FLORIDA, December 15, 2012 — On July 20, 2012, doctoral student James E. Holmes stepped into a crowded movie theater in Aurora and unleashed carnage on such a level that few of us can comprehend. Seventy-one people were shot, and 12 died.
On December 1, pro football player Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend and then himself, leaving the nation wondering how such a thing could have happened. Sports anchor Bob Costas said a few words about gun control, but these were soon drowned out by the cries of firearms enthusiasts.
Last Tuesday, a young man named Jacob Tyler Roberts embarked on a shooting spree inside of a mall in the Portland, Oregon suburb of Happy Valley. He killed two people and injured one before taking his own life.
These shootings were shocking enough, but yesterday’s tragedy will surely stun the world for years to come. A twenty-year-old man not only murdered his mother, but also twenty-six other people.
Unlike most shootings, though, this was largely carried out at an elementary school. Most of the victims were children between the ages of six and eight.
After the Holmes massacre, I suggested a plan of my own for keeping guns away from violent criminals. Looking back, though, it is clear that this applies to virtually all individuals who are likely to use firearms for purposes of mass murder.
The plan was originally devised following the Jared Loughner carnage nearly two years ago. A large segment of the American population would strongly disagree with the proposals in this plan out of fear that the government will do the unthinkable – confiscate legally owned weapons. This concern is not entirely unfounded, as many left-wing officeholders and activists have floated the idea.
Door-to-door roundups of firearms would be an assault of horrific proportions on the most basic freedoms which we as Americans enjoy. However, reality dictates the need for enhanced gun safety measures. Should the scenario ever unfold that scores of libertarians and even a few self-styled conservatives dream of – one in which obtaining a firearm would be conceivably as easy as purchasing a pack of batteries – bedlam would undoubtedly erupt.
This leaves us with a most difficult question: How can guns remain readily available to those willing to purchase them while we ensure that they are not falling into the hands of madmen-on-the-brink?
I believe that the answer is a government mandate subjecting any individual wishing to buy a firearm to a thirty day waiting period before his or her weapon can be taken home.
During this time, local authorities could utilize federal, state, and – of course – their own resources to conduct an extremely thorough background check on the purchaser in question.
Should he or she show no disqualifications for owning a gun – such as a history of severe mental illness, relevant criminal record, or lack of proper credentials – pickup could be arranged at the purchaser’s nearest police precinct after registration.
In the event that he or she fails to meet eligibility standards, one of two things might happen following a series of rigorous psychiatric evaluations over a sixty day period. Essentially, the purchaser would be reconsidered for ownership or denied with no possibility of a refund from the store in which the firearm was bought.
Some will see this as an undue burden on potential gun owners, but it would be from my point of view a change for the better in our society. People in true need of a firearm would not be barred from purchasing one, and those seeking to buy weapons for dubious purposes would effectively be prevented from doing so.
The realities of our changing times demand new approaches to old problems. Failing to realize this will only harm us all in the long run.
Guns are now, have been, and always will be an essential component to the culture of the United States. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. However, we must ensure that only decent people are afforded the privilege of owning something with the destructive capacity of a firearm.
Anything less would be sheer barbarism, as Jared Loughner, James E. Holmes, Jovan Belcher, Jacob Tyler Roberts, Adam Lanza, and countless others have so horrifically demonstrated.
Much of this article was first published as A Shot in the Dark; Finding the Right Solution for Firearms Safety on Blogcritics.org
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