It sure seems as if there has been a lot of news lately about people trying to carry firearms onto airplanes. As it turns out, people have been trying to sneak guns on board for a long time, at the rate of 2 per day 18 months ago. In December, that number more than doubled, to from 4-5 a day. The week of December 19-25, for example, TSA screeners found 31 guns in carry-on bags, many of them loaded, with bullets in their chambers.
What I find disturbing is the news that the TSA does not have these gun-toters all arrested. As a blogger representing the TSA recently stated (I’m giving you the original reference but note that the New York Times was my source), “Just because we find a firearm on an individual does not mean they had bad intentions, that’s for the law enforcement officer to decide.” Evidently, a majority of passengers found with firearms in their carry-ons explain sheepishly that they simply forgot they had them in their bags.
As far as I’m concerned, that’s like saying the dog ate your homework. I believe that every person who attempts to check a gun through security should go to jail for a minimum of a month. If the gun is loaded or if bullets in the gunperson’s possession, it should be for a minimum of a year. To my mind it’s absolutely amazing that someone can spend years in jail for selling marijuana to adults (a victimless crime), but some people who try to sneak a gun on board a plane can get off with a wrist slap.
I would also end the practice of allowing people to carry unloaded guns on board if they register them first. If someone were waving a gun around on airplane, would you assume that it is probably unloaded? Too bad we can’t get the opinion of the people who went down on planes on 9/11 because terrorists brandished box cutters. Let people check their guns in their suitcases.
Like so many other issues, the United States seems divided about the issue of gun control. A survey by the Pew Foundation after the Tucson shooting of Representative Giffords found that 49% of Americans currently say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns, while 46% say it is more important to control gun ownership. Unfortunately, the National Rifle Association has thrown millions of dollars into convincing state and national lawmakers to pass looser gun laws, money that gun control advocates don’t have to spend. The result has been a spate of recent state laws that make it easier to own a gun and expand the places that people can carry them. Currently 32% of all households have guns in them, which seems high, but in fact is the lowest total since they started keeping records of such matters in the 1970’s. Meanwhile, the number of criminal background checks for gun sales set a record in November and broke that record in December.
My own approach to gun control is to protect society: I would outlaw possession of all handguns outside of shooting ranges and only allow private ownership of hunting guns, making gun enthusiasts rent other guns or keep their guns under lock and key at shooting clubs. I would do away with all the gun shows and all mail-order and on-line purchasing of guns, because it’s so hard to police these sellers. I would make the purchase and background check procedures much more rigorous. I respect hunters and range shooting enthusiasts, but I also respect pilots and drivers of automobiles, yet agree with all the restrictions we put on their rights to protect themselves and others.
The old saw that it’s not guns who kill people, but people who kill people, is wrong. It’s people with guns who kill people.