Mass shootings equal tragedy, a lot of talk and not much else. So let me make a radical suggestion. Go upstream, go to the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Change it, don’t argue about what can be done to circumvent it. Too many politicians use the persistence of gun control as an issue, as a political tool to raise money and enhance their position with single-issue voters.
It is time to let all Americans have a say! I am reminded of the Equal Rights Amendment initiative to assure the equal rights under the law for women. The amendment failed, but the “conversation” resulted in a number of laws that improved women’s rights.
Assault weapons should be carefully regulated. Common sense rules should be proposed and the overarching question should be what will work, not what will thread the needle of current political and constitutional objections. An amendment should provide constitutional room to write effective law.
Additions to the Constitution are difficult. If the Second Amendment is to be amended the addition should be simple, clear, limited and broadly appealing. My suggestion, a second sentence that says: The possession and use of military weapons and their facsimile can be regulated. Under current circumstances there are many efforts to regulate and often gun ownership or use that doesn’t need to be regulated gets swept up in our zeal to regulate military-style weapons.
By the way, I make this argument as a hunter who also does some recreational shooting at sporting clay ranges.
Automobiles that are potentially dangerous provide an interesting context. You have to be licensed to drive and you must have a key/fob to get into a car or truck that is locked. There should be a class of weapons that are treated similarly. When an applicant for a license to own a military-style weapon begins the application process, authorities should make sure past conduct does not disclose criminality or mental illness that might increase the propensity for violence. And, if I was writing regulatory law, there would also need to be a biometric identification before the weapon can be used.
Millions of persons hunt and shoot competitively with limited magazine guns. I cannot, for example, duck hunt with a shotgun that allows more than three shells. I have been to a number of sporting clay ranges; my experience is that you put one shell or at the most two shells in the chamber at a time. Any constitutional proposal should preclude interference with these activities. If that exemption is not clear an amendment initiative will fail.
I can hear the instinctive reactions. “Impossible”, “too slow”, “too demanding”. It is certainly true that amending the constitution is not quick nor easy, but it is also certain that real progress in preventing homicidal disasters will not occur without an amendment to the Constitution.
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.