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During a recent holiday I parked at a shopping center. Hundreds of cars were also parked there. While in my car reading, two young ladies entered the car ahead of me, backed out and drove off. I’m in my mid-70s and they were likely in their teens, very young. At least a couple of generations separated us. My thought was, can they possibly drive safely? There is no constitutional right to drive a 2,000-plus-pound projectile in a parking lot, let alone at 80 miles per hour down an interstate highway. How can this safely happen? For over 125 years the automobile has been our major source of conveyance. And we know, occasionally vehicles can be lethal.

At some point years ago, someone or an institution in our society thought it wise to develop rules and regulations for the safe use of autos, and to provide training for millions of operators. Drivers of all ages, levels of mental acuity and physical capacities were trained. Instruction manuals were developed (with follow-up written tests), vision tests prepared and actual driving tests required to obtain a driver's license before one could legally operate a vehicle. Each person wanting to drive was required to pass this “safe driving program.” The training was most often administered in public schools. Most did pass, but some were denied a license because they were deficient in passing all aspects of the exam.

When society demands it, a similar mandatory training program should be required before one could own or possess any firearm. This would not deny anyone the right to a firearm unless they were found to be deficient in responsible handling and use of a lethal weapon. Currently a voluntary firearm safety program exists with proper safe handling handbooks, weapons handling practice and actual firearm use at a firing range. The program could be implemented in age-appropriate classes in public schools, as is done for safe driver training.

Two other actions for responsible, reasonable safe firearm use in the USA need to be implemented. Weapons designed for military use should be banned. Legitimate sporting (hunting), recreational, and home/personal defense guns are adequately available for citizen use now, and have been long before the widespread availability of military-type weapons. Provisions could be made at sanctioned gun ranges for those wanting to experience military-type rifles such as ARs. Weapons could be checked out for a day's use at the range, and returned to secured storage at range facilities.

The other issue that needs to be addressed is keeping violent, unauthorized people from obtaining and misusing weapons. Background checks need to be strengthened to include all exchanges of firearms. Records of troubled individuals' emotional stability and/or anger characteristics should be kept, starting in high school, along with any police records. This information should be placed in the background database. The safety of citizens at large should take precedence over individuals’ privacy.

In homes and businesses, a requirement should be that firearms are secured. They need to be unavailable to kids/youths or troubled individuals. That is the firearm owners’ responsibility, and could be enforced by common-sense regulations. One does not give car keys to unsafe people.

To maintain a safe, reasonable Second Amendment, society needs to address the misuse of firearms. Our civilization is a regulated society. It is past time that reasonable leaders come to responsible, common-sense decisions to safeguard our citizens within the scope of the Second Amendment. It can be done. Where there’s a will, there is a way!

Jay Gore of Missoula has degrees in wildlife ecology and has been a firearms collector/user for 67 years. He is a former firearms safety instructor.


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