Thoughts and Prayers

I am so tired of the politicians, on BOTH sides of the aisle, who respond to mass shooting tragedies with the offering of “thoughts and prayers.” Now I am a pastor, I am all for reflection and prayer, but I have to wonder what they are praying about. I am sure they are praying for a strong sense of God’s presence to surround the families of victims. I am sure they are praying for healing for those wounded. But they clearly are not praying for wisdom because, once again, we have thoughts and prayers offered but no action. They are not praying for courage because they exhibit none.

I was raised in a gun home. Our family ate game meats for a significant part of the year. Our father loaded his own ammunition and so that also meant that, in addition to guns and pistols, we also had a significant amount of ammunition and ammunition components in our home. All were stored responsibly. With four children in the home they had to be. No one could simply open the gun cabinet, pick up a weapon, and fire a round.

I have brothers who own both rifles and handguns. Both hunt. If I could afford it, I would have a handgun myself – not for protection – but simply because I enjoy target shooting. I am supportive of responsible gun ownership. I recognize that we have a second amendment right to keep and bear arms.

However, and this is where I am going to get in trouble, I do not believe that our second amendment right to gun ownership is absolute. Just as we do not have the right to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater when there is no fire, just as children do not have a right to purchase guns that are legally sold to adults, so also our constitutional rights are boundaried by reason and common sense.

I do not need a 100 round magazine to either target shoot or hunt. They are large, bulky, and serve no purpose other than to facilitate a massive expenditure of rounds on a target in the shortest possible time. It is time that large capacity magazines are outlawed.

When I was a teenager, I had to undergo a significant driver education course to get behind the wheel. That course included classroom education, practice driving on an enclosed range, and supervised driving on the open road. That education was designed to maximize not only my personal safety, but also the safety of those around me when I was driving. The idea that someone can walk into a gun shop in some of our states, or a gun show, and walk out with a weapon with no demonstrable safety training is stunningly ignorant to me. It is time to mandate appropriate shooting education courses prior to the purchase of any weapon. Just as driver’s licenses need to be renewed with appropriate testing, so should shooting licenses.

Background checks should be mandated, thorough, include mental health, and perhaps some kind of screening for social media presentations. The delivery of the purchased weapon should only be finalized once the thorough background check has been successfully completed. The gun show loophole for purchase should be closed.

Ammunition not used for target shooting or hunting should not be available for purchase. No one has a need for armor piercing rounds. Rounds designed to fragment or tumble upon impact serve no recreational purpose. With no reasonable common use, ammunition purchases should be limited to recreational or hunting rounds.

These precautions seem reasonable to me. They should be federally mandated. They provide for responsible gun ownership. Will this end all mass shootings? No, but it will help. I am open to reasonable compromises. What do you think?