Apply safety regulations to guns, like we do to vehicles

Published 7:04 pm Thursday, May 9, 2019


Contributing columnist

“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.”

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— Amendment 2, U.S. Constitution

I started this column last week right after the Poway synagogue shooting. I put it away to address racism. That column wrote itself because all racism is bad and all racists are bad. Easy peasy. But guns in America? That’s a more difficult subject.

On Tuesday, May 7, an innocent 18-year-old was killed and eight other innocents were wounded by two classmates who opened fire at a school in Colorado. Watching those 10-year old babies with their hands on their heads and crying from the trauma was heartbreaking.

When I was a full-time teacher, it never occured to me that a student might bring a weapon to school and start killing other students. Now when I substitute teach, I make sure I look at the room so I can know where the safest place could be if the school was put on lockdown.

Of course, last week, 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye was killed when she put herself between an avowed white supremacist and her rabbi. The last thing she heard before she died was anti-semitic hate. She was an innocent. Riley Howell was shot three times trying to stop the UNC-Charlotte killer. Riley was 21 years old. Before he charged a shooter, 19-year old Ellis Reed was killed and four other innocents were wounded.

According to an October 2018 BBC article titled “America’s Gun Culture in 10 Charts,” the rate of murder or manslaughter by gun in America is the highest in the developed world. America also has the highest level of gun ownership — 120 guns per 100 people, far exceeding the second highest country, Yemen, which has approximately 50 guns per 100 people.

I was in a local restaurant recently and saw a man with a handgun strapped to his hip. In Kentucky, it’s lawful to open carry without a license. Kentucky law does not require handguns to be registered, nor are there background checks on sales between private individuals.

Seeing the gun on the man’s hip created a long list of questions for me: Was the gun loaded? Did the man have any training on the safe use of that gun? Why did he feel compelled to wear a gun? Did he anticipate using it at some point during the day, maybe in the restaurant? If he pulled the gun to use it, would I be safe or dead? He clearly did not use it in my presence, but it doesn’t make me feel any safer knowing any random person can purchase a gun and carry it with no training.

Why aren’t guns regulated like vehicles? The Second Amendment states “A well-regulated militia…” so let’s regulate them well, as with vehicles. Require all guns to be registered and insured. Require education, training and testing, just as with getting a driver’s license. The more firepower, the more education, training and testing.

I can drive my vehicle legally because I have followed all of the required steps to do so. I can’t drive an 18-wheeler with my current license, nor can I fly a plane with my driver’s license. Why do we allow anyone and everyone to own weapons with little to no requirements as to ownership or responsibility?

Why not tighten up our gun laws? Why not have a “well regulated militia” as stated in the Second Amendment? Why is this part of the amendment not as readily quoted as “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed?” Does the well regulated militia refer to governmental organizations like the national guard or does it mean the general populace should be well regulated?

The bottom line for me is that we the people should be safe to gather in our places of worship, at concerts, go to movies, and to school without worrying if someone if going to murder us for being in the right place at the wrong time.

The article I mentioned earlier from the BBC shows that in 2016, of the 33,594 people who were killed by a gun, 22,938 were suicides, and 14,415 were homicides. Of those homicides, only 71 were a result of mass murder. But those 71 innocent people were doing nothing but attending school, having a night out at a club, shopping at a mall and being police officers in Dallas, to name a few.

Gun owners are like doctors, police, teachers and many other collective groups in our country — the vast majority take their responsibilities seriously. We have no need to fear most of the individuals in these groups. Sadly, we don’t know who the dangerous ones are until after a tragedy. How many more innocents must die before we take action?

G. Elaine Wilson-Reddy, JD, is a professional educator, consultant and advocate. She lives in Danville.