Its time for Congress to take action to control guns, violence

The Virginia Gazette

Barbara Gambrell

I never thought I would find myself feeling this way, but I am ashamed to be an American. The ownership and use of guns is out of control, by citizens as well as peacekeepers. Our country must be the laughing stock of all civilized countries.

Not a day goes by that television news or the papers report on someone getting shot and usually killed. Sometimes it's a fugitive running from the law, but it is often an innocent person. Often the news reports a teenager, child, or even a baby being shot. It can -- and has -- happened anywhere: a school, a mall, a cinema, or a nightclub. Just last weekend, four people were shot here in Virginia on the Eastern Shore. One died. The weekend before, forty-nine people were gunned down in Orlando.

A few months ago, Officer Chad Dermeyer, an armed police officer was killed during a training exercise at a bus station in Richmond. When someone says, "I carry a gun to protect myself," they are spitting out meaningless words. If a state trooper cannot defend himself against an armed person, who can?

We are one of the most educated countries in the world, yet we have the highest rate of wounding and killing by guns.

This week the Senate again met to look at the problem of gun violence in our country. So far, they have agreed on nothing.

The last time the Senate held votes on gun legislation was in December, a day after husband-and-wife shooters killed 14 people in San Bernardino. Before that, the occasion was the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting that killed 20 children and six teachers. It's a pattern: Mass shooting incident, followed by gun control proposals and unsuccessful Senate votes.

I have written to my senators on more than one occasion, proposing changes I feel would seriously cut down on these dreadful casualties, but have yet to see results. Here are some of my thoughts.

Before a gun is purchased, a gun safety course must be taken and passed.

A psychiatric background check must be completed.

Gun owners must have a license, and it must be renewed every year. The weapon must be physically presented in order to get and renew a license.

If minor children live in the home, the gun must be stored in a locked safe. This action would be sworn to in the licensing process.

If a gun is sold or stolen, it must be reported within 24 hours.

If a gun is used in the commission of a crime, the owner will be charged as an accessory, even if he or she was not present.

Weapon Awareness Training should be taught at every level in every school.

The sale of automatic and semi-automatic weapons would be illegal. (No one needs an Uzi in his closet.) The government would take over ownership of all such weapons. Government owned and operated gun-range facilities would provide the opportunity to shoot these weapons in a controlled arena, for a fee. The fees generated from this would go toward Weapon Awareness Training.

Guns would not be allowed in any establishment that serves alcohol or solicits the patronage of minors. It would also be illegal to carry weapons on public transportation or into medical facilities.

Guns will not be sold on the Internet.

You must be 21 years or older to own a gun.

Failure to obey any and all of these laws would result in serious penalties, such as jail time and fines. The fines would go toward Weapon Awareness Training.

The path to effective gun control starts with education. It continues with serious accountability.

The National Rifle Association is the largest non-profit organization in the country that advocates for gun owners' rights. Instead of spending money lobbying for this in Washington, I would like to see its members support spending it on education.

I recognize that our forefathers allowed for citizens to legally bear arms, but that was 240 years ago. I'm certain that Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Wythe, Henry, Randolph and all the other Colonial patriots would never have envisioned what is going on here now when writing the Bill of Rights. Seriously, they would be shocked at what is happening on our streets and campuses. And our bus stations!

The second amendment states that "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." This addresses the need for a protective military body, not a hand gun in every night stand.

Will you please do what you can to stop the gun violence in our country? Will you please be the voice for the victims of gun violence who can no longer speak?

No other country in the civilized world has the problem that we face on a daily basis, because their lawmakers are not afraid to stand up for their people and not organizations like the NRA.

My message is this:

It is time for our Congressmen and Congresswomen to stand up for the American citizens. Stop being a Republican or a Democrat. Be a Congress person. When you sit down to dinner tonight and look at your children, imagine how it would feel to have them gunned down by a person with an automatic weapon. Think about how terrorized they would be. Think about what life would be like without them. The families of the victims of shootings live with this every day.

Gambrell grew up in Williamsburg and graduated from James Blair High School and Westhampton College at the University of Richmond.She has worked in the Finance Office at the Jamestown Yorktown Foundation for 24 years.

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