a podcast and the guest was a firearm trainer in Arizona. She emphasized the fact that in Arizona citizens have the ability to carry a firearm to protect themselves. But cross an imaginary line to a neighboring state, those folks don’t have that right. It is very difficult to obtain the ability to carry a firearm. So they don’t have that tool in the toolbox. I know it’s a lot to ask. But can we at least consider a national standard? Can we start to talk about, “Hey if you want to carry a firearm in public, we have to make sure you can hit the broad side of a barn every few years.” You have some God-given rights. Freedom of speech. Worship who you please. And you should have the ability to protect yourself and your loved ones SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO DO SO. Owning and carrying a firearm is not for everyone. But it should at least be an option if you check the appropriate boxes.
Enforce the firearm laws we currently have in place.
There are literally hundreds of firearm laws on the books. But we hear it all the time. Cases dismissed. Plea deals. Early release. So before we come up with new firearm laws, why don’t we give this a whirl: let’s starting actually using and enforcing the ones we already have. Who knows the places we may go! Making it harder for me to own or possess a firearm because of the actions of a mentally ill person on the other side of the country is like taking away my car because someone got arrested for drunk driving in Ohio. It makes no sense. We have laws on the books. Let’s use them. And if you commit a crime with a firearm, no pleas, no deals. Do your time. Make the risk not worth the reward.
The catalyst for this piece was the potential for executive action reference firearm ownership. But when talking out loud about the topic with other folks, all of the things mentioned above were consistent themes. So it made me think, are these consistent themes in other conversations other folks are having? If they are, well, maybe there is some common ground to work towards a common goal: safe, responsible gun ownership.
Until next time…
Keene Training and Consulting LLC