Friday, February 15, 2008

Firearms & The Common Citizen

It's been a week for shootings, the one on the Illinois campus just yesterday. I wince every time I see something like this happen. Those kids had no chance to defend themselves. None whatsoever.

I have not said too much about firearms on this blog for good reason. It's usually a very hot topic, especially to those who have lost family and friends in that way. I respect those who would prefer that no one owns a gun. Unfortunately, that's not realistic. Despite England's strong anti-gun laws, they still have gun crime. The bad guys don't worry about the rules. England has outlawed knives of a certain length and is now after samurai swords because of a few incidents involving those. Humans will always find way to kill each other, though a AR-15 assault rifle is infinitely more speedy than a knife or a sword.

For those of you who've read my blog for some time, you know I don't particularly trust our government, especially over the last few years. Still, I have submitted to a full FBI background check, been fingerprinted and been granted a concealed carry permit. I'm not tickled the government has all that data, but that's what it takes if I wish to carry a firearm in this manner. Given that I travel alone on occasion, it was a logical choice. (Note, I'm speaking of concealed carry, which means you won't know I have a weapon on me, as compared to open carry, which I won't do. That just spooks people.)

Now, lest you think that means I'm totin' my gun just about anywhere I please, you would be wrong. Not in Georgia.

Let's see -- go into my favorite restaurant? Nope, they serve booze. That takes care of my favorite pub and the coffee house (they serve wine). How about the mall? Nope, not if there's a special event going on like a book signing or Santa meeting the kiddies. Everywhere I go, I have to triple think if I can have my firearm on my person or not. So why not leave it in the car? Great. So if my car gets stolen, they score a really fine handgun in the process. As a wise person put it, the firearm is safest on your person.

State laws vary so much that when I drive across a state line, I have to be aware of what that state allows in terms of possession of a firearm. Can it be within reaching distance in the car or does it have to be moved to the trunk? Can I carry it into the rest area bathroom or not? What if I stop for gas and there's a school across the street? Am I one thousand feet from that school, that church, that Federal building?

The problem with these laws is that the crazies don't care. They don't spend time reading through the mound of Georgia statutes (some 20+ pages worth) I rec'd when I applied for my concealed carry permit. They do not care if they tote their gun into a school, a church or a college campus. All they know there is little risk of someone shooting back.

I don't know if having just one armed individual in a classroom or at a shopping mall might make a difference. I do know that if no one is armed, the slaughter is horrific. I think we should open up the campuses, the public locations to those who have passed the full background checks and are permitted concealed carry. The crazies will still try to kill. At least someone might be able to stop them.

Since I've put my foot in it -- here's my notion on how it all outta work:

1) In addition to the standard background check to purchase a firearm, the purchaser must show proof of having completed a firearms safety course that includes operation of a firearm, legal responsibility for firing that weapon and how to store the weapon safely and securely. The course does not need to be weapon-specific, meaning you don't have to go through these each time you purchase a new gun. Consider this a lot like driver's education. You gotta know the basics.

2) Assault weapons (AR-15, etc) are not for hunting anything but people. These should be confined to the military. I know this will cause a howl amongst those worried about the government seizing our weapons. That is a remote possibility. I think in the short term, assault weapons have no place in our society.

3) If someone has satisfied the requirements for concealed carry, then they should be allowed to carry that firearm anywhere in the the country, no matter the state or the location. Right now there is a jumble of laws that vary from state to state. These need to be ironed out.

4) All public places, malls, etc., should have armed and adequately trained security personnel. The mall in Omaha didn't allow their security staff to have firearms. Unreal. These folks should coordinate with their local law enforcement agencies in test drills to deal with these kinds of events rather than feeling their way through them and making mistakes that cost lives.

And finally, something that is just coming on the horizon: microstamping. I need to do more research into this, but at first blush it looks promising.

That's my firearms spiel. I'm hoping in years to come that we won't have to have this discussion, but knowing human behavior, I suspect we will.


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