President-elect Obama should implement seven tested and proven initiatives that will have an immediate impact on reducing gun related violence, accidents and suicides without affecting the Second Amendment or having any negative impact on responsible and law abiding gun owners.
Of the average 34,000 gun deaths in the US every year approximately 11,000 are homicides, 18,000 are suicides and 5,000 are unintentional accidents. We can change these horrific numbers.
If I were President Obama, one of my first acts would be the immediate implementation the following gun violence prevention initiatives to reduce gun access by children, criminals and terrorists without any undue restrictions on responsible gun owners like myself.
#1 Mandatory criminal background checks for all gun sales
Current Federal law only requires Licensed gun dealers to perform criminal background checks. Consequently in 32 States "private dealers"/individuals can legally sell guns at thousands of annual gun shows, countless flea markets and yard sales, and out of homes, backpacks, car trunks or on street corners without running a background check or asking to see an ID. Only the first gun sale from a "Federally Licensed" gun dealer requires documentation and all "secondary" gun sales are legally allowed to take place without any paperwork or record keeping. As a result, convicted felons and suspected terrorists can and do buy guns simply because there is no background check required or conducted.
#2 Require responsible and safe gun storage for all firearms unless they are in the owners direct control
Approximately 40% of American homes have at least one firearm. Most guns used in child accidental gun injuries and deaths and teenage suicides come from within the home. Responsible guns owners safely secure their guns -unloaded and locked unless they are in their direct control. Seventeen States have such a safe-storage/Child Access Prevention requirement and all such states have a lower incidence of gun injuries and deaths among children compared to states without such a requirement.
#3 Allow Law Enforcement to maintain and share critical "crime-gun" trace data
Current Federal law prohibits the BATF from sharing crime gun trace data even among law enforcement agencies. In 2000 the BATF used crime-gun trace data to determine that just 1% of licensed gun dealers provided 57% of guns used in crime. Instead of supporting law enforcement efforts to identify and arrest illegal gun dealers, the Bush administration made police the enemy of "gun rights", requiring prison sentences for any police official that shares crime-gun trace data with even other law enforcement.
#4 Restore and improve the Federal Ban on Assault Weapons
The 10 year Federal ban on 19 specific military style assault weapons beginning in 1994 was supported by every major US law enforcement organization representing over 450,000 police officers. Although so called assault weapons make up approximately 1% of the US gun stock, statistics clearly show that they are the weapon of choice by gangs, career criminals and terrorist organizations and disproportionately show up in crimes. The Bush administration let the ban expire in 2004 even though the ban resulted in a dramatic 66% reduction in these weapons used in crime over the 10 year period.
#5 Repeal the Federal law giving Immunity to the gun industry
In 2007 Congress and the Bush administration enacted legislation prohibiting the ability to sue the gun industry even for negligence and blatantly marketing to criminals. For instance, the Tech 9 semi-automatic pistol, one of the guns used at the Columbine High School massacre, was marketed as "having a finish resistant to fingerprints", the Hertzel 22 cal handgun is marketed as "capable of penetrating 48 layers of soft body armor" and the Barrett 50 cal sniper rifle with a 2 mile range and designed to penetrate steel, is touted as being able to "take down an aircraft with one shot" and they tell you where to put it. Osama bin Laden bought a dozen of these US made Barrett's when fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan! The gun industry makes, markets and sells inherently dangerous product (like automobiles, knives and drugs- all regulated) and they should be held accountable for their actions.
#6 Enact National Consumer Product Safety Commission regulations for firearms
Congress has prohibited the National Consumer Product Safety Commission from oversight of the gun industry. Therefore guns have NO consumer safety, manufacturing or marketing standards for how they are sold. Consequently toy guns and teddy bears have more regulations on how they're made than real guns that result in an average of 34,000 deaths a year in the US. The gun industry flaunts their "freedom" from regulation and continues to make and sell guns without minimal safety features and in some cases knowingly market their deadly products directly to criminals and terrorists without any accountability. Massachusetts, which is home to Smith and Wesson, the nation's largest handgun manufacturer, enacted the first in the nation Consumer Protection regulations for firearms and such oversight had no negative impacts on legitimate gun makers, dealers or buyers in the State.
#7 Create incentives for the gun industry to make "personalized guns"
According to gun maker Smith and Wesson, guns could be made with personal recognition technology such that only the intended user could fire the gun. This practical technological solution would save the lives of countless victims of gun violence, accidents and suicides each year. It could also help save the lives of the 17% of police officers killed in the line of duty by a criminal accessing the officer's gun. In fact, in an agreement with the Clinton administration, Smith and Wesson promised to invest a portion of net profits into "personalized gun technology".
If President Obama and Congress were to enact just these 7 national gun violence prevention initiates, the 34,000 annual gun deaths and 80,000 injuries would be reduced to a fraction without any undue hardship on responsible gun owners like myself. I'm hopeful. President-elect Obama knows all too well that 70-80 percent of the 80 or more gun deaths every day in the US are non-white, urban Americans. He also knows that an overwhelming majority of Americans, including gun owners and law enforcement officers, support criminal background checks for all gun sales, the Ban on assault weapons and responsible safety standards and regulations for gun makers, dealers and owners that do not infringe upon Second Amendment rights.
Now all that is needed is a loud public outcry and the political will for sensible and responsible domestic gun policy.