Mass shootings encourage vigils and calls for Congress to “do something.” But with. 300 million firearms in circulation, 100 million reportedly illegally owned, it’s far from obvious what to do.

Our annual violent firearm casualty toll of about 12,000 hasn’t encouraged similar calls to “do something.” Some suggest that dreadful annual toll is just the “cost of freedom” to carry guns — similar to 30,000 deaths accompanying nearly 300 million automobiles. Some suggest registering gun owners just as we do auto owners is a step in the right direction. Mandatory gun registration is commonly observed in developed nations.

Critics argue gun ownership is the ultimate protector of American’s freedom.

High on the list of “doing something” are background checks for new purchases. But how to enforce that when many firearms are informally exchanged isn’t clear. And even if brought into law, the existing 300 million in circulation would largely be exempt. And large numbers of weapons would continue to be sold informally. Especially those readily brought over our porous southern border.

Some claim if we’re going to make real progress on America’s high number of gun fatalities we ought seriously discuss how to reduce 300 million in circulation to something approaching “manageable levels.” After all, no other modern nation has anywhere near that total. However, recent Pew surveys suggest about one-half of Americans own guns. Substantially reducing that figure would require some serious political maneuvering.

Some claim we need take stock of our “violence offerings” on TV, movies, web, sports and so on. Some note America itself has a violent past. Controlling “violence offerings” would surely be “challenging.” A fairly reasonable perspective suggests we as a nation need a thoughtful national debate on how to proceed to reduce both mass shootings and our appalling gun violence homicide rates. Asking Congress to just “do something” isn’t likely to resolve our long standing gun violence problem.

If we step back, we need to realize gun violence stems back from our earliest days as a nation when widespread gun ownership helped secure freedom from the British. And America was the only modern western nation that fought a devastating Civil War, taking almost a million lives. We’re long overdue for a major resolution on how to sharply reduce our dreadful annual toll of gun homicides quite apart from occasional mass shootings. With an estimated one half of our population owning guns, that’s apt to be challenging discussion.

Peter I. Berman lives in Norwalk.

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3 Comments

  1. Mr. Berman’s letter on a the practical aspects of a difficult problem is very thoughtful. There is one more aspect. The anti-gun lobby must realize that they are in a minority or at least a near minority. Their anti-gun rhetoric is responsible for a large percentage of gun sales, feeding the fear of gun owners that their guns will be taken away. It is said, with some truth, that Obama is the best gun salesman that the gun manufacturers have had. If there is to be any progress, the anti-gun lobby must begin by conceding that citizens have a right to possess guns and instead talk about responsible ownership. The ball is in the anti-gun lobby’s court.

  2. leftist Senate Democrats are telling members of the judicial branch that if they fail to produce the “correct” ideological outcomes, politicians will intervene to fundamentally alter the high court’s composition.

    Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., referenced rulings by the court’s conservative majority in claiming it is suffering from some sort of affliction which must be remedied. “The Supreme Court is not well. And the people know it,” the brief said. “Perhaps the Court can heal itself before the public demands it be ‘restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics.'”

    The short-term goal here is to prevent SCOTUS from even taking up a Second Amendment-related matter:

    Imagine the volcanic outrage from these same Senators and their media mouthpieces if Republican Senators did this.

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