It really bothers me that we can’t have a serious debate about meaningful gun control in this country. Instead of working to reinstate the federal ban on assault weapons, the Fat Cat-funded NRA threatens and intimidates our legislators into not even limiting the size of clips. Here is a proposal that would be fairly easy to implement at low cost and would provide a significant improvement in gun control. This is something that would have been hard in the past, but with 21st-century technology is relatively easy to achieve. It passes the constitutional test and is in the public interest. Here is the proposal:
A.We need 100 percent registration of all guns and ammunition. This imposes no limitations on the exercise of anyone’s constitutional right to own guns. But if you do not have criminal intent, then there should be no reason to object to 100 percent registration.
B. A National Psychiatric Registry with a simple code of “one” for anyone who is seeking or receiving emotional or psychological care. If you ask your doctor for a prescription for Prozac or Xanax, if you are in marriage counseling, drug or alcohol counseling, anything that makes a doctor think you have an emotional or psychiatric disturbance, then you are given a “code one” flag in the national database. It doesn’t mean anything to anyone and is totally private for official government use only. The only reason this exists is for gun control.
With these two databases, kept up-to-date in real time as every gun/ammo transaction and every doctor visit occurs, it would enable a flag for law enforcement when someone who is somewhat disturbed or troubled begins to accumulate guns and ammo. It doesn’t mean they are guilty of anything. But it does mean that the local sheriff gets notified that Mr. A recently acquired a Bushmaster and 10,000 rounds of ammo and also has been in court-ordered alcohol counseling. Or maybe Mr. B recently asked his doctor for Prozac to help with the depression from the recent loss of his wife of 50 years, and also bought an AR-15 and 5,000 rounds of ammo; the local sheriff and FBI will get a notice about this. So what happens with this information?
A. In the case of Mr. A, the sheriff goes to knock on his door, and his professional instincts tell him to reconsider how to approach this person. Mr. A’s home looks dangerous, with two menacing pit bulls in the yard and obvious fortifications. The sheriff wisely decides to withdraw, consult with the district attorney and assign an investigator to determine if Mr. A is a danger to society. Mr. A will suffer no law enforcement intrusion into his life if he is a law-abiding citizen. But if he is part of a fringe movement with a fascist ideology whose members all are accumulating assault weapons and ammo, the sheriff and FBI will know about it and can keep an eye on the situation for possible law enforcement action.
B. In the case of Mr. B, the sheriff sends a deputy to investigate. The deputy drives to the home and, seeing no reason for concern, knocks on the door. Mr. B welcomes the deputy into his home. During the conversation, Mr. B explains that since his wife passed away, he has joined a shooting club and enjoys spending weekends going to the club range and shooting several hundred rounds of ammo at targets and in competition events. The sheriff checks the story and finds that it is completely true. The deputy goes to the gun club and interviews some of Mr. B’s associates. They all describe a nice man who enjoys the camaraderie of the club and the shooting events. His friends think he has adopted the shooting club to have something to do now that he is living alone.
As you can imagine, there can be many different scenarios and many different situations. But there is one consistent theme: No one’s constitutional rights are violated, but law enforcement is enabled to know when there might be a questionable situation.
This is a simple but powerful concept. Law enforcement can know when anyone is amassing large amounts of guns and ammunition, and is empowered to take appropriate action as needed. No one gives up any rights, but society is protected from dangerous people with guns. Can we take legitimate action to protect our children and families?
I know it is an uphill battle to get a national registry of all gun and ammo sales, and will be an even steeper climb to get a national registry on mental health. But anything worthwhile is never easy to achieve. I urge my fellow citizens to write to their elected representatives and demand action. We the people must make our voices heard to get our leaders attention, overcome the Fat Cat bias, and move the debate forward from “too hard” to legitimate practical action.F
Daniel Welke is a resident of Ventura.