The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

February 8, 2013

Anson Burlingame, guest columnist: Treat gun violence as we treat drunken driving

By Anson Burlingame
Special to The Globe

— To solve any problem, the nature of the problem must be clearly stated. I believe the real problem in America today, as far as guns are concerned, is gun violence and the clear evidence that it continues to escalate in terms of mass killings in America.

Yet, we are focused almost exclusively now on the political debate of gun control — who should own and possess guns, where they should be allowed, how many bullets they may contain, and the list goes on.

One side in the gun control debate thinks that limiting the availability of guns will solve or at least drastically mitigate the gun violence problem. The other side says it will make little or no difference. In fact, the other side, represented by the National Rifle Association, claims that increasing the availability of guns for American citizens will reduce gun violence. Of course, both political views will be backed up with pages of “statistics” to prove contradictory points of view. So much for statistics. Contradictory statistics prove nothing.

We have a significant problem with people killed or maimed by drunken drivers. But no one is debating limiting cars on the road or the size of fuel tanks. Instead, any debate offered should be about keeping drunks off the road and how to write laws that will do exactly that. No, it does not solve the problem of drunken driving, but most agree that it mitigates the problem. And such laws never confront a constitutional challenge as well, as far I as I have seen or heard.

I pose a simple question as a way to seek some resolution to help us state the problem of gun violence accurately. How many people are shot and thus wounded or killed by law enforcement officers, and how many of those incidents were caused by misuse of guns? Compile the same numbers, without any preformed political opinion, for those wounded or killed by non-law enforcement people. How many of those shootings happened and how many were in fact determined to be criminal actions, not legitimate self-defense or accidents?

Resolution of the first issue — unnecessary wounding or death caused by law enforcement personnel — has an obvious answer. Punish the offending law enforcement officers and then call for further screening and training for any law enforcement officer before he or she is ever given a gun. That should be the same solution for non-law enforcement personnel, before they ever receive the authority to carry a gun, anywhere.

We demand all drivers to be trained and qualified (through testing) before they can legally drive a car. Anytime someone is suspected of driving illegally, they must produce a valid license to prove they have the authority to even drive a car. Why not require at least some level of training and qualification and a valid license for anyone possessing a gun? And yes, that license should be carried any time a person carries a gun, any gun, anywhere, anytime, except perhaps on their own property.

One further point as well. We require a license for every driver and another separate license for every car on the road. I would suggest a license for every gun in America with a readable and traceable serial number on every gun as well, just like the vehicle identification number on cars.

Anson Burlingame lives in Joplin.