The world woke up this morning to news of yet another frightening and devastating American school shooting, albeit one that was (thankfully) without fatalities. Today also brought news that US Vice President Joe Biden will reveal new gun policy proposals on Tuesday after extensive meetings with “Gun Rights” and “Gun Control” pressure groups. But there are more points that should be discussed, points that I have so far only seen hinted at on Twitter. When guns are sold, background checks should also be conducted on the family at large, and when the family at large fail those tests, more measures need to be put in place to stop them getting hold of the legally acquired guns.
According to reports, the student that attempted to kill fellow classmates this morning (and successfully wounded a few classmates) was using his brothers gun. Similarly, the perpetrator of the Newtown Massacre used guns legally owned by his mother to first kill his mother and then go on a rampage at the school. But these are just the high profile cases. Every day in America people are killed or wounded by guns that are legally owned by relatives of the perpetrators. If another example is needed; just yesterday a four year old girl in Kansas City was shot in the head by another child. The gun was just “laying about” when the children started playing with it. Simple background checks are not going to stop tragedies like this. As far as we know all of these guns were legally owned, and they were not used by the people who legally owned them, the people who passed the checks. Something more needs to be done. Something more than background checks.
There are many ideas currently being thrown around in the current gun control debate; more comprehensive and more widespread background checks, restrictions on “assault” rifles and high capacity magazines, a crackdown on violent video games and movies (etc.), are just a few of them. But more emphasis also needs to be put on the family, friends, and dependents of legal gun owners. It is not enough to verify that a potential gun owner is mentally capable of gun ownership. What about the spouses, siblings, parents and children that live with them? It is not enough to verify that the potential gun owner is of sufficient age, again, what about the family that lives with them? It is not enough to verify that a potential gun owner doesn’t overload on violent video games and movies, what about the friends that spend every day at their house?
Background checks do need to be more detailed and more widespread. Particularly, they should be extended to the people that surround the person applying for the gun. After all, it is not only relevant that the person who is applying for the gun is capable of owning one, the people that surround that person (and therefore have ready access to that gun), also need to be capable. If those people aren’t capable (e.g. they are children), then other measures also need to be enacted. For example; what about mandatory gun safes and gun safety training when apply for guns? That way guns would not be lying around for children to grab them, or to be used in fights. Either way, the problem isn’t as simple as harsher background checks and safer guns. Widespread policies need to be enacted to cover everyone that surrounds a gun owner.