First, I had to learn how to take apart the gun, clean it, and put it back together. Then Daddy taught me how to hand a gun to someone; how to crawl under or over a fence while holding a gun; and how to walk safely behind someone with a loaded rifle. These were long training sessions; experiences I still treasure.
Times have changed. Guns are not just family bonding experiences anymore. Deaths due to misuse of guns have increased in America. Thirty-four people are murdered in United States every day with guns. Since the Tucson killing in January, more than 3,000 people have been killed with guns.
Please understand. I don’t want to ban guns. I believe people are entitled to own guns for target practice, hunting, or for their protection. But, because our current laws are weak and not strictly enforced, guns are accessible to felons, the mentally ill, and the troubled youth in our society, and as a result, innocent people get hurt.
Here’s one problem I see with our current system. Licensed gun dealers are currently required to do background checks to determine whether customers are mentally ill, or have served time in prison; and most licensed gun dealers accommodate this responsibility. But sales by private citizens at gun shows are not regulated. According to the Brady Foundation, 40% of the gun sales in the United States occur at these gun shows. I want the law changed to require everyone who purchases a gun at a gun show to have to undergo a background check.
I also want tighter regulation of large capacity ammunition magazines, which are designed to enable someone to shoot efficiently and quickly without reloading. In 15 seconds, the shooter in Tucson fired more than 30 shots from one magazine, wounding 19 people, one of whom was Gabrielle Giffords and killing 6 including a 9-year-old girl. According to the law enforcement in Tucson, “There’s absolutely no doubt the magazines increased the lethality and the body county of this attack.” (Isikoff, 2011) They should be banned.
I also want better communication in the enforcement of existing gun control laws. Four years ago, a Virginia judge designated a Virginia Tech student as mentally ill and a danger to himself. Unfortunately this important information never made it to the gun shops so he bought two semiautomatic pistols, which fired 174 rounds in twelve minutes. He killed 25 students, five teachers, and wounded seventeen people, before he killed himself.
Whenever I hear of a gun tragedy, I think about my father’s comments. “Patty, this is not a toy. This is a gun. And guns were made to kill.”
You’re right, Daddy.
--Patty Pullen lives in Charlottesville.