Gun Control -- Symbolic Gestures Won't Save Us

Gun control is out of control. Filibusters and sit-ins have roiled the Congress for the last few weeks. Orlando, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook ... bullets fly, people die, Congress boils and nothing happens. The statistics astound: There are nearly 15,000 deaths and 28,000 injuries every year from guns -- an Orlando every day. There are more guns in America than people, a fact that will continue in perpetuity, since people will die and the guns that kill them will live on. Gun deaths are on track to exceed automobile fatalities. What an exceptional nation we are!

The gun lobby, most notably the NRA and its fans, resists any and every proposed measure. Republican legislators will not pass a measure to keep those on the terrorist watch list from buying guns. They refuse to expand background checks. They won't restrict a possible terrorist who can't board an airplane from buying a semi-automatic weapon designed to kill dozens, scores, or hundreds of humans.

The NRA and its conservative lapdogs in Congress cite the same arguments every time mass slaughter temporarily diverts Americans' attention from Donald Trump and Facebook to bloody corpses: The Second Amendment means what it says. Every American has a right to bear arms. The answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. The Kenyan Muslim Barack Obama and his lily-livered lefty allies want to confiscate all the guns.

On the other side, gun control advocates fall all over themselves to assure the electorate that they too love the Second Amendment, that they love to hunt, that they too have guns at home to protect their families from whatever imagined threats lurk in the American psyche. From this crouching posture they beg for minimalist, largely symbolic legislation. Can't we at least stop a known terrorism suspect from getting his hands on an automatic weapon? Can't we close the loopholes that make current laws a Swiss cheese joke? Nope, say the zealots -- those things are a slippery slope to confiscation and fascist tyranny. And so it goes, over and over again.

Infuriating, but utterly beside the point. What our leaders and we are afraid to acknowledge is that the NRA, the GOP and zealous gun advocates around America are absolutely right. The proposed laws will not stop slaughters like Orlando or San Bernardino. According to a 2014 Slate article, there are about 3,750,000 military style assault weapons in the United States. An angry, delusional, madman like Omar Mateen doesn't have to queue up at a gun store and pass a background check to get his twitching fingers on an assault weapon. We're so awash in guns that locking the barn door is an absurd, albeit well meaning, gesture.

These sensational and tragic incidents are not the primary problem and should not be the central focus of the debate. Gun violence is a public health problem and a national psychological disorder. The vast majority of deaths are the result of gun violence in the streets, domestic disputes, the daily tragedies of suicide and the accidental deaths of thousands of children. Keeping assault weapons out of the hands of crazy people may be necessary, but is grossly insufficient. It is a bloody red herring.

If there is ever to be meaningful change in our violent nation, the debate has to start from a different position. Gun control advocates have conceded so much before the debate starts that nothing of real meaning will happen, even if the GOP is shamed into taking some small step. It's like a divorce where one partner takes the house, the car, the retirement account, custody of the children and then agrees to enter mediation to decide who gets the silverware.

Here are a few real suggestions. Call it Uncommon Sense Gun Control.

1. Repeal the Second Amendment. It is anachronistic, dangerous and unnecessary. There is no threat to domestic tranquility that should justify anyone's unfettered right to possess a deadly weapon.

2. Require thorough background checks, registration, training and licensing for the ownership of any gun.

3. Have an absolute ban on possession of any automatic or semi-automatic weapon by any citizen. Impose heavy criminal penalties on anyone who defies the law.

4. Require that every gun purchased in America employ the emerging smart gun technology that prevents anyone but the licensed, registered owner from discharging the weapon.

5. Confiscate any and all weapons that don't meet the above criteria.

6. Hold criminally liable for negligence, any person whose weapon is used in a crime or a suicide.

7. Institute a buy back program, like that successfully employed in Australia, to immediately reduce the American arsenal.

8. Make it illegal to publicly carry, concealed or open, any loaded weapon.

Not a single one of these things would inhibit the use of appropriate arms for hunting or to protect one's home from intruders.

So, let's start the negotiations from there - and then we can argue over the silverware.