Alan Vervaeke - The right laws

  • Published in Columns

I’ve been listening to people talk about their guns for a long time. I grew up with guns. We had a wall of them as a kid, and I fired all of them. So before folks claim that I’m anti-gun, let me clarify I’m not. I believe in the Second Amendment. Keep your guns. I don’t want to take them away from anyone.
Every spring, I go to Town Hall and reregister my dogs. I have to provide proof that they are vaccinated against rabies, and (if I want the discount) I have to prove that they’re neutered. In September, I register my car. When I do, I provide proof that my car has been inspected and passes all required tests. How many people died last year from the bite of a rabid dog? How many people died last year from excessive emissions from a car?
In response to all of the violence we’ve experienced in the past 10 years, there has not been a single meaningful piece of legislation passed regarding RESPONSIBLE gun ownership. More guns are not the solution. Having armed teachers and pastors is not the solution. As a friend of mine said, “You don’t fight drunk driving with more drunk drivers.”
The NRA argues that criminals and crazy people don’t follow the law, so why bother making more? New laws only punish “responsible” gun owners. And honestly — there is some truth to that. Democrats like to spout off about background checks, but background checks would not have prevented Charleston, or Columbine, or Sandy Hook, or Las Vegas or the latest shooting in Texas. Limiting magazine size MIGHT slow these shooters down. Making guns impossible to modify might as well. But if someone really wants to create mayhem, it is going to happen.
What seems to get missed in all of this is that while it is true that laws don’t stop criminals, that is NOT a law’s purpose. Laws don’t prevent crime. It would be wonderful if they did, but they don’t. Laws give us legal remedies when a member of society engages in antisocial behavior. If we didn’t have a law against theft, then after I stole your car you wouldn’t have a reason to lock me up. The same with murder. Laws don’t prevent either of these crimes, but they give us options when they do occur. And, of course, new gun laws won’t end gun violence, but what a well-written law CAN do is put the responsibility where it belongs. And like laws against drinking and driving don’t actually prevent that, they give us a legal remedy and they make us responsible for our behavior which in turn leads to a cultural change over time. Of course, some people will never change or stop. But we have options.
Common-sense laws for guns could be crafted to change our culture over time to make violence less likely. Some things are simple. The sale of guns and ammunition should be federally taxed just like gasoline, alcohol, and cigarettes. Like dogs and cars, they should be registered annually. Like a driver’s license or a boating license, you should be able to prove you can handle a gun. So mandatory safety and usage training followed by a written test and an accuracy test — and renew it every five years. Require all gun owners to carry insurance riders on their homeowners insurance – just like many dog owners. The Second Amendment says that owning a gun is a right, but it never said that it didn’t come with responsibility. “Well regulated” was the term that implied that someone needed to know what he or she was doing. And this is where the NRA comes in.
The NRA has a series of guidelines for responsible gun ownership. I was taught these when I was 10 and they were hammered into my brain every time I went hunting, or every time I went to the range. They should be made into laws because there are NO accidents with guns. A gun is designed to be a killing machine. YOU are responsible. Period. No exceptions. Your gun – your responsibility. The NRA is clear.
• Always assume the gun is loaded unless you personally verified it’s not.
• Always point the gun in a safe direction.
• Know how to safely use the gun you are in possession of.
• Be sure the gun is safe to operate.
• Use only the correct ammunition for your gun.
• Properly maintain your gun.
• Always know your target and what is beyond.
• Never use alcohol or any over-the-counter, prescription or other drugs before or while shooting.
• Store guns to be inaccessible to unauthorized persons.
• Never give a gun to someone not authorized to have one.
Each of these could easily be crafted into a piece of legislation. No gun owner should be opposed to it. Nor should the NRA or any gun manufacturer. My Remington came with the same recommendations, and as the owner, I’m responsible for for following them. So why not make it binding? Why NOT make a gun owner legally responsible?
Slowly, things will change. Sanely. Responsibly. Pragmatically. In the meantime, consider the fact that in a nation like Japan where gun laws are stringent, there are six gun deaths for approximately every 10 million people. In the United States, there are six gun deaths for every 50 THOUSAND people. Who’s next? Is it you? Is it me? Is it one of your children? If we can hold citizens responsible for their cars, dogs, livestock, and snow removal, why can’t we do the same for guns? Maybe after 240 years, we can finally bring maturity to the Second Amendment.
(Alan Vervaeke is a veteran and father happily living in Gilford.)