In any effort to achieve effective improvements in gun safety, the forum has to move from the fiery rhetoric and grandstanding of politicians and the politically motivated. The discussion has to include diverse groups across the issue with the intent of finding solutions and not the sound bites and jingoism that the media cover oh so well. In my opinion, the most critical talking points are:
Gun safety: We need to discuss the need for – and the proper way of – storing and securing firearms. Adequate means to accomplish this are already available and reasonably priced. Also, the notion that guns must be stored empty and separate from ammunition is not universally true or desirable. An unloaded gun is basically useless for home defense, and effective means are reasonably available to secure a loaded weapon and yet keep it readily available should the need arise. Carefully worded legislation requiring gun owners to secure and store all firearms safely would codify the standards required to prevent unauthorized access to guns. Gun owners must be held responsible for the security of their firearms. Driving and texting has become not only illegal, but socially unacceptable because of laws and large-scale public relations campaigns. The need for proper firearm storage should receive this same kind of exposure.
Background checks: All gun sales, private and professional, should be subject to background checks. The database should contain non-eligible buyers not only based on criminal activities, but also mental competence and any other issues that would otherwise disqualify a potential buyer. This would require an extraordinary level of cooperation among various agencies that would have the information required to assemble such a database, and new standards would have to be developed to determine what specific issues should disqualify a prospective buyer. Responsible private sellers have no wish to be tricked into selling a firearm to a straw purchaser or someone who would not be eligible to legally purchase or possess a firearm. The mechanics of a background check would be subject to much discussion, but it would need to be instant and as simple as a single phone call that would simply provide a yes or no response to a prospective sale. The check should not include any consideration of the particular firearm being sold.
Proper training and familiarization: Prospective gun buyers should be encouraged or even required to receive training in basic gun safety and marksmanship. Applicants for a concealed-carry permit should be required to exhibit the basic competence and skill required to carry a concealed weapon safely in public. Again, a great deal of cooperation and cool-headed discussion among participants would be needed to develop the standards required.
These are the basic issues I believe will need to be addressed to provide any substantive improvements in gun safety and achieve the ultimate goal of preventing guns from falling into the hands of people who should not own or possess firearms.