Tuesday, October 3, 2017

What Word Will Open The Conversation

Image Source: Getty / David Becker
Ironically, last night I was watching the news about the Las Vegas mass shooting when a commercial came on for a law firm advertising to sue if injured by someone texting and driving.

In 2015, 3,477 lives were lost to distracted driving according to the NHTSA. 3,500 people and we jumped on passing laws to reduce that. Will the laws stop it from happening altogether? No. But lobbyists and lawmakers thought that was enough people to try to do something that would save even one life if not hundreds or thousands.

Do cars kill people? No. The person driving it does - whether from texting, or drinking, or otherwise operating impaired. Sound familiar? Did that stop people from putting controls on the use of vehicles? No. Are safety regulations on sale, ownership, licensing, insurance (‘controls’) bans on automobiles? No.

But one individual can kill dozens and injure hundreds, every year, in addition to so many other useless deaths through the use of guns whether suicide, accidental or purposeful, and we do nothing. One man injured almost 1/6 as many as the distracted driving deaths in minutes, killing close to 60 as of this writing (and the number could still increase.) But to so many the word 'control' has been warped to mean 'ban' and 'seizure'. What word can we use so we can reasonably discuss options?

An entire city was virtually shut down for a day or more, because of one man - an American - with dozens of guns. Will we do something? Anything?


I have and continue to think that automobiles are a model for how we can at least try to reduce the number of deaths from guns.

Much like the NRA for guns, the auto industry has associations for the industry, advocacy, and legislation - one is the Auto Alliance - the leading advocacy group for the auto industry, representing 70% of all car and light truck sales in the United States. Unlike the gun industry, the auto industry embraces - ok not always quickly or without resistance but eventually - safety and control measures to try to keep the public safe. From their website the Auto Alliance says that: “Road safety is a shared responsibility between governments, industry, non–governmental organizations and road users. Focusing on behavioral issues is critical to enhancing road safety, including encouraging safety belt use, raising awareness of risks from distracted driving and preventing impaired driving.”

In all fairness, it’s not a direct comparison. The Auto Alliance is an industry association while the NRA is an enthusiasts and advocacy organization. The closest comparison to the NRA in vehicles may be something like Abate. The firearm industry does have something similar to the Auto Alliance - the NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation) - which does seem to at least address safety concerns such as suicide prevention and childhood safety. But, have you even ever heard of them? Ever heard them speak up as the NRA does after gun incidents?

Let’s take a quick look at some of the safety regulations the auto industry has accepted via laws or even just initiatives by the industry. Seat belt laws, drunk driving laws, texting or other distracted driving laws, airbag and other safety improvements on vehicles, there was even that brief upper brake light thing.  

The pharmaceutical industry is another example, with continuous regulation of drugs, most recently in the news and being at least talked about until it is properly addressed is the opiate epidemic.  A common argument I see is something to the effect of "if we control guns of citizens criminals will still have them." Did that, does that, stop us in the same scenario with drugs? We at least try. Because if we try, we can save some people. And isn't saving some better than none?

The problem is that, through the efforts of the NRA, gun owners and enthusiasts have been made to see the issue only as an infringement of rights and won’t even enter into conversations about ideas. For them it’s all or nothing - talk about gun control and they immediately think ‘ban’ as if people want to get rid of all guns - stop all sales, take them away from current owners - when people really just want reasonable restraints on gun ownership. So please, tell me, tell us, if it's the word, what word will you at least consider? Restriction? Management? Regulation? The 2nd Amendment itself uses the phrase 'well regulated."

I have stated it before but - going back to automobiles - there is a good model for gun ownership and usage in car and driver licensing. Different types of vehicles need different licenses, all vehicles are supposed to be registered, insurance is required, if you improperly operate (or even do some things not while operating a car) it can be taken away from you.

I’m not going to rattle off the full concept for this (regulations on speed, ammo, numbers, etc. - regulations - not bans), I’ve done it before and you won’t read it all or you’ll just get angry right away if you are pro-gun. All I ask is that you open yourself up to the conversation. Look at what people actually want and consider it, consider a middle ground, consider something reasonable that can be done. Because you can’t say that nothing will at least have the possibility of reducing the number of deaths. No we can’t stop it, just as you can’t stop people from using drugs or operating a car intoxicated or while texting, but if you can stop even one death let alone dozens or hundreds or thousands, isn’t it worth it?

This week 1 man - one man - with dozens of guns and thousands of rounds of ammo - One. Man. - killed dozens and injured hundreds of people in a matter of minutes from 1,000 feet away. He had 23 guns on him, and 19 more at home. 42 guns. Most of them likely bought in a fairly short period of time.

Let's be reasonable. Let’s talk. Let's start with one word.