My news sources say the only answer to gun violence in America is for all of us to start packing, all the time. Especially in public places. This way, we can take out the bad guys — before they target their victims. But this approach doesn’t work for me. I’ve never fired a gun and have no desire to do so. So I’d be letting down the team.

These same sources say that passing more restrictive gun laws wouldn’t work. They would take the guns from law-abiding citizens but wouldn’t stop bad guys from getting them. It would also start us on a slippery slope. Before long, the government would seize all of our guns.

There is one civilized country, though, where tough gun laws appear to be working — Germany. According to an article in the Tribune, it took only two school shootings for the German people to say, “Enough!” After the deaths of 31 in mass shootings, Germany passed the most restrictive gun laws on the books.

Keep in mind, Germany is a gun-happy nation. Over five million guns belong to about two million owners. But in the wake of those massacres, 200,000 owners voluntarily turned in their weapons. Those who kept their guns were required to register them.

Germany is the only country that requires purchasers under 25 to pass a psychiatric exam before applying for a permit. They also have to ace a safety test and give a sound reason why they need a gun. The applicant then has to wait a year before getting permission to purchase the gun.

Unlike here, there was no hand-wringing about infringing on the rights of hunters. In fact, if these experienced gun owners get a DUI, or are guilty of other anti-social behavior, they are required to undergo psychological testing. Cops are also entitled to visit a gun owner’s home at any time, to make sure their weapon is securely stored. These measures have resulted in a 25% drop in gun-related crime. There were 82 gun homicides in Germany in 2015. We had 20,958 in 2021.

As much as Germans love their guns, they are willing to abide by these restrictions because they don’t see guns as protecting their personal safety. They know that having a gun can actually put us more at risk. I was telling a responsible gun owner about Germany’s laws. He said surprise visits from the police was already a deal-breaker for him.

It’s easy to scoff at the gun laws in other countries. They don’t seem workable here. But the majority of Americans now favor some baby steps toward sensible gun laws. In the meantime, we can’t even restrict the sale of assault weapons.

I realize I’m preaching to the choir about the need for sensible gun laws. During a stroll through the area, we passed many homes with signs advocating for more restrictive gun laws. How can anyone in the Chicago area not be concerned about gun violence? We even have a shrine to victims of gun violence here in Forest Home Cemetery.

We were more complacent about gun violence when it was mostly restricted to neighborhoods on the South and West sides. Now it has spread everywhere. We used to love exploring our world-class city. Now we’re more wary. The news reports amplifying the violence aren’t helping. A French citizen I know observed that our news media is trying to scare us to death.

I realize we lack the political will to pass common-sense gun laws like Germany.

I just want us to enjoy our normal 4th of July celebration this year.

John Rice grew up in Oak Park and lives in Forest Park. He writes a weekly column in our sister publication, the Forest Park Review.

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