Three weeks ago today a madman shot to death 26 people inside Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., before killing himself. Twenty of the victims were 6- and 7-year-old children. Because of the age of the victims, it is, to me, the most horrific mass shooting of the 62 that have occurred in the United States since 1982.
It's impossible to imagine, no matter how deranged the individual, someone shooting young children multiple times, like they were so many cans on a fence. Said to have mental problems, the shooter used a semiautomatic rifle to murder his victims. The weapon was legally purchased and licensed to his mother, who he killed prior to going to the elementary school.
In the aftermath of the horror, there were calls to reinstate the ban on semiautomatic assault weapons that was in place from 1994-2004 and perhaps other measures to place more controls on gun ownership. The NRA and other pro-gun groups say more restrictions on gun ownership only would hurt law-abiding citizens as they try to protect themselves from criminals.
Legislation banning assault rifles almost certainly will be introduced in Congress. While it seems to me it's not unreasonable to restrict sales of weapons that have no practical use, I freely admit I don't know enough about guns to understand the full picture of why people are so opposed to such a seemingly minimal measure.
I have never owned a gun. I fired .22-caliber rifles at summer camp when I was 10 and 11 years old, shot a handgun several times at outdoor targets and shot skeet with an 18-gauge shotgun a few times.
I am not a hunter. I have been on many quail hunts with hunters I consider sportsmen who have a great respect for nature and the environment. They also are very knowledgeable about their guns and how to properly store and secure them.
So, I asked a friend of mine who acquired an appreciation of guns as a child what he thinks are reasonable requirements to purchase a gun. He was taught gun safety before he fired his first gun. He is a hunter and target shooter who also owns several guns and rifles as investments. He is teaching his children gun safety and an appreciation for the outdoors as they grow up. He is a member of the NRA and the closest thing to a gun expert I know.
Here are his suggestions:
"As for gun laws I think the following are reasonable restrictions that may have some impact on gun violence.
1. Make it a requirement that all sales of guns (even from one private individual to another) be through a licensed dealer. The dealer would have the responsibility of providing the background check and paperwork. (This closes the so-called Gun Show Loophole and adds additional protection from unauthorized persons trying to skirt background checks.)
2. Limit all high capacity magazines to 10 rounds or less. (Helps to lower the firepower a person can bring to bear at one time.)
3. Limit the number of gun purchases a person can make to one per day done through the background check process. (Helps to curb straw purchases.)
4. Add a requirement that a person's mental stability be part of the background check process and require healthcare providers to report any person who may be a danger to the public. (This would maybe help keep some nutcases from getting a gun legally.)
5. Make it a requirement that any person wanting to own a firearm complete a gun safety course similar to a hunter's safety course before being allowed to purchase or possess a firearm. This would be a one-time safety course good for life. (While this would do nothing to keep criminals from getting guns, this maybe could help stop some of the accidental shootings that occur and add a de-facto waiting period at least for your first purchase.)
Even though these suggestions would be what I consider reasonable as a lifelong hunter and gun owner, I am sure many would disagree with me and in truth none of these could have completely stopped this guy in Newtown. That's the problem with 300 million guns on the street. You will never stop someone who really is intent on doing something like this; all you really can do is punish 52 million legal gun owners for one man's rampage."
He does not advocate banning the sales of any weapons, but clearly he does not believe meeting some strict requirements on owning firearms violate his Second Amendment rights.
What ultimately will happen regarding new gun laws in the coming months is too difficult to predict. But I do find fascinating one gun owner's thoughts on restricting the guns he owns.
James Healy is operations manager for the Statesboro Herald. He can be reached at email@example.com.