To the Editor:
I was very intrigued by the letter on "Doing the Right Thing on Guns" [Connection, January 16-22, 2013], advocating allowing Americans to self-regulate gun ownership and usage. The writer asserts "we know what's best for ourselves and our country," and since "gun ownership runs in our blood,” the government should "stop trying to control the American people." As a former avid hunter (until I went overseas with the US Foreign Service), and a US Army National Guardsman in both combat engineering and infantry, I fully support the right of Americans to own guns and to use them responsibly, but this position hardly makes me feel comfortable—or even safe.
Carried to its logical conclusion, this means we should trust Americans to know what is best for our country in every aspect of our lives. Why then do we need police to enforce traffic and other laws? Or the IRS to collect taxes, or restaurants to meet sanitary and food hygiene standards? Why not simply trust companies to decide if drugs or medical
equipment are safe for us? This list is endless. I agree most
Americans can be trusted to use guns responsibly, but we have seen too many examples of people and companies perfectly willing to flout that trust out of self-interest, or from ignorance, greed or mental incapacity. This trust argument simply cannot stand up to any critical assessment.
We do not just allow anyone to drive without a license, and without proving competence in both written and practical exams. No drug can be marketed without proper FDA testing and approval, and we abhor the dire consequences of the failure to properly monitor food supply here and around the world. Why then the absolute refusal to control the ability of anyone to buy and own firearms when we have seen over and over the capability of mass killings by guns in the wrong hands?
Any responsible hunter, gun collector or other gun advocate could hardly resist imposing the same kind of licensing regimen that we use in every other aspect of our lives. I cannot hunt or drive or start a business without a license, yet I can buy any weapon without any similar control. A background check will not stop law-abiding citizens from acquiring guns, but it may stop some lunatic criminal from killing innocent people.
I own several guns, and understand the feeling of additional security they can provide. I also enjoy target shooting, and pray my back problems will abate sufficiently to allow me to hunt once again. I do not want to see that impeded. But having carried an M-16 for so many years, I also know the effects of high velocity assault weapons, and as a hunter, I also know that only a hopeless amateur would ever think of
taking down a deer or other game with a weapon and ammunition that will tear apart its body.
Entrusting all citizens to use guns responsibly sounds nice, but in reality is unworkable. I do not want to risk having my family in a school or cinema or anywhere else they can be the target of a mentally unbalanced individual with a military arsenal. Anyone who wants to own a weapon that can pose such a significant danger to so many fellow citizens ought to be willing to undergo a very stringent background check to ensure we minimize risk to everyone. And while the writer's
Nazi and Communist analogies are an excellent fear-mongering tactic, it is hardly likely in the USA, or even relevant to this debate. It should not impede us taking measured and reasonable steps to ensure our Second
Amendment rights without risking the most fundamental right of all allow—the right to live without risk of random mayhem and murder.