A lot of people talk about “responsible gun owners.” That’s a concept I like, but we need to get a little more specific about what it means. I’m pretty sure all rational people agree that there are some folks who should not have guns. I’ll push that concept one bit further and say most rational people agree that there are some people who should not be allowed to have guns. Those three extra words make a big difference, to some folks, because they naturally suggest that someone, somewhere, will have the authority to decide who will, and who will not, be allowed to have a gun. Right now, we seem to operate on the assumption that, until proven otherwise, everyone is fit to have a gun. Alas, one of the ways we learn who is not fit to have a gun is that the person in question kills one or more people by shooting them for no good reason. That person is typically no longer allowed to own a gun. This seems bass-ackwards, to me.
Opponents tend to extrapolate from any gun control proposal whatsoever all the way to the doomsday scenario: that those in favor of gun control will never stop until no one can have a gun, ever again. So, they reason, all efforts at gun control must be opposed, as all efforts at gun control are really just another step towards universal confiscation.
Now, I have direct personal knowledge of the fact that not everyone who proposes more gun control secretly seeks universal confiscation. That’s because I am one such proponent. I have two guns and I don’t want to give them up. But, when I read that, once very single month at one airport alone, so-called “responsible” gun owners are so careless that they actually try (let’s hope it’s through mere negligence) to get a loaded pistol onto a plane, I cannot help but wonder if, by that act alone, they have demonstrated they are not fit to have a gun. That they should not have a gun. That they should not be allowed to have a gun.
A well-trained, well-regulated sector of citizens who choose to carry guns might actually make the world a slightly safer place. I rather like the idea that anyone who wants to be ready to defend themself, their family, their friends and neighbors, and maybe even just the rest of us out on the wild and dangerous streets of America, might be able to use a pistol in order to do so. But only if they’re fit to have one. Maybe I am wrong, but I suspect that there would be far fewer than one pistol found heading onto a plane every month if all gun owners had to take substantive training, pass reasonable tests, and demonstrate their proficiency periodically. Such a set of requirements need not (nor would they necessarily be proposed to) lead to universal confiscation. Quite the opposite. I believe it would give all Americans who are worried that people carrying pistols might be more dangerous to society than if they all just left them at home, a reason to calm down. Every gun you saw, and every gun carried on the street, would either be in the hands of a person with established qualifications and actual knowledge of how to use it safely, or in the hands of a crook. Yes, making guns illegal doesn’t seem to stop crooks from having them. But the mere legal ownership of a gun doesn’t make the person who owns it, nor those of us who travel the same streets (or airports) as that person any safer.
Responsible gun owners (they exist; I like to think I am one) get proper training. I did. I took a class, passed a test, and I go to a shooting range periodically to make sure I haven’t forgotten so much that I’m more dangerous than useful. I know quite a few shooters who do as much or more. I respect them. They are fit to have their guns, at least most of them. So what would be so bad if that much instruction and demonstration of competency were simply required? Wouldn’t a responsible gun owner do that much anyway? Wouldn’t the only burden felt be felt by irresponsible gun owners? Do we mind if irresponsible gun owners find reasonable training and competency requirements burdensome?
Yes, if one thinks that any gun regulation is just another step in the direction of universal confiscation, this idea would be as intolerable as confiscation itself, and, thus, yet another non-starter (if one thinks that way). But, what if it’s not? What if honest people really meant it when they said, “We’d be happy to let anyone have a gun, and carry it wherever a gun can safely go, provided they meet the same training and competency requirements that typical responsible gun owners already voluntarily impose upon themselves.” Take it as given, for the sake of answering, that those honest people don’t want to confiscate all guns. What would be wrong with that?
Until we have some kind of competency requirement before a person can have a gun, we’re just going to keep finding out who’s not competent after they do something stupid. Like try to take it on a plane, or kill someone for no good reason. Because, at the rate we’re finding those incompetent people, I’m increasingly unable to feel that just owning a gun makes a person a responsible gun owner.