Three ways gun owners and gun control advocates can find common ground

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Is gun control a possibility, or will it fall victim to partisan politics? There may be more common ground than most people think.

The recent mass shootings in Atlanta and Boulder have led to a call for new gun control measures. Democrats may think that Republicans are universally opposed to any new forms of gun control. To take such a view would be highly myopic, because there is a very large group of people in this country who would actually support new, sensible gun control legislation.

And that group consists of gun owners.

Gun owners are not the fanatical, uneducated, lockstep-marching yahoos that popular culture often makes us out to be. The overwhelming majority of us own guns not because we harbor visions of committing horrible crimes but because we want to enjoy our Constitutionally granted right to bear arms and protect ourselves and our loved ones.

Gun owners are your neighbors, your friends, the people with whom you pray in church or synagogue. We aren’t all adherents of the “slippery slope” argument that any gun control legislation inevitably leads to confiscation.

We are not crazy people.

Gun owners are just as horrified as anyone else when someone commits a mass shooting. But comments like Beto O’Rourke’s infamous “coming for your guns” remark or the concept of “never letting a good crisis go to waste” push us toward absolutist positions. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here are three areas where gun owners like myself would be amenable to new gun legislation.

First, close the gun show loophole. It makes no sense that there are really two ways to buy guns — one through a reputable, licensed dealer with an appropriate background check, and the other, where anyone can walk in off the street and buy a gun at a gun show.

If legislation were passed to close the gun show loophole, requiring an adequate background check for all firearms purchases, a surprisingly large percentage of gun owners would be on board.

Next, create a second round of licensing rules for anyone seeking to own an assault-style weapon. Banning assault-style weapons altogether has two problems: First, most legislators, who have no experience with guns, fail to realize that a forbidden weapon could be turned into a working assault-style weapon in less than an hour at a work bench. Outlawing assault-style weapons is simply impractical. Second, there is also a Constitutional question as to whether the Second Amendment can be interpreted to forbid the possession of such weapons. To put it simply, it’s unsettled law. Yet most gun owners would approve of a second, tighter form of background check for individuals who wish to own such weapons.

The owner of the club where I train analogizes the situation to that of a 17-year-old new driver. You don’t give him a Ferrari the day he gets his driver’s license. You let him learn on a traditional car, and then let him move up if that’s his desire (and budget). And so it is with assault weapons. If you want to get the majority of gun owners on board, instead of trying to ban them, put in place a second, more comprehensive background check and go from there.

The third area of potential harmony between gun owners and those who favor gun control is the idea that if a person appears to be suicidal or homicidal, that person should not have a gun.

Therapists are already obligated to tell law enforcement officials if patients are planning to kill themselves or others. If a therapist, or quite frankly anyone, has the sense that a gun owner they know is despondent or planning something horrific, there ought to be a law that permits the police to come and have a conversation with that person.

Automatic confiscation would not be acceptable to the gun owning community, but an approach that permits peace officers to have conversations with those who may have become unstable for whatever reason would be something that many gun owners would find acceptable.

I do not purport to speak for all gun owners, and I’m sure that many readers of this piece who do believe in the “slippery slope” argument will oppose even the sensible and rational approaches I’ve laid out. Again, we aren’t a monolithic bunch, and I respect the right of other gun owners to disagree with me.

Why do I have a gun? I applied for and received a concealed carry permit to quietly do security in the religious institutions where I pray. I’m not about to favor anything that would allow the government to interfere with my right to protect myself, my loved ones, and fellow members of my congregation during services.

At the same time, like most gun owners, I recognize that our legal system could do a better job in terms of gun laws. It’s time for common sense and coming together instead of more empty rhetoric and absolutist positioning — on both sides.

New York Times bestselling author Michael Levin has written or co-written more than 750 books, including 19 national best sellers, including two New York Times best sellers. He has also taught writing at UCLA and NYU. He runs a book ghostwriting firm,

Tags assault-style weapons Firearm laws Gun control Gun politics gun show loophole Mass shooting Mental health Michael Levin Second Amendment United States firearms law

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