Knopf: Gun aptitude in the wake of Parkland shooting (column)
February 25, 2018
I agree with the president; that will come as a shock to many who follow my columns.
On Thursday President Trump said, "…not everybody has aptitude for guns…" Now to put this in context, he was advocating arming teachers in schools and making the point that those who have the aptitude ought to have concealed carry permits. But he did say, not everyone has the aptitude for using a gun. I couldn't agree more — I think we are all talking about making sure those who have guns have the aptitude to carry and use them.
That aptitude is measured in several ways: actual knowledge and skill with the weapon in addition to the emotional aptitude to use the firearm for the appropriate purposes. I think we all agree that is not killing innocents. So how do we measure this aptitude? That's a question for a thorough public dialogue. The issue we've had, is the NRA fighting the obvious need to have that discussion. The NRA is paid off by gun manufacturers, and both the NRA and the gun industry are paying off our political leaders to make sure that subject isn't studied academically, nor discussed politically.
I don't take pay offs, so let's talk about it. I've always thought guns are a lot like cars. The gun industry likes to say, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." You can say cars don't kill people, drivers kill people. We license drivers. And just because you are licensed to drive a motorcycle doesn't mean you can drive an 18-wheeler. We have specific licenses for specific purposes.
Think about driving school and the hours you spent learning to control a vehicle safely. Think about students in law enforcement academies, or the military. How long do they train to be proficient? All the time these students train, they are being observed for fitness and aptitude.
We already issue hunting licenses. Everyone knows that. But you can't get your first license without demonstrating actual knowledge, skill and safety in a two-day hunter safety course. Once you pass this safety course, every state recognizes the achievement, and you can apply for a hunting license in any state. We demand drivers take a driving course, pass a written test and a driving test. Why not do the same before you can purchase a weapon? Drivers have to carry liability insurance and they are required to prove periodically that the car meets basic safety standards. Shouldn't that be true for guns too?
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In many states you can't get an unrestricted drivers license until age 21. I'm not sure I agree that no one under the age of 18 can buy a gun. We lived in the South and it was quite common for youngsters to hunt with their families. Of course these kids didn't buy their own guns. Dylan Roof, the Charleston, South Carolina shooter was reported to have received his gun as a 21st birthday gift.
It's also important that gun owners properly store their weapons, lock them up and separate and secure ammunition. Failure to do so would be a breach of duty and result in an insurance liability claim. Sandy Hook could have been prevented if only the gun owner had secured her guns and ammunition separately, and thus protecting everyone from her son.
Various agencies coordinate enforcement on drivers licenses. I lent my car to my daughter, who in turn lent it to a friend who ran a red light early one Sunday morning in another state, where they both attended school. I wasn't driving the car, so I figured it wasn't my problem. Wrong. My home state of New Jersey, notified me if I didn't pay the fine for the traffic violation I didn't commit in my car, in another state, they would suspend my license. If we can go to all this trouble over running a red light, I think we can manage to coordinate gun licenses to protect school kids.
We all enjoy many rights. But no right is completely unfettered. If you are convicted of a felony you can loose our most precious right, the right to vote. Surely if you do not have the requisite skill to operate a weapon, if you are unfit due to some emotional issue, then your right to possess a firearm may be abridged to insure the rights of others, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Overturning the 2nd Amendment is not the goal for most of us. Common sense gun regulation, safety in our schools, safety in our lives, is what we seek.
Susan Knopf is a Summit County resident, and a contributor to the Summit Daily. Susan has won awards from the Associated Press and United Press International for her news reporting. Susan is currently employed as a certified ski instructor at Arapahoe Basin.
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