Several years ago, precisely 22 years, I had a credible threat to my life. The man was arrested, spent a couple of weeks in jail, then was released and given back his 12 guns. The police said that he had not used them (yet), parenthesis added by me. I had never owned or shot a gun but decided if there was ever a time I should have a gun, it would be now. I bought one and got a permit to carry one. I had an active surgical practice that required me to see people in the middle of the night at three hospitals in the area. I had a good reason to have a gun and carry it.
I was amazed by all the requirements with which I had to comply. I had an interview with the county sheriff. I needed to pass a test, both a written test and also a practical shooting exam. Since I had no experience with guns, I enrolled in a gun course taught by an ex-police officer who was a real “black helicopter guy.” I must admit that it was fun. Every Wednesday for several months, I went to the shooting range. I had to hit the target while on my belly, on my back, from behind a tree, running past the target, and of course, at 50 paces. I passed it at the level the LAPD officers had to pass it, something I still quote with some degree of pride. I had to be fingerprinted by the FBI and get mug-shots of my mug. After a couple of months, they issued me a “to carry” permit.
The gun I chose was a titanium five-chambered 38 caliber Smith and Weston revolver because it was light and had enough “oomph” to stop a charging man dead in his tracks, so to speak. I carried it for a year. Despite it being a relatively “light” gun, it still became a burden. And every time I changed clothes in the surgeon’s dressing room, I had to re-tell the story as to why I was carrying a gun. According to a rumor, the man who threatened me had killed several people, but he mysteriously disappeared. So I gave up carrying the weapon, and I am luckily still here to tell about it.
The reason I tell you all this is that as a reputable person in my community, with the education that went to a post-graduate level with an M.D. behind my name, and a good reason to carry a gun, I still had to fulfill a number of hurdles to be allowed to do it. And the permit was only good for a year.
I do believe that some people should and must have a gun and should have the right to carry one. But how is it that an 18-year-old who was certifiable, who self-mutilated his face for “fun” he said, who tortured animals and bragged about it, who was in frequent fights at school, had shot people with a BB gun from a car but was never charged for that act, walked into a gun store and bought two AR-15 guns with very little investigation? I understand that many of the proposed changes in the law would not have stopped him, but something certainly should have. For one, crazy people should not be able to buy guns of any kind, ever. We license driving a car, require a test, and after certain infractions, confiscate the license.
Italy, which also has a gun culture, has not had one mortality due to mass shootings. What can we learn from Italians? They, too, require a person to be 18 years old to purchase a gun. In order to buy one, you must pass a written test on gun safety. You must register the weapon with the local police. You must have a written statement from your local doctor attesting to your mental stability and not have a history of drug addiction, and you must not have a criminal record. To shoot a gun, you must have a sporting or hunting license, and you cannot transport a firearm in your car unless you are in the act of going hunting or to a shooting range. If you threaten anyone with a gun, the police confiscate it. If you sell or give your gun to someone, you must report that to the police. I also know that people kill, not guns. And knives are also lethal, but it levels the risk considerably.
Criminals will not get their guns registered nor carry a hunting license, but many of these shootings are spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment events. Also, criminals are criminal but not crazy, but mass shooters always are. And a physician might think twice about writing a letter for someone who likes to shoot BB guns at people from his car, and someone who threatened to use his gun would not get back his guns. Those are the people that these regulations would catch. We do need to come up with laws to reduce the risk of the insane robbing the lives of innocent grade school children! The Second Amendment said nothing about the right for crazy people to be armed.
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