Action needed in a crisis
Debate, discourse and disagreement all add heft to a strong working democracy. Divisiveness, hostility and inaction during a crisis, especially one we can anticipate will reoccur, substantially weakens and undermines the durability of any democracy.
The U.S has a public safety crisis. A crisis exacerbated by firearms in the hands of bad people, really bad people, unstable people. It is a crisis worsened by the ease with which any person can get their hands on almost any firearm.
The debate to put in place stronger gun laws and enforcement to prevent further carnage like that of Columbine, Sandy Hook, the Pulse Nightclub and Uvalde is not at odds with gun ownership. Nor should it be seen as an argument against the Second Amendment. The debate does not trample on the right to bear arms.
We must have immediate, civil dialogue about what is needed today so the right to bear arms is not in conflict with the rights, freedoms and liberties of every individual to move safely and securely around their communities. Federal laws reforming our current gun safety laws are needed. Laws which protect human lives. They must be federal laws to prevent skirting around the rules of one state and buying firearms in another state with different, weaker rules.
Clearly, weapons of war in the hands of every citizen are not keeping citizens safe. It is past time for this country to support further gun control and safety measures. It was done before. In the 1930s sawed-off shotguns were outlawed in the U.S. In 1934, the U.S successfully curtailed the sale and transactions of machine guns by imposing a steep tax on the purchase of them. In 1934 that tax was $200. It has not changed since. Today that tax would be the equivalent of $3,800.
If no consensus can be reached on the debate about a ban of semi-automatic weapons, why not immediately impose a steep tax on the purchase, registration and transfer of those weapons? I wager that $3,800 would be a disincentive to many.
Let's incentivize people to voluntarily turn in their semi-automatic weapons and large capacity magazines with a buyback program. In the 1990s Australia spent $500 million to buy back almost 600,000 guns. In the seven years following, Australia's gun homicide rates dropped 42% and gun suicide rates fell 58%
Six of the nine deadliest mass shootings in the U.S since 2018 were by people 21 or younger. If agreement cannot be reached to raise the age to buy any firearm to 21, let's establish a national "red flag" law. It will allow a judge to take away a person's gun based on the belief by family, police or a doctor that the owner will use it to hurt themselves or others.
Strengthening background checks and extending the waiting period for assault rifles has reduced suicide rates and homicides in the states that have such laws. Strengthening them and extending them to all states is a small contribution by gun owners to help save lives.
It is time to re-build the aged and age-old gun laws to meet today's sad realities. My views are not in conflict with the individual's right to bear arms. But gun rights must not infringe on the rights, freedoms and liberties of every individual to move safely and securely around communities.
We are in a public safety crisis, and we must come together to do what needs to be done to prevent further carnage.
Alistair Firmin is a Lake Oswego resident and candidate for House District 38.
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