I support gun ownership. I believe in the Constitution, and I grew up in an area where people owned guns for hunting, recreation and protection. As a family, my husband and I used to take our kids to a Travis County range for clay and skeet sport shooting. However, gun ownership should not put an end to common sense.
Do individuals really need assault weapons for hunting? The common sense answer is, of course not. In fact, the United States had a ban on specific assault weapons, until Congress allowed the ban to expire in 2004. If you carry the no limits on gun ownership argument to its logical extreme, you can ask should we be allowed to have our own personal rocket launchers? Common sense tells us, of course not. Common sense also says that the Founding Fathers did not have assault weapons or rocket launchers in mind.
I know that some people will disagree with me. They will argue that guns are not the issue, and some even will say that more people need to be armed. Certainly, guns are not the only issue. We also have substantial, unaddressed mental health issues in our society. Hence, years ago I supported provisions in Texas gun legislation requiring background checks for gun ownership. However, the background check loopholes for gun ownership in this country are so big that you could drive a mac truck through them. The lack of a background check requirement to purchase a gun at a gun show is the most obvious and glaring loophole.
We can see from the recent incident in a Chinese school that it is much easier to kill innocent people with an assault rifle than with a knife. Also, we can look to the much lower murder rates in other industrialized societies that have more gun regulations and more mental health services. Furthermore, recent public opinion polls, including polls of NRA members, show that Americans support reasonable gun control legislation, such as an assault rifle ban.
Now is the time that we as a society must face some difficult issues and decisions. Will arming every teacher and child end gun violence in our schools? Common sense says that it will not. Experiences from other countries and our own history show that there are alternatives. There is a fork in the road and we either can address gun violence and mental health issues, or we can look the other way again. Should we ban assault weapons, close the background check loopholes, and provide mental health services? Common sense tells us yes, but the he decision is yours to make.
Sherri Greenberg is the Director of the Center for Politics and Governance at the LBJ School. Greenberg served for 10 years as a member of the Texas House of Representatives, completing her final term in January 2001.