A bipartisan approach to smart, principled gun safety is needed
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Last week, Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) was shot, along with four others, while practicing for the beloved congressional baseball game. Immediately following the shooting, the politics started.

At first, the Muslims and Democrats were blamed, then the left blamed Republicans for obstructing gun safety laws. Personally, I believe this is yet another instance that shows we need smart, principled legislation for guns--but it must be bipartisan and must come from Congress. Anything less won’t work, and we cannot afford to continue to spinning our wheels, waiting for the next tragedy.

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The tragic event is an example of exactly what no one wants or needs in our great country. Political violence is what we see in third world countries and banana republics--and regardless of the the rhetoric of the day, we are neither of those things. We are a civilized society that cannot begin resorting to or excusing political violence, no matter the hues or views of the victims or attackers. If we begin to normalize this, our nation will fall.

I served in the Navy for 12 years and, for more than a decade, one of my jobs was to train Sailors in the use of force and both lethal and non-lethal weapons and tactics. Before anyone was even allowed to get into boot camp, let alone in a room with firearms, they had to pass a background check. Even then, we still had to undergo a ton of training before we were allowed to shoot firearms. Each year, we had to fire the weapons on which we were qualified and sit through hours of training in tactical team movement, rules of engagement, and other such issues that keep everyone safe. Every time someone needs a weapon for their job, they check it out from the armory. When they’re done, they turn in the weapon and ammunition, and each round is accounted for. Every five years, a background check is completed to ensure nothing else has come up.

Now, I don’t think it’s practical for the public to follow those strict guidelines, but it sure is a good place to start.

We need folks on the right and the left to realize that we have a gun violence problem in this country. We also need to acknowledge that state-by-state legislation doesn’t work: Illinois and California have very strict gun laws, but they don’t matter because all one must do is drive to Indiana, Arizona, or another state with lax gun laws to procure the firearm of their dreams. And after a crime is committed, it takes forever to find out who the lawful owner of the gun is and where it came from. It’s 2017, and ATF agents still have to sort through paper records to identify point of sale and other information about a weapon.

We also must acknowledge that we are not going to be able to prevent every incident. Surely there are those who would suggest that these measures wouldn’t prevent all the mass shootings that we’ve had in our nation--and that’s true. But we don’t forgo seatbelts because they don’t save lives in all incidents.

The answer here is legislation that requires universal background checks, mandatory use of force, rules of engagement, tactical training, and an upgrade to the system that maintains gun registration around the nation. The great news is that if the whole nation is on the same page, then it becomes very easy to require one standard for concealed carry permits.

I’m all for a good guy with a gun, so long as they are well-trained and well-background checked. I know from my time in the Navy that an untrained good guy with a gun can be as bad or worse than a bad guy with a gun.

Congress must act. And it must be bipartisan. Anything less is an affront to common decency and an abdication of duty to constituents. If we can implement the suggestions above, our militias would truly be well-regulated, as the constitution calls for, and our nation would be much safer.

Shawn VanDiver is a 12 year Navy veteran and Director of the San Diego Chapter of the Truman National Security Project. Follow him on Twitter at @ShawnJVanDiver. All views expressed are his own.


The views expressed by this author are their own and are not the views of The Hill.