This weekend we are celebrating our independence. An independence that was gained through a long fought revolution. It is important to remember that our right to bear arms originated not from a need for hunting, but for a need for self-defense from the government. Our founders wanted to make sure we the people have the means to overthrow the government when it becomes tyrannical. So it is only appropriate that we talk about guns.
A large portion of society uses their firearms for self-defense and recreation. These are lawful gun owners who make up over one third of the population. Another portion of society believes guns are for shooting innocent victims. This group is uninterested in firearm ownership, and as a result has very little practical knowledge on the subject. Both groups viewpoints are a valid result of their experiences with firearms. We must acknowledge this if we want to come to consensus on this tough issue.
I live in Seattle just across the border from White Center. I’ve heard gunshots in the night on numerous occasions and read reports of people being shot just blocks away from my home. But I’m also a lawful gun owner. I’ve undergone fingerprinting, background checks, and safety training.
Our laws are enforced through the use of force. If you don’t obey the law, the police will take you to prison. If you resist or escape, you will be shot. This is why gun owners fear gun control. They feel they are being told to drop their gun while being held at gunpoint. It seems gun control invokes the same fear in gun owners as guns do for those advocating for gun control.
The founders of our country foresaw this conflict and called out “the right to bear arms” as a one of fundamental rights they felt needed to be enumerated. Nearly 200 years later, the founders of our state clarified it further by stating “the right of the individual citizen to bear arms in defense of himself, or the state, shall not be impaired” (Art. 1 Section 24 of the Washington Constitution) Even when all law abiding citizens are disarmed, the government and criminals will retain their guns.
I feel it is important to keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals. We already have laws on the books that do this, however many of them are unenforced. The number one thing we can do to prevent gun violence is enforce our existing gun laws.
Unfortunately many of our gun laws actually make us less safe. In Washington we also keep guns from those undergoing any mental health treatment. The unintended consequence of this restriction is that many fear their guns will be taken away if they get the help they need. We should work to reduce this fear and ensure everyone feels safe accessing the mental health services they need.
The voters have spoken, they want universal background checks. Gun owners refused to come to the table with an honest proposal for universal background checks, so now we have with the most punitive implementation of background checks in the nation. Strictly speaking, our current laws require a background check to even hold a gun in the store. Fortunately the law isn’t being strictly enforced. To obtain a Concealed Pistol License, you must undergo a significantly more stringent background check than is required for an ordinary firearm purchase. It makes sense to treat a valid Concealed Pistol License as a valid background check.
Despite having the most punitive implementation of background checks in the nation, guns remain a problem because we don’t enforce the law. We need laws that respect our individual right to bear arms and enforcement to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.