Take away the ammo, not the guns

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Following the horror of the Connecticut shootings, the NRA was surprisingly quiet. Then after allowing the nation an entire week to collectively grieve, the call for further arming our nation resurfaced. As one who supports legalizing drugs as a method of removing the profit motive from their distribution, I am not in total disagreement with this particular stance of the NRA. Likewise, as a proud member of the ACLU, I am not in total disagreement with Americans’ right to bear arms (although I’d love to know where the NRA draws the line on the word “arms” – nickel-grade plutonium, perhaps?)

While pondering our Constitutional options, an old college friend of mine wrote an editorial to the Huffington Post which offers the most logical response I have heard to the American gun crisis. Author and award-winning marketing executive Sarah O’Leary believes the most efficient, effective way to control guns begins and ends with controlling ammunition.

She writes, “There are some great strategic lessons to be learned from World War II. For example, if you want to stop tanks from moving toward your troops don’t try to capture or destroy them, cut off their fuel supply. Make them inoperable. The same logic can be used with gun control in America.”

Sarah and I (and every other progressive American) know that it’s unrealistic to think we can get the estimated 300 million guns off the streets and out of the hands of people who want to do mass harm. It’s also unfair to take guns away from hunters and responsible gun owners. As we’ve learned, lawful gun owners are not the ones who endanger the masses. Those who use massive amounts of ammo against innocents do. The NRA is correct that guns don’t kill people. Bullets, however, do.

Now try this idea on for size: If we used law enforcement officials, through their stations and precincts, to regulate gun owners’ access to ammunition, we would greatly limit the unstable person determined to commit mass murder. Let Walmart and the hunting stores and the gun shops sell all the guns they want. Simply make it illegal for them to sell ammunition.

Require gun owners to buy their ammo at their local police stations, sheriff’s departments, or state troopers’ offices. Put limits on how much ammunition can be bought at any given time, and over any given period. The government limits how much Sudafed a person can buy, why not bullets?  If you’re a hunter or need ammo for “protection,” this provision shouldn’t bother you in the least. In fact, it should make you feel even safer.

Sarah continues, “If you want a driver’s license in the United States, you must go to the Dept. of Motor Vehicles. You also must visit the BMV to register your vehicle and get your license plates. Why not create a similar system for the sale and distribution of ammunition by law enforcement?

“One upside of controlling access to ammunition rather than gun control is that the National Rifle Association and 2nd Amendment proponents won’t have much of a leg to stand on. Ammunition regulations won’t limit a person’s right to bear arms whatsoever. Instead, it will greatly decrease the chances of mass murder.

“We can also consider real legislation about what types of ammunition are sold. Do you want the bullets designed to be used in assault rifles for killing human beings? Sorry, but you can’t buy those anymore, even if you just want to get your thrills by shooting them off in at a gun range. No more hollow point mass of death metal that’s primary purpose is to rip the insides out of whomever it strikes.

“There’s also the revenue stream consideration. Local, state and federal governments can profit from the sale of ammunition, helping bring new money into our struggling economies. Further, we can open the door to “sin” taxes, much like the ones we put on liquor and cigarettes. We’re not impeding anyone’s 2nd Amendment rights, after all. We’re just doing what’s in the masses’ common good.

“For the real ‘responsible gun owners,’ the regulation of ammunition should be a welcome compromise. The argument has always been that control laws only affect responsible gun owners. The bad guys would still find a way to get their guns. The control of ammo by law enforcement will serve as a deterrent to criminals, not to the law abiding among us. We can regulate the sale of it in a way that will prevent mass murderers from executing heinous crimes while keeping responsible gun owners content if not completely happy. True, the average armed robber might be able to get enough bullets for his weapon, but the chances of an emotionally unbalanced person getting a hold of 800 rounds would be nearly if not completely impossible.

“As for those who say we can’t turn our police departments into retail shops for ammo, why not?  We’re a smart, creative nation of big thinkers. Certainly our leaders can figure out sensible ways whereby police, sheriffs and state troopers can lead the distribution of ammunition.

“The side benefits of ammunition control are amazing. Law enforcement will get to screen the ammunition applicants first hand. Officers are trained to see threats, and will be in great position to do so. And talk about a deterrent! The person who wants to use his or her gun to break a law or laws might think twice before going to the police department and standing in front of video cameras to request 300 rounds of ammo for his .45.

“We can take real steps to avoid the mass murdering of innocent Americans.

“The best way to control guns is not simply more gun control laws. We need to control the bullets.”

Thank you, Sarah! On the surface this may seem like a huge undertaking, but I believe the benefits far outweigh the challenges. Americans dream big. This is a big idea. There’s no reason we can’t implement it. It’s the kind of idea Bobby Kennedy would have loved. You remember Bobby Kennedy?  He was the U.S. Senator and presidential candidate who uttered the greatest campaign line I’ve ever heard:  “Some men see things as they are and say, ‘Why?’ I see things that never were and say, ‘Why not?’”  This is one of those “Why not?” moments in our history. Let’s seize the moment while we can.


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