Submitted to Huffpost.

Let's do something reasonable about firearms. They are so far down the list of causes of death, they almost aren't on it at all, but I agree. Working on a farm in China or England and seeing a Mongol horde or a ship full of Vikings descend upon you must have felt the same as shooter with a scary mask on shooting up a mall or someone killing a bunch of helpless children.  Horror doesn't begin to describe it.

I get that. But most of the previous centuries were steeped in conquest and rapine, in which there were no firearms and individuals got whatever they could carry off as pay. There were no medical benefits and no retirement plan. This is different. Shooting 20 kids in a schoolroom is not robbery. It is insanity. Humans become deranged.  Inanimate object do not.

I feel obligated to mention, one more time, that our government does the same thing about once a month with a drone and then classifies the information, but I shall not offtrack.

It's not the type of firearm. I can load and fire a WWII pistol or rifle as fast and much more accurately than someone with an AR-15 and a jam won't stop me for more than one second. If you believe Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK, he was even faster and more accurate with a $29 mail-order bolt action rifle than Adam Lanza. So was Charles Whitman, and I know because I was there.

There are already mandatory FBI background checks for anyone who buys a firearm at retail – or, in my state, anyone who buys a firearm AT ALL, from ANYONE. But we have incidents, too. People have psychochic episodes for no discernable reason.  So, apart from keeping known criminals and prohibited persons with a history of violence or psychosis from purchasing a firearm – a laudable idea – background checks cannot predict the future.

I own firearms. I have been licensed to carry concealed firearms for almost fifty years without incident. I have no anger issues, or violent tendencies. But just like everyone else in the world who has experienced a traumatic event, I am sure I have residual PTSD. Mine manifests as a dislike for crowds, or even groups of people, and a heightened situational awareness – although I may have that because I teach it. So farming is a great occupation for me. I like to watch things grow and I like to watch chickens, which are little saurians.  I do not play first-person shooter games on the computer and I have no desire to harm anyone.  99.999% of people are that way,  but that still leaves ~322 or so psychotics who DO want to harm people.

Let us go to solutions:  Disarming a hundred million people in the hope that you can keep firearms of of the hands of 322 people is not reasonable.  Timothy McVeigh did not use a firearm.  Neither did the 9/11 perpetrators (whoever they were).  We need to do something that makes sense; not something that is emotionally appealing but will have the same effect as Prohibition of the failed “War on drugs”.  We can actually begin to do that if we think about it.

When you buy a firearm, you have to fill out an ATF form 4473. It basically asks you these questions:
(1) Are you addicted to illegal drugs?
(2) Are you demonstrably crazy?
(3) Are you a criminal?
(4) Are you a US citizen?

Then they run an FBI background check. If you pass #3, you probably get to buy the gun.

Let's change that. What about this?

Before you can buy a firearm, you must be a sworn and trained police officer or pass a state approved firearms course. (We do that in Hawaii.) It should include an interview with a psychologist, and the question should be HAVE YOU OR ANY MEMBER OF YOUR HOUSEHOLD OR IMMEDIATE FAMILY EVER BEEN TREATED FOR OR DIAGNOSED WITH PSYCHOSIS, VIOLENCE, OR ABERRANT BEHAVIOR?

You must demonstrate competence with the exact type of firearm you want to purchase. (We do something very similar in Hawaii and my department (LASD) does EXACTLY that. If you fail, you cannot carry a firearm. The Marine Corps does that too. If you cannot qualify as a marksman, you cannot be a Marine, an Officer of Marines, or a Marine pilot.

The police department or approving agency has to ACTUALLY check to see if you have a history of mental illness. (We do that in Hawaii.)

You should have to pass a drug screen administered by an approved DOT or FAA laboratory at the time of the application and at the time you actually take possession of the firearm if there is a waiting period. 

I suggest this merely as a first step toward sane regulation. I agree that the majority of people who own firearms are incompetent to use them and should either be required to qualify with them on a regular basis, or face severe restrictions on their use ownership, but many people collect antiques which are technically, but not practically, capable of firing. Those are, and should remain, exempt.  I disagree that unilaterally disarming the public is a solution.  I believe it is an emotional overreaction.  We need to change, but we do not need to create another industry which rivals the drug cartels.

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