It’s not that hard | Ott Observations

Most Republicans in Congress are self-congratulating themselves for passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.  

Yes, it’s an effort to rein in mass shooting gun violence by expanding background checks, providing money for mental health services and “red flag” laws, and putting a five-year hold on sales to domestic violence offenders.  

While relieved that their colleagues have at least taken some action, most Democrats know this solution falls well short of what’s needed.

The test of any solution to any problem is that the solution actually eliminates at least a substantive part of the problem. If you examine the 20-plus worst mass shootings in our recent history, there are some common issues.  These include:  Use of semi-automatic weapons increasing the killing rate; access to such weapons by people under 21 years old; and access to such weapons by people we know are mentally unstable.

Here’s a much better solution: Ban the sale of all semi-automatic weapons.  The issue isn’t “assault rifles.” Any gun when fired at someone is an assault weapon.  There’s no reason anyone needs a weapon that can rapidly spray a field of fire. No self-respecting hunter needs one. And defense of your home would be better served by a shotgun if someone is breaking into your house.

Ban the sale of all guns to anyone under 21. That’s when we trust them to buy alcohol or tobacco. Auto insurance companies don’t reduce high-risk rates until the age of 25. We know young people are impulsive and have a propensity to not think things through until they accumulate greater life experience. They can always use a borrowed gun under adult supervision for hunting or target shooting.

Establish a national gun registry and sale restriction list. Public and private gun sellers must register who owns every gun. Sales cannot be made to anyone on the restriction list. To buy a gun, you must be a citizen, you cannot have any convictions for violent crimes including assault misdemeanors, and you cannot be on a mental health hold.  

You need to be a citizen in good standing to enjoy your Second Amendment right. Any seller or owner that provides a gun to someone restricted from gun ownership is fully and equally accountable for any crimes committed with an illegally provided gun. This would include owners who do not secure their guns, resulting in child deaths from playing with them. 

Establish a national and universal “red flag” law.  Anyone “red flagged” for mental health purposes would have to surrender firearms they own and would be placed on the “no sale” list. Removal from the list would require a process of mental health recovery certified by physicians and approved in court. 

Any domestic disturbance requiring police investigation would trigger a red flag action, which could be appealed in court.  Mental health professionals concerned about any patient would encourage such patients to volunteer for the red flag list until their health improves.  

For over 200 years, our legislative and judicial systems have been refining and clarifying how all of our Constitutional rights apply in an ever changing world.  This requires balancing an individual’s rights against a community’s right to be safe from an individual’s actions.

My suggestions here would’ve significantly reduced both the number of mass shootings we’ve endured and the number of casualties. None of these suggestions would prevent a law abiding, mentally stable citizen from hunting, target shooting or home defense. If you want to shoot a machine gun, a bazooka or drive a tank, join the National Guard. The preservation of such a regulated militia was the intent of the Second Amendment, as stated in the first few words.

When President Biden was announcing his approval of the new gun control law, he was shouted at by a parent of the Parkland School shooting, saying the law wasn’t enough. Biden let the man speak.  And the man was right – except he was shouting at the wrong person.

Most Republican senators have been practicing extreme hypocrisy for years. They have blocked or accelerated Supreme Court confirmations in order to create the court we have today. One of their primary objectives was to get the recent Dobbs decision, which asserts that the government has the right to deny individual women from making personal health decisions from the moment they become pregnant. 

At the same time, they can’t support the government denying access to guns to people who clearly shouldn’t have them. If you’re pro-life for the unborn, how can you not be pro-life for the already born?

Some balancing acts concerning rights are difficult. This one isn’t. When you vote this fall, ask yourself who supports specific laws and actions that realistically will make communities safer, in light of everything we now know.

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Bill Ott

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