mOp-Ed: Guns

Photo by Dusty Barnes on Unsplash

By Mark Oppenheim

According to an extensively footnoted Wikipedia entry, in the United States of America:

“…in 2013, there were 73,505 nonfatal firearm injuries … and 33,636 deaths due to ‘injury by firearms’… These deaths included 21,175 suicides, 11,208 homicides… In 2017, gun deaths reached their highest level since 1968 with 39,773 deaths by firearm, of which 23,854 were by suicide and 14,542 were homicides.”

Many of our clients work with people affected by gun violence. In my life, 1,700,000 people have been killed and 4,000,000 injured by guns in this country, with over 1,000,000 self-inflicted deaths. Approximately.

Guns and gun violence touches everyone.  Rich, poor or in-between; religious or irreligious; young our old; white, black, brown; male, female or other… none of us is immune from gun violence. 

I get asked by clients in red and blue states where we come down on this.  We’ve heard reasoned arguments all around.  To me, the question is how we take reasonable steps to protect people. How do we protect ourselves from gun violence while protecting the right to bear arms that’s in our constitution?

My personal opinion is that all people buying and using guns should be licensed like drivers are.  People who use guns should go through safety training that is required and administered by each state according to a common minimum standard. I’ve used guns – handguns rifles and shotguns. I am not skilled. I think it’s absolutely necessary to ensure that people buying and using guns have gun safety training.

I think that guns should be registered by states in the same way that cars are. It increases the owner’s sense of responsibility to secure their firearms, and reduces the transfer of firearms to criminals and others who should not have them.

I feel that sale of particular kinds of ammunition, such as that which can penetrate the bullet proof vests of law enforcement, should be controlled. I’m not sure what that means exactly, but I worry about the safety of our law enforcement professionals and don’t really understand the need to have ammunition designed for military applications on our streets.

I think that there should be a higher standard and certain restrictions to the purchase of high capacity magazines, bump-stocks, and kits that convert one type of gun to a more anti-personnel and military-type firearm.

I think that people with certain conditions and records of conduct should be prohibited from having guns.

I understand that some people feel the need to periodically shoot military-style weapons, and perhaps that should be protected. I personally don’t have that need, but there are lots of things people do that I don’t and the preferences of others should be respected. I do feel that there should at least be an elevated requirement for training, licensing and use of weapons which are at the edge of purely military applications.  It’s something I’d like to discuss with people who know more about these military weapons. There are clearly ways to protect the right to bear arms while reducing gun deaths and injuries.

Such measures won’t end gun deaths or violence, but they elevate our sense of responsibility for who has guns and how they’re used, and it increases knowledge about how to use guns safely while protecting the rights of law abiding citizens who simply wish to exercise their rights.


Mark Oppenheim is a nonprofit wonk who runs nonprofit search and media organizations.

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