Our country's inability to better manage guns is appalling. A few short months after 20 young people and 6 teachers were killed--and with many gun murders since then, including, most recently, a Texas prosecutor and his wife--our government seems not to have the courage to act. It is the ultimate failure of a democratic government not to protect the lives of its citizens.
In our society, one must be licensed to drive a car. One must pass a test to get that license and must renew the license annually in most states. In addition, all cars must be registered and insured. Some states also require that each car be inspected regularly to ensure that it is safe to use. This is done to minimize highway deaths and property destruction caused by cars.
We should take at least as much care with the public distribution and use of firearms as we do with automobiles:
1. All gun users should pass a test that demonstrates their ability to use a gun safely and that they are of sound mental condition. Only then should they be granted a license to use a gun.
2. That license should be reviewed and renewed periodically, perhaps every two years.
3. Purchase of a gun should include a background check to be sure that the person has a license and, thus, has the legal right to carry and use a gun.
4. Guns themselves should be registered and that registration should be renewed every two years.
5. Sale of a gun should be handled in the same way that the sale of a car is handled: there is a title to the gun and that title transfers with appropriate review.
The active resistance to any form of government oversight of firearms by the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers is but one example of how corporations and financial interests are undermining democracy today. The logical result, if left unchecked, will be a new and destructive kind of autocracy. It is important that we respond not only by advocating for national and state laws to control weapons, but by grassroots changes to the culture of violence in the U.S. We need to make violence unpopular, the way we made smoking and anti-Semitism racism unpopular. Let's start by rejecting violence in the media and computer games and by making it clear, as citizens, that assault weapons are not welcome in our homes and neighborhoods. Let's strengthen sentences for crimes that involve deadly weapons. Let's not make stars out of criminals and advocates of violence.
Mother Theresa once said that she pitied Americans because, despite all our riches, we are, in her words "poor in spirit." The strength of American democracy is the balance between the spirit of independence and the spirit of community. We need to strengthen the bond between the two. We are not Americans unless we honor the individual in the context of community.