In light of shootings, find a compromise on gun control

Gun control advocates and gun rights proponents rarely find common ground.  However, in light of the Tucson shootings, I believe that we can reach a national consensus on how to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous citizens.

We should treat guns like we treat cars. Both are dangerous instrumentalities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, cars, motorcycles and trucks killed 42,708 Americans in 2006. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that guns killed 30,896 in the U.S. the same year. This total includes 16,883 suicides, 12,791 homicides and 642 accidental deaths. 

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We require drivers to obtain licenses in order to use motor vehicles and also require car owners to purchase liability insurance coverage. In order to obtain a driver’s license you must also pass a vision test, a written test on the rules of the road and an on-the-road test to determine if you can drive in a safe manner.

Similarly, we should initiate a licensing program for gun users as well as compulsory insurance coverage. A gun permit would require passing a written exam on gun safety, a practical exam that demonstrates competence in using a gun (accuracy, safety, maintenance), a vision test and, perhaps most importantly, a mental competence test administered by a trained psychiatrist or psychologist that would, hopefully, stop lunatics from purchasing a weapon.

The law now prevents gun ownership by three classes of citizens.  Former service members who have been dishonorably discharged cannot lawfully own a firearm. Similarly, a citizen found to be mentally incompetent by a court or convicted of a felony, cannot legally obtain guns. These laws represent the national consensus that we do not want criminals or those with mental disabilities to carry firearms.

Licensing will further this national consensus. It will not prevent law-abiding, sane citizens from owning firearms. If we have learned anything from the Tucson tragedy, it is that we cannot rely on society to point out those who are mentally deficient. Only a competent screening exam will erect a justifiable barrier to those with mental problems. 

Guns in the wrong hands can cause widespread injury and death. We don’t want blind drivers, nor do we want gun owners who can’t shoot straight. The Supreme Court has ruled that Second Amendment rights can be reasonably regulated. A gun user’s license, with appropriate testing, will help to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and those incapable of properly handling a firearm.

Beverly Hills, Calif.


Policy of appeasement is weakening the free world

From John Kusumi, president of the China Support Network, and Ning Ye, a Chinese dissident and attorney

As Barack Obama prepares to welcome Hu Jintao to a White House state dinner, Zbigniew Brzezinski launched a message offensive to frame U.S.-China relations. Regrettably, the policy prescriptions are flawed, faulty, and wishful rather than realistic. They were of arguable merit in the 1970s; they overlook geopolitical changes in the 30 years since then; and now, they are fully divorced from reality.

Over the last 40 years, U.S.-China policy can be summarized by five words: getting cozy with Communist China. It is against our better interests; it is economically ruinous; and by building up a nuclear-armed, communist superpower, it directly threatens the United States’s own national security. It is a risky scheme to have a hasty rush to Maoism.

Writing in The New York Times on Jan. 2, Brzezinski waxed nostalgic about former dictator Deng Xiaoping’s historic trip more than 30 years ago, as Deng visited the Carter administration to begin collecting China’s winnings. It is as though China held a winning lottery ticket. Brzezinski notes that it “marked the beginning of China’s three-decades-long economic transformation – one facilitated by its new diplomatic ties to the United States.”

The issue now is that China has risen to being the world’s No. 2 superpower, from being the poorest one among the communist ranks 40 years ago.

It is always fair to note that the Communist Party is not China — and, China is not the Communist Party. U.S. policymakers have chosen to be cozy with China’s government, but not with the wider aspirations of its people, best expressed in its pro-democracy, labor, and religious movements. Therefore we are really discussing U.S.-CCP relations.

Lip service notwithstanding, the appeasement policy of recent decades has bet against popular aspirations and against the emergence of Chinese democracy. Certainly, the U.S. would be better served with a hedging strategy.

What if the CCP is on the wrong side of history? Will the U.S. be remembered for aiding and abetting some of history’s worst oppressors?

If we look at policy outcomes on the ground, that’s what we’re doing: The U.S. is aiding and abetting some of history’s worst oppressors. If we include its victims under Chairman Mao, the CCP has killed 80 million Chinese people.

In the worst case, U.S. policy is now analogous to that of Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister of the 1930s who refused to believe the worst of Nazi Germany. Brzezinski argues for continued, Chamberlain-esque appeasement with complete disregard to a completely changed geopolitical landscape more than 40 years after the Cohen memo.

Because the policy is his brainchild, he defends it with this old wine in an old bottle.

In Brzezinski’s time as national security adviser, this policy weakened the Soviet bloc. But in the decades since then, changes of circumstance now indicate that this policy is weakening the free world.

Cheshire, Conn.