I like guns, but I wouldn’t classify myself as a “gun nut” by any stretch of the imagination.
I don’t hunt, but my family does have a couple pistols we take to the range every once in a while to shoot at targets. My favorite belonged to my grandfather, a 1950s Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum that kicks like a mule and sounds like a cannon. It took me a while to get the hang of shooting this gun because of the power behind it.
I never took a gun safety class and wasn’t required to at the time my family brought me to the range for the first time. My family members taught me how to handle the .357, but whenever I’m shooting downrange with flames spurting out the vents on the gun barrel, I can’t help but think that I should be required to have a certification.
A study estimated that the number of firearm-related deaths in the United States will surpass the number of vehicle-related deaths by 2015.
I think this statistic is alarming. More importantly, I think it’s preventable, or could at least be slowed down. Neither guns nor cars can kill by themselves; they each require people to operate them, so the issue can often lie with the operators.
As time goes by, cars have become increasingly safer, and the requirements to operate them have become standard practice. Since 1998, all new models are required to have front airbags, and laws have been passed requiring the use of seat belts. We have laws for driving under the influence as well as being negligently distracted by other devices. Following that, everyone wishing to drive a car must get a driver’s license, passing required tests that prove you know how to operate a motor vehicle.
Guns are a different story. While guns do have safety measures, they haven’t progressed much past the trigger safety. Furthermore, we have no adult requirements for general licenses or certifications proving knowledge of operation and maintenance of a firearm. This doesn’t sit well with me. I think everyone who buys and owns firearms should have a “firearm license” proving they have had basic training on its operation.
The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
We have a right to our guns, but the sentence begins with “well regulated.” Right now, we have no regulation beyond a simple background check that can be avoided by buying through auctions and gun shows. If we demand that our Second Amendment right not be infringed upon, then we need to uphold the entirety of the text.
I would be happy with a very well-rounded and familiarizing course for obtaining a license. Allowing the basic training of rifles, shotguns and pistols could mean less mistakes from people using firearms they are not accustomed to. Training on maintenance and proper storage could lower the rate of malfunctions and children acquiring firearms accidentally. Maybe instructors could even touch on basic safety precautions for hunting—God knows Dick Cheney could’ve used that. I’m not an expert on what would need to be in the course, but these points seem pretty obvious.
I think this could be a nice middle ground between the anti-gun lobbyists and the NRA. A firearm license could limit the ability for those not responsible or stable enough to obtain guns, but for right now, I’m not really interested at taking a swing at the whole “gun violence” issue. It’s too messy and heated. Baby steps and compromises are the real path to progress.
If a required license means a parent learns how to properly store a gun, and as a result, one less kid accidentally shoots himself or herself, I’ll be happy. Also, maybe Plaxico Burress could have avoided the embarrassment of a self-inflicted gunshot wound and jail time if he had learned sweatpants are not the ideal holster. Regardless, through education we can make a big dent in the amount of accidental and negligent deaths and injuries that happen in America with firearms.
We have a right to guns, but just as important, we have a right to safety.
Alex Goering can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.