As a teenager, I qualified as an Expert Rifleman in the National Rifle Association. I was proud of that achievement. The NRA at the time was dedicated to education in firearm safety.
The NRA still supports firearm safety education programs, but new technologies and mass production (more than 300 million firearms in the United States) have outpaced its safety programs. As is evident from the recent spate of school shootings (three mass shootings on school campuses since Jan. 1 this year and 15 other incidents in which guns were discharged on school grounds, six of those resulting in injuries), it is past time for Congress and for state legislatures to limit access to assault-style weapons and high capacity clips. Legislators should also strengthen requirements for background checks and require waiting periods after application for a gun purchase, and Congress must remove restrictions on research into gun violence. If we don’t understand the nature of the problem, we sure can’t solve it.
None of these measures violates second amendment rights. All of them have shown benefit for public safety. The Heller case, in which the Supreme Court affirmed the individual right to bear arms, clearly recognizes that Congress may act to regulate the sale and distribution of firearms in the interest of public safety. “The Court’s opinion (affirming the individual right to bear arms) should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s (U.S. v. Miller, 1939) holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those ‘in common use at the time’ finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.” (U.S. Supreme Court, 2008, District of Columbia vs. Heller)
It is the primary responsibility of government to provide for the safety of its citizens. Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., site of the most recent massacre, have found the courage to speak out for reasonable gun control. Follow their lead and take measures to prevent further loss of innocent life. It is beyond time to act.
Bob Dorsett, MD