In the wake of the Tucson shootings, there were calls to ban firearms as well as responses from the National Rifle Association and other reactionary organizations saying that guns are not responsible for violent behavior and that solutions lie elsewhere.
The truth of the matter lies somewhere between the poles.
Ideally, guns wouldn't be necessary in the world at all. Since we can't uninvent the firearm, however, we'll have to do our best to reconcile competing interests and needs in a world where guns are a reality. In order to do so, it's time we give up the rhetoric, embrace pragmatism and sit down to craft rational policies based on actual events.
Take, for example, Jared Lee Loughner, the alleged Tucson shooter who used a Glock handgun and a 30-round clip. He was able to easily purchase the Glock because Arizona has relatively lax gun control policies and the 30-round clip wasn't even at issue; there is no policy governing the number of bullets allowed to be chambered in a gun. Why not? There is no reason for a civilian to carry 30 shots in his pocket. So why don't we regulate clip sizes at a federal limit of, say, 10 rounds?
The pro-gun lobby, of course, will say that this regulation violates the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms. The United States Constitution does guarantee the right to bear arms; it doesn't, however, guarantee the right to own guns without regulation.
So what's needed? How about education? Currently, there is no federally mandated gun safety course that serves as a prerequisite for gun ownership. Walk into Wal-Mart, go to the back and ask for a shotgun. After checking your ID to make sure you're 18 and performing a basic and instant criminal background check, they'll sell it to you. We have mandatory safety courses for driving cars, operating water vehicles and using certain machinery, so why not require a course for guns as well?
There are simple regulations that would make the country a safer place. Make it a policy that every gun purchase must also include the purchase of a trigger lock, a small device used to render the gun inoperable while the lock is engaged. Many gun accidents are the result of children playing with them; a trigger lock policy would reduce or eliminate the occurrence of these tragedies.
Most importantly, let's limit the types of guns available. Not all guns are designed to kill humans; many are for use in sport. Some guns, like the Glock, were designed with the sole intention of being used to kill people; why do civilians need these? What legitimate purpose does a civilian have with an assault rifle or a high-power handgun? None.
Guns are not inherently dangerous any more than knives are inherently dangerous. But guns have a tendency to be used incorrectly and for that reason they need to be regulated so that their legitimate use isn't overshadowed by their occasional but tragic abuse.