Randall Sherman: A rational solution to gun violence
March 4, 2018
It is sad to see that with the most recent mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, nothing is being done to advance the argument to change our gun laws.
There is a simple solution and it is this: Owning a gun should be like having a driver's license (after all, cars can be as dangerous as guns).
Think about it. To drive a car you have to have driver training, pass a written test, pass a practical test, have liability insurance on each vehicle, obtain renewals and receive inspections, and title and tag a vehicle at each point of sale. When buying a gun, we have none of this. Gun training is not required, no written test is given, no practical test is necessary, no liability insurance is required, no inspections or renewals are expected, and no title or tag is needed at the point of sale.
If guns were as regulated as our cars (which we seem to accept without protest), we wouldn't have this problem.
Japan is an interesting example when it comes to gun violence. They are about one-third the size of the U.S. and have the lowest rate of gun violence in the developed world. It's so peaceful there that police run out of things to do. Seriously, in 2015, only six shots in total were fired by police in all of Japan.
Japan's success is the result of several factors including a history of wars, Japanese culture, and their current gun laws. The general feeling among Japanese citizens is that war and violence is terrible for the country and that they should do everything that they can to avoid going back to that. As a result, Japanese gun laws start with the premise that guns should not have a role in civilian society. That idea extends into how the police operate. Instead of arms training, the police spend many hours in martial arts techniques. If they are dealing with a violent or drunk person, sometimes they will use these huge futons to basically roll up the person like a burrito and take them back to the station until they calm down.
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From the civilian side, if a person wants to buy a gun, they have every right to do so, but the process is very complex and thorough. To buy a gun in Japan, first you have to take a day long class and pass a written exam, and then you have to take a shooting range test and pass it with 95 percent accuracy or higher. Then you have to go to a hospital and pass a mental health exam and drug test. And lastly, you have to pass a comprehensive background check to make sure you don't have any extremist or criminal associations. Only then will you be allowed to purchase a shotgun or air rifle, but no hand guns or semi-automatic weapons which are completely banned for civilians. Moreover, the gun and ammo have to be stored separately and under lock and key and agree to yearly police inspections.
The results speak for themselves. It's incredibly hard for would-be mass shooters to get their hands on weapons that can cause a lot of harm. The result is that the total gun deaths in Japan are often in the single digits compared to 33,000 annually in the U.S.
The tired and outdated argument that guns are a Second Amendment right has worn thin. It was written at a time of cannons and muskets. Moreover, it was for a civilian militia and by no means conceived to endorse semi-automatic human killing machines. By insisting on exercising this Second Amendment right without limitation, our society is being slowly destroyed. It is sad that gun rights advocates cannot see the connection.
A license to own a gun similar to that of driving a car could be a natural step toward curbing the daily, horrible violence that we are witnessing. I pray that our elected representatives (and the NRA) have the courage to embrace something similar to this, or accept our inevitable path to anarchy.
Randall Sherman lives in Nevada City.