Can we agree on gun safety?


The tragedy in Las Vegas some weeks ago stunned the nation. The sheer number of victims wounded and killed dwarfs any shooting anywhere in the world in history. I’m hesitant to say much about the “superlative” because I don’t want to give any press to the perpetrator, but the facts are what they are. We can’t believe anyone could be so calculating and cold.

As always, this type of event sparked debate about guns almost immediately. On one side, gun control advocates were arguing that this event demonstrates how we must, as a culture, begin to limit access to weapons and ammunition. I’ve heard politicians describe firearms in a way that makes it clear to me they know absolutely nothing about guns.

Anti-gun individuals argue that more people are killed by their own guns than by criminals. That is true, but most of them are suicides. Limiting guns would change that.

On the other side, gun proponents note that none of the laws on the books and none of the proposed laws would have stopped this shooter. Like commentator John Stossel said once in regard to some other shooting, “As far as I know, murder is already illegal.”

But I’ve heard gun advocates argue that gun control is unconstitutional. That isn’t true. You can’t own a howitzer, atomic weapon, fully automatic weapon, or a host of other guns.

Pro-gun individuals argue that we can’t measure the number of crimes that are stopped because people have guns. That is true, but it is a straw-man argument. Because we can’t measure it, it can’t be used as a defense for gun ownership.

The debate is painful to both sides. The passion of those wishing to limit guns is not always reflective of a disdain for guns of any kind. Such accusations make for an easy response for their opponents, but isn’t based in fact. This passion is more often rooted in the senselessness of such events and a drive to try to stop it from happening again.

The other side of the debate argues for the Constitutional right to “keep and bear” arms. Again, the easy argument from their opponents is that gun-rights advocates want machine guns and unlimited access to weapons. That isn’t true of most gun owners either. Most gun owners already have limited weapons and limited ammunition and even where automatic weapons are available, most gun owners don’t even try to get licenses to buy and keep such weapons.

Therefore, hours of debate lobbing accusations back and forth from varied media outlets leaves us nowhere other than more angry at one another.

As it is, guns are legal in Georgia. There are no limits on the number of firearms you can own and no license is needed to purchase a firearm or ammunition. One must be 21 years of age, must not be a convicted felon, and must not have a history of mental illness. Otherwise, with either a concealed carry permit or a legal ID, and a background check, almost anyone can buy a firearm.

The law in Georgia allows almost anyone to conceal carry. Along with the requirements to buy a firearm, one must also be fingerprinted at the sheriff’s office and apply for the license through probate court and pay the fees.

Sadly, Georgia has no requirement that any concealed carry applicant demonstrate any knowledge or proficiency with firearms nor is any safety training required. That seems goofy to me.

For years I’ve heard people argue for “common sense” gun control. That sounds great, but the problem is this. Whose definition of “common sense” should we use?

If you are still reading at this point, you almost certainly have some feelings on one side or the other and maybe you are even mad at what I’ve said. That makes my point.

Perhaps we can agree to the following ideas. We can’t do anything about Colorado, California, or Nevada, but we can look at our state requirements and at least demand proficiency with a firearm before issuing concealed carry permits.

Gun owners (especially with children) should follow best safety practices with their ammunition and firearms. Don’t leave firearms loaded, keep them locked up, do not store ammunition in the same place as the firearm.

Finally, if your child is invited to another child’s home, parents should always inquire of homeowner as to the presence of weapons and how they are secured and stored.

Maybe this can at least get us started and maybe Georgia can take the lead in setting an example for how to manage the Constitution as well as sensible safety measures.

[Gregory K. Moffatt, Ph.D., is a college professor, published author, licensed counselor, certified professional counselor supervisor, newspaper columnist and public speaker. He holds an M.A. in Counseling and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Georgia State University and has taught at the college level for over 30 years. His website is]