Treat gun owners like car owners

Wiley A. Hall 3rd

January 29, 1991|By Wiley A. Hall 3rd

I suppose it must be hard these days to be a lover of guns.

True, the National Rifle Association has money and political clout. True, it has most elected officials thoroughly trained, broken in and ready for the saddle like a little child's pony.

But every day, it seems, some lover of guns spoils it for the rest by committing some senseless and horrifying act of violence.

And those who do not love guns refuse to quit their attempts to control those who do.

They push and they push. They get beaten in the political arena and in the courts time and again, but still they keep chipping away at the laws, gnawing away at a lover of gun's God-given right to have and to hold lethal weaponry.

I suppose it must be hard to live in such a world in which people do not understand that the love of a gun is a wholesome thing.

I suppose a lover of guns must wonder where it will all end.

I do not know where it will all end.

But I am not a lover of guns, and I'll tell you what I'd like to see: I'd like to see a day when guns are taxed, licensed and controlled as thoroughly as we tax, license and control automobiles.

I'd like to see a state Lethal Firearms Administration standing right next to the state Motor Vehicle Administration down there on Ritchie Highway; a large, fearsome, towering bureaucracy dedicated to the strict, unyielding and blind enforcement of a coterie of strict, unyielding and blind rules and regulations regarding the use and ownership of guns.

Alas, though, that day seems far, far away right now.

"We have a pretty long list of what we'd like to do -- especially on the federal level," said Gwen Fitzgerald of Handgun Control Inc., a Washington lobbying group headed by Sarah Brady. Brady is the wife of the former presidential press secretary James Brady, who was wounded during the attempt on then-President Reagan's life.

"But right now," continued Fitzgerald, "we have to concentrate on the basics. The NRA, after all, remains a pretty potent lobbying force."

The basics, for those who don't love guns, include a federal mandatory seven-day waiting period for purchasers of handgun and assault weapons and/or a ban on assault weapons entirely.

"In some states, hard as it may be to believe, convicted felons can literally walk into some stores and walk out with guns," said Fitzgerald.

Maryland stacks up pretty well when compared to such insanity.

The state imposes a seven-day waiting period on purchasers so that State Police can conduct a criminal records check on them. Each year, police estimate, the background checks nab between 800 to 1,000 would-be buyers who are prohibited from owning guns.

Maryland also bans cheap, easily concealable handguns that a citizen review panel designates as Saturday Night Specials.

Meanwhile, the governor has announced plans to introduce a bill that would ban the further sale of assault weapons here, while requiring existing ones to be registered.

All of these provisions gnaw away at the problem, which I suppose is the best we can realistically hope for when going up against the NRA and its stable of trotting legislators.

But, oh, if we could only resolve the issue in one big gulp!

We require every citizen who wants a driver's license to take lessons from a registered instructor. We test their vision, their practical ability and their understanding of the laws. Every citizen is forced to insure himself against the possibility that he may harm others.

Every person who owns a vehicle pays for the privilege. The owner is taxed when he buys a vehicle, then pays a fee when he registers it. A fee is paid each year to reregister it. The revenue goes to the state Department of Transportation.

The state makes owning and operating a car an expensive, odious burden. But each of the provisions makes sense.

Gun owners should receive the same treatment. They should be forced to prove competency before they are allowed to own a weapon. Their mental and physical health should be monitored. Gun owner's liability insurance should be mandatory. Finally, the state should impose so many licenses and fees that only a true lover of guns would go through the trouble to own one.

We go through great lengths to prevent this state from becoming one grand Daytona 500 raceway.

I see no reason why we should then have to live in a Dodge City.

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