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Allan Tweddle: Treat gun ownership the same as car ownership

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- To honor and make sense of the Newtown children massacre, we must change. That's a comment and proposal from a non-gun owner.

Members of Congress are expected to protect the citizens who elected them.

Recent polls clearly show that NRA members are calling for meaningful action. Seventy-five percent of NRA members and the vast majority of other citizens called for Congress' action to curb the irresponsible gun culture that plagues us. It is a moral duty to provide and our right to have a safe environment for ourselves and our children.

As a lifelong car enthusiast and collector, I thoroughly understand the "passion" of a collector's psyche. Like many gun collectors, I have spent a lot of money on old classic cars, buying, restoring and maintaining them, and enjoying the camaraderie of my fellow enthusiasts. The analogy to gun ownership is pertinent and poignant.

Cars must be "street legal" and registered, insured and operated by tested and licensed drivers. Cars have a primary purpose of transporting people and goods, but can be deadly when mishandled. Owners and drivers are responsible for the safe use of these huge hunks of inanimate metal. They must report them when stolen to avoid being charged with their use in a felony. Surely, the common accepted practice for cars can be embraced by thinking and caring gun collectors.

The right to ownership and safe use of cars and trucks is certainly not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, simply because they did not exist in the 1700s. We have developed laws for the privilege and responsibilities of owning and driving them. In the same way, our Founding Fathers could not envision the weapons of mass destruction that exist today when they penned the Second Amendment. Yet, we are today woefully lacking in an equivalent level of control for the privilege and responsibilities of owning and firing guns.

The Second Amendment was written as a fiscally sound way to have a defense force without the cost of a standing army, with simple weapons of the day that were also hunting weapons. They knew nothing of assault rifles, RPG's, anti-aircraft missiles. Today, we have a full-time militia, and many levels of federal, state and municipal police forces. To paraphrase what Sen. Manchin came close to saying: "Nobody hunts with a military weapon!" The Second Amendment was never intended to give you the right to own warfare weapons of mass killing.

We must respond to 21st-century realities. I propose that the privilege and responsibilities of owning and driving private vehicles be applied to the privilege and responsibilities of owning private weapons:

1. Ban private ownership of all high-capacity magazines and military weapons, even tailored so-called "modified" knock offs.

2. Require licensed gun owners to maintain responsible care and possession of all weapons they legally own.

3. Maintain a national registry of all guns and gun owners, so that background checks and serial numbers can be quickly identified in a crime scene.

4. Require gun owners to report within 24 hours of discovery that their weapons have fallen into unauthorized hands and, failing to do so, make the gun owner fully responsible, criminally, for any action that ensues involving their gun.

5. Use computers to track all gun registrations and ownership changes.

6. Require gun dealers to maintain a rigorous inventory database of purchasers.

7. Require that, if an improper sale of a gun results in a felony, gun sellers must be held criminally responsible.

8. Appoint a permanent director of the ATF.

Our U.S. gun population, on both an absolute and per capita basis, is the largest in the world. So is our murder rate. There surely is a direct correlation. We must change, for our children.

Tweddle is an engineer in Charleston.


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