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We Need to Talk...About Sensible Gun Control

It’s time for those of us who enjoy shooting to lead the push for sensible gun and ammo and magazine laws, for closing loopholes, and for more energetic enforcement of existing gun laws. For too long there has been no debate about guns in this country. That was allowed to happen because people were choosing sides and thinking the other side was unreasonable. Those who wanted more control thought of gun owners as holding the view that no laws should ever be passed restricting gun access in any way, period. On the other hand, gun owners and users have looked at those wanting some controls as if all they wanted was to take everyone’s guns away.

We’ve got to stop the us and them thinking, friends. The real situation of real Americans is much more complicated. The fact that my father was shot to death with a Saturday-night Special does not keep me from enjoying target shooting with handguns and rifles of all calibers. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords owns a Glock that looks very much like the one Gerald Loughner shot her through the head with.

More gun owners are the victims of accidental and deliberate gun violence than non-owners. Everyone has a stake in this and it’s an enormous problem that has to be addressed on all fronts.

It’s people who pull the triggers, so it’s important to figure out how to deal better with the beginnings of domestic violence and mental health problems. This means more resources but it also means changing some attitudes and removing the stigma of seeking help for rage and other pathologies. It needs to be easier and more common to refer and recommend mental counseling, and even to require it.

Most gun violence isn’t in schools or malls but in homes where guns are accessible to children or to family or friends who shouldn’t have them at that particular moment or perhaps ever. Cheaper and easier gun locks and real education for all members of gun-owning families can help here.

We can’t stop all the killing by renewing the law banning assault weapons, but it would help. Yes, two or three clips will kill just as many as one big one, but Gerald Loughner was tackled while he was reloading. Everyone agrees that the Brady Act hasn’t solved all gun violence problems, but it has helped, and yet we ignore the enormous gunshow loophole in background checks.

We need to talk. Gun owners could reassure their elected representatives that they won’t lose votes by sponsoring responsible gun laws. Trying to understand someone else’s point of view is never easy, but we’ll have to do it to stop the bleeding. Those who want some regulation need to try to reassure gun owners that no one intends to take away their three hundred million guns. It is not a matter of loving guns or hating them. It is not us and them. We need to talk.

Michael Cohen is Professor Emeritus at Murray State University. His book Murder Most Fair: The Appeal of Mystery Fiction was published by Fairleigh Dickinson University Press and is available on