• By now you’ve probably seen President Obama cry on national television and have been inundated by articles about the Sandy Hook School Shooting, which occurred in Connecticut on Friday, December 14, 2012. What a sad and inexcusable loss! Unfortunately, it’s not a new phenomenon as we’ve been rocked by news like this before. Several times, for that matter, and as surprising and depressing as it was to hear, I’m sad to say that I wasn’t shocked.
    Everyone’s angry and articles are slamming the lawmakers calling for stricter gun laws. They want more restrictions on people who purchase weapons. Some of the ideas are good, like having restrictions on guns sold at trade shows, which account for 40% of gun sales and often don’t require much of a background check since many are considered “private party sales”– absurd in my opinion. Additionally, many schools have already implemented new Safety Protocols, where for the most part, they vow to beef up school security.

    Clearly the current guidelines are just not cutting it.

    While some of the changes have helped, we are still a long way from solving the problem. Regardless of how great the background check is, and how clean a person’s record is, the reality is that good people with clean records can sometime go “crazy” and turn bad.  Or, as appears to have been the case in the Sandy Hook tragedy, unstable people can take the guns from legal gun owners (especially when not properly secured). We’ve seen it all too many times before.  In many of these incidents, the guns used were properly registered and obtained legally. Clearly the current guidelines are just not cutting it.

    Having been in the military for 12 years and then working with various law enforcement agencies here in California, it blows my mind how some basic safety principals haven’t been instituted. We mandate our military and police personnel to complete regular training and recertification (usually every 1-2 months), while the general public is not required to receive any formal training. What’s that all about?  Sure, no plan can be 100% foolproof but adding simple requirements (in addition to the current background check) would give us more measurable guidelines on who’s fit and who is not fit to own a weapon.

    I believe that owning a gun is a privilege much like having a driver’s license. If we have to test for and maintain our license to drive a car (including getting insurance, which wouldn’t be a bad idea for guns either) then why don’t we have similar (or stricter) requirements to own a gun?  It would be pretty straightforward- Follow the guidelines or your license to own a gun is revoked and your guns are confiscated. I would simply add two steps, which are long overdue, to the background check currently in place.

    Completion of Training – After passing your background check you would have to complete a ‘Weapons Training and Safety Course’ prior to purchasing your weapon. This not only covers how to use your weapon but also how to maintain it, store it safely, etc. You can study using a standardized manual (which would also be available online) and then come in person for the actual test.

    Recertification – Every six months you would need to complete a two part exam where you would qualify by demonstrating your proficiency with your weapon as well as pass a safety test (which could be completed online). Just a refresher of the safety rules, so this doesn’t have to be long.  The proficiency part of the test must be done in person and would include target accuracy, clearing malfunctions, and basic gun maintenance.  All of which are perishable skills if not practiced.

    The big question is who’s going to conduct all this training and recertification? My suggestion is our military and/or local police agencies. They could qualify people for a fee (once they passed the background check, of course) and this would also assure more standardized guidelines across the nation. If not, since gun sales are a multi-billion dollar industry, the alternative would be to have the gun manufacturers create a central monitoring agency using their own funds (much like the Department of Motor Vehicles only with gun ranges instead of parking lots for testing).

    I’ve gone back and forth on the issue of gun ownership and can relate to arguments for both sides. But I am certain that guns are always dangerous when in the wrong (not properly trained) hands. There is a definite need for change and it should include holding people accountable for the whereabouts of their weapons. If someone stole your car or if it came up missing, you would report it immediately. Then why aren’t we tracking our weapons? It should be very straight forward- either complete the training and maintain your license or don’t own a gun. This might not solve all of our gun-related tragedies but it would certainly help me sleep better at night.