Curbing gun violence: Treat ownership of guns more like ownership of cars Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Apr. 18, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

Parents of children killed in the December 14, 2012, Newtown, Conn., massacre have been giving powerful testimony to legislators on proposed tougher gun laws at public hearings in their own state and elsewhere.

At a hearing in Connecticut, Veronique Pozner said of her son, “Noah was our six-year-old force of nature.” Noah was one of 20 first-graders killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“He lies forever motionless in the earth. He will never get to attend middle school or high school, kiss a girl, attend college, pick a career path, fall in love, marry, have children, or travel the world,” his mother said.

It is indeed sad that these children were killed by a man who obtained a gun from his own home. The lives of these 20 children and so many other people in our country have been snuffed out by people wielding guns.

How can we deal with this situation? There are many issues involved, including our Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. In my mind, this refers more to the military defense of our country, but, of course, it can also apply to self-defense. However, I don’t believe that ordinary citizens need assault weapons to protect themselves.

Comparing cars and guns

As I’ve thought about this issue, I’ve thought about the comparison between owning and operating a car and owning and operating a gun. Comparing guns and cars is fair, I found, because they kill about the same number of Americans every year: 33,687 motor vehicle deaths and 31,672 firearm deaths in 2010 (the latest year for which complete data is available). The death rates per 100,000 are almost identical: 10.9 for motor vehicles and 10.3 for firearms.

With a car (which can kill if not operated well), we require people to pass a driver’s test as well as a vision test. Drivers must be licensed, and their cars must be registered. Some states require insurance for cars. There are also restrictions on young drivers as well as some older drivers.

Yet guns, which have an even greater chance of being lethal in some hands, have fewer restrictions. People do not have to be trained to use a gun in most states. All gun owners do not have to undergo a background check. Licensing is not as strict as for car ownership.

A step in the right direction

This week Congress will begin debate over gun-control legislation. The head of the U.S. Catholic bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development wrote a letter to members of the Senate on April 8.

Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., urged senators to support a bill that “builds a culture of life by promoting policies that reduce gun violence and saves people’s lives in homes and communities.”

As reported in a Catholic News Service (CNS) article, Bishop Blaire told Senate members that one bill, S. 649, was “a positive step in the right direction.” The bill requires universal background checks for all gun buys and makes gun trafficking a federal crime.

Possible compromise deal

On April 10, the day before debate began, Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Senator Patrick Toomey, R-Pa., announced a compromise deal on the background-checks provision of the bill that they believe will win bipartisan support.

According to the CNS article, the background checks would not apply to unadvertised gun sales, according to the compromise. Further, gun owners who have passed background checks within the past five years for a concealed-carry permit can use that permit to buy guns in other states.

The compromise would relax some restrictions on hunters traveling with their guns through states that ban them. It also would allow active members of the military to buy firearms in their home states; the practice is illegal when they are stationed outside their state.

Bishop Blaire asked senators to consider amendments to the bill that would ban assault weapons and limit civilian access to high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Please contact your senators and representatives urging them to take action to curb gun violence in our country. At the very least, we should treat gun ownership with the care we treat car ownership.