Larry Buford

*Seems these days a segment of Americans are brushing their teeth with gunpowder and just shootin’ off the mouth!

Social media is becoming a shameful cesspool of shameless foul and damaging communication (‘e-mail netiquette’). So much for the phrase, ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.’ Cowards and thugs are hiding behind keyboards and guns, as their words and bullets are fired randomly at unsuspecting victims. Gunsmiths and Wordsmiths are not to blame for the mishandling, misuse and abuse we are seeing today resulting in gun-related massacres along with suicides triggered by cyberspace bullying.

These consequential events have become so common – we see the symptoms and know the causes, and yet we all seem to be helpless and neutralized to do anything about them. It’s how we use guns and how we use words that kill. What are we as a people willing to do about the elephant in the room called irresponsibility?  We cannot legislate it nor dictate it – it has to come from an equal, central place within us, so that we all approach it from an equal, central position.

If there is to be any change it will have to come from the heart of the people, or else the constitutional idealistic/legalistic Second Amendment (‘right to bear arms’), and the First Amendment (‘freedom of speech’) will become our own internal atomic bomb that will eventually destroy us. After the Sandy Hook Massacre, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association – proponents of the Second Amendment – blamed it on the First Amendment that is causing young men across America to lash out. Is it the pot calling the kettle black?

NRA denounces 1st Amendment

Years ago I thought if the concerted effort of the law, the media and other resources used to regulate seat belt usage and invoke smoking ordinances could be so successful, why not the same for gun-control? Okay, before you stop reading, please hear me out. In 2011 a survey result conducted for Mayors Against Illegal Guns said, “The public overwhelmingly supports laws requiring the reporting of lost or stolen firearms. A nationwide poll in 2011 found that 94 percent of Americans…including 94 percent of gun owners, favor laws to require the reporting of lost or stolen firearms.” As I was reading this I was reminded of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) commerce/consumer laws for registering commercial and non-commercial vehicles.

When a vehicle is purchased through a licensed dealership, the Vehicle Registration Number (VIN which is strategically placed in a tamper-proof location on the unit) is registered with the purchaser’s name to the state database as the owner. Each year a DMV notice to renew is sent to the owner. Now (at least in California) if the owner decides he no longer wants to operate the vehicle, he has to provide that information on the notification and return it, otherwise he will be penalized monetarily. If the owner decides to sell the vehicle (a private sale), he has to transfer the title to the new owner thus continuing a paper trail and maintaining accountability for the vehicle. Why not adopt the same rule for dealership and private sales of guns? Instead of permits being renewed every three years or so, it would be every year and for every gun owned. That way people can buy as many guns as they want as long as they are registering and paying for them annually. This would give people pause and perhaps discourage multiple and frivolous purchases. Manufacturers could assign a tamper-proof Gun I.D. Number (GIN) as a way to trace the gun back to the last registered owner. The California Penal Code requires that all gun transfers be conducted at licensed dealers, so if a murder weapon is traced back to a person who sold a gun illegally, that person should be charged as an accomplice to the crime, even if the gun is traced all the way back to the manufacturer who may or may not have followed the rules. In other words, let’s create a trail of accountability to encourage and enhance responsibility. For gun dealerships and gun shows to be tasked with conducting background checks is like the fox guarding the hen house. They will and have cut corners because they are in the business of selling guns! Today (1/15/13) a Pew Research poll revealed that 85 percent of Americans are in favor of stricter laws on background checks, and gun permits.

According to one report, of all the fifty United States and the District of Columbia, only four require an owners license for both long guns and hand guns, and only one (New York as of this writing) for hand guns. Now that gun violence has been escalated to a ‘public health’ issue, if we could set federal standards for across-the-board-prevention, and turn the focus on who owns the guns rather than who has a license to carry a gun, it may be a start in curbing some illegal and illicit gun activity. If we use the DMV model of ownership and transfers, people would think twice about where a gun may end up.

This is a very urgent and pressing issue and it’s time for a round-up. Then after this, maybe we can focus on social media and the deadly ‘e-mail netiquette’ crisis, starting with some of the blatant disrespect being shown to the Office of the President by some of our elected officials and so-called leaders.

Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based songwriter and freelance article writer. He’s also the author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand” (Steuben Pub) www.amazon.com. Articles frequently appear (among others) in the Los Angeles Sentinel Op-Ed section. Visit the author at www.larrybuford.com. Or call him at: 213-220-8101.