Find middle ground in gun law debate

Gun violence is a problem. This is a starting point. Yes, there are other problems in the world, but this does not change the fact that gun violence is a problem. America has more gun deaths per year than any other country in the world and more gun deaths per capita than any developed country in the world. The only countries with comparable numbers are in some sort of civil war. It is not a simple problem either. Some will say that banning all guns everywhere would be best, while others say that requiring every citizen to pack heat would be the ideal solution. Could the true solution be somewhere in the middle?

The United States has the most relaxed gun laws of any developed country. The result is that the rate of gun ownership in this country is higher than any other country in the world. Period. In fact, some estimates show that there are more guns in this country than there are people. Also true is that a smaller and smaller portion of the American population owns guns, while those that do still own guns have been adding to their stockpile. So can more guns be a solution?

Law-abiding citizens cannot be forced to carry a weapon if they do not want one. With fewer Americans willing to own guns, arming the entire population of the United States is impossible. With regulations on guns as loose as they are in America, nearly every person who wants to own a gun either already owns one or has access to one. Even if the federal government offered a free gun to everyone who wanted one, they likely would not expand the number of gun-owners by very much.

Some say the solution is to hire more police officers, and to place them in all public areas. That means that every movie theater, every school, every mall, every park, every parking lot, every street corner and every grocery store would need multiple armed police officers constantly watching over them. If you wanted complete protection, every citizen would need one police officer to watch over them at all times. Whichever way you cut it, this would be a very expensive solution. It would cost the federal government hundreds of billions of dollars every year and it would transform the United States into the very definition of a police state.

We’ve tried more guns as a solution. We’ve been trying it for decades now as states expand concealed carry permits and limit background checks. The Federal Government killed the assault weapons ban, and forbade any research into gun violence. The result has been skyrocketing amounts of gun purchases from a decreasing size of the populace. And yet gun violence has only gotten worse, not better. We’ve tried more guns for decades and it failed.

Could eliminating all guns be a solution? With over 270 million guns in the hands of private citizens, according to GunPolicy.org, this would be a massive undertaking. Some gun owners would give up their guns willingly, while others wouldn’t. The size of the effort that would be required to do this would dwarf any government program in history. Every inch of every farm in rural America would have to be dug up and searched to find the contraband. This really isn’t any more practical than posting a police officer on every street corner.

So where’s the middle ground? We could do nothing, which would be equivalent to giving up. Or we could try to make it a little bit harder for criminals to get guns. Background checks are a good starting point. Most people think that there is a single background check system that contains the names of every criminal in the U.S., which is false. That system doesn’t exist. The current background check system in place in the United States is fragmented, ineffective and poorly organized. Start by creating a system that contains up-to-date information on every criminal in the country and require every single gun purchase to go through a background check.

The next thing to tackle is straw purchases. This is the most common method that criminals use to obtain firearms. People who cannot legally own firearms (most likely due to having a criminal record) pay someone who can legally buy a firearm to make the purchase for them. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is designed very well to tackle this kind of issue, but straw purchasing isn’t even a federal crime and the ATF has no director to lead it. The FBI also doesn’t have enough funding to investigate and prosecute many gun crimes and therefore has to pick and choose which criminals they’ll allow to get away.

This will not eliminate criminals’ ability to obtain firearms completely, but it will make it more difficult. It’s a start. Perhaps that is just what America needs—a good start. Make it tougher for criminals to obtain guns, and see how it goes. Fix the background check system, make the checks universal for all purchases, and then prosecute those who try to skirt the background checks. Let’s start by making background checks work. We can all agree that criminals shouldn’t be allowed to buy guns, and there are definitive steps we can take as a country to move towards that solution.

Do not worry about the extremists who think that any law about guns whatsoever is just a government conspiracy to take everyone’s guns and install a tyrannical dictator. There is no saving them.