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Of friends, guns and solutions

Let me first say that I appreciate my friends who are responsible gun owners (and all who are). They secure their weapons against theft or unauthorized use. I can thoroughly understand their discomfort with the mass shootings that tend to dominate the news when they occur.

Due to my life history and occupational history, most of my friends can be categorized as "right-wing," so I can understand their desire to be pre-emptive against the wave of anti-gun sentiment they anticipate. These pre-emptive messages, of which I have received or seen many, seem to have two major themes: 1) Guns don't kill people; people do. Or (alternative expression of the same theme), evil resides in the shooter, not the gun. 2) This would not have occurred if God had not been banished from the schools.

Respectfully, I submit that, if God is as represented to us by reputable religious authorities and theologians, God cannot be kept out of anything. Further, I would submit that no one claims that guns are moral agents in and of themselves, or that they have a will. Again, respectfully, I would submit that the problem is ubiquity of guns in our country, coupled with a lack of accountability.

If I am correct, then probably there is no solution. The legitimately acquired weapons (and most, originally, are legitimately acquired) that have accumulated in the "on the street" marketplace and in the hands of criminals, troubled persons and mentally ill persons cannot be retrieved or seized within the framework of our laws and value system.

Searches and seizures are not permitted without probable cause. This is basic to our founding documents and our legal codes. Let us accept that there is no definitive solution, and that it may take generations to ameliorate this problem.

Part of the incremental steps that can be taken over a period of generations, without violation of our principles, will be unwelcome to most of my friends, but will be necessary. The steps to which my friends will not object will involve concentration of police and investigative agency attention upon possession of firearms by felons and certified mentally ill persons.

My friends would not consider it unreasonable for gun owners who have troubled, mentally ill, or gun-ineligible persons in their households to be tasked, under law, with greater responsibility for securing of firearms. There is no point in increasing the penalties for use of firearms in the commission of crimes, as those penalties are heavy already. It would be reasonable for the criminal intelligence branches of police and investigative agencies to place a priority on tracking concentrations of illegally possessed firearms.

Less acceptable to my friends would be "closing the loopholes" in the purchase of firearms and ammunition (gun shows and mail order, for example). The regulation of normal retail purchases seems adequate in principle and theory, except that the prohibition on sale of full-automatic firearms should be reinstated. Dealers who violate legal sales/purchase requirements are routinely investigated and prosecuted (though, of course 100 percent effectiveness is impossible).

My conclusion is that it is not feasible or desirable to arm every member of the public, so that the public is always prepared to "shoot it out" with attackers. (My friends all may not agree.) I have been forwarded a number of photographs of attractive young female Israeli schoolteachers teaching classes with assault weapons at sling-arms. Call me a skeptic, but I don't think that is a feasible solution either.

I suppose that weapons-qualified security guards or police in schools may now be a necessity. I hate to see the education budget used this way, but there it is. I don't think the theater industry can afford armed guards. Entrance, exit and general access control to public places may be a necessity.

When we've solved our problems, or begun to do so, maybe we can do something about all the guns we've poured into Mexico.

Weeden Nichols is a retired soldier, amateur photographer, former athlete, competitive bridge player, social justice worker and Scottish heritage enthusiast.