An online critic, following last week’s column [Bullet points, Viewpoints, June 22], challenged me to come up with “pragmatic answers” to our national epidemic of gun violence. “If you can take time from staring at your reflection in the pond, what do you suggest?” she wrote. 

Happy to oblige, Ada. In fact, the group I belong to, Gun Responsibility Advocates (which challenges gun owners to look beyond their pond), has been talking and writing about, and advocating for, pragmatic, common-sense solutions for several years. So have a lot of other people — in this very newspaper.

So tearing myself away from my reflection, momentarily, allow me to reflect instead on a number of things we can try to help reduce gun violence in this country. If one thing doesn’t work, we can try something else. That’s how reasonable people address problems. The only thing we know for sure doesn’t work is doing nothing, the approach favored by the NRA and their wholly-owned subsidiary, the Republican Party (along with some Democrats thrown in for bad measure).

The list begins with universal background checks. Critics rightly note that the pathetic hodgepodge of inconsistent, loophole-riddled, background-check laws, varying widely from state to state are, indeed, ineffective. 

Universal background checks, on the other hand, would be different: one system for one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice and Second Amendment rights un-infringed for all. Cleaner. Simpler. Consistent. Comprehensive. No loopholes.

And never been tried. One of those times when “one size fits all” actually makes sense. It will reduce the chance of felons, mentally unstable individuals, and terrorist wannabes getting their hands on guns.

But that’s just the beginning: 

Congress needs to renew the federal assault rifle ban they let lapse in 2004 (and voted down several times afterward, including after the Sandy Hook School massacre in 2012).

AR magazine capacity should be limited, going forward, to 10 bullets. Mass murderers would have to reload. Gives their intended victims a moment to escape or charge the shooter while he changes magazines. Shouldn’t we give victims even that small chance?

Smart gun technology. Only the owner can activate smart guns. Kids who find their parents’ guns won’t be able to blow themselves away, which too many kids do. Criminals who steal guns won’t be able to use them. Neither will people who are suicidal and sometimes act impulsively with someone else’s gun.

Safe storage of firearms is our best ounce of prevention. A significant percentage of guns used in crimes were originally stolen from “good guy” gun owners who didn’t keep them safely locked away.

Crack down on “bad apple” gun dealers who sell firearms used in crimes at a much higher rate than those sold by law-abiding dealers. 

Economic pressure on gun manufacturers. Our military and our police departments should purchase only from manufacturers who are willing partners in the effort to reduce gun violence. 

Regulate ammunition. ARs are presumably just for gun collections, not for hunting — animals or humans. Unrestricted ammunition purchases represent an open invitation.

Reasonable members of the NRA, of which there are many, need to show some courage and speak out against unreasonable leadership. In fact, they need to vote the extremists out because their leaders are doing the one thing no organization should ever tolerate: Giving it a bad name. NRA members have an opportunity to demonstrate genuine patriotism by putting country before convenience, being part of the solution instead of being part of the problem. The true patriot’s creed: “I’m willing to make sacrifices for the well-being of the country I love.”

Citizens in general need to stop voting for anyone — Republican or Democrat — who supports the NRA in its current extremism. 

This is not about gun regulation forces opposing gun rights. The Supreme Court already affirmed the rights of gun owners. But in the landmark Heller decision (2008) they also affirmed: “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.” 

Rights without responsibility = Gun violence.

Rights with responsibility = Common-sense regulation.

Ada, I’m glad you challenged me to list solutions. It always feels good to take a break from gazing at my reflection in the pond. 

God knows there is a lot to do — a lot we can do. Together.

Why don’t you take a break from your pond and join us?

Join the discussion on social media!

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