Kentucky voices

Ky. Voices: Treat gun registration the same as for drivers' licenses

May 30, 2013 

If we would implement the three proposals put forth by the National Rifle Association, we could solve many of our problems with gun responsibility. Those proposals are:

• This is a mental health problem and aggressively addressing this would resolve most issues.

• All we need to do to fix the existing challenges is to tweak the current regulations and laws.

• There needs to be armed guards at schools to protect our children from gun violence.

The blueprint for implementing these already exists in how we regulate our transportation system.

If you want to drive a family vehicle, you get a basic driver's license. You have to pass a written test, a road proficiency test and a vision exam. If you want to drive a commercial vehicle, you get a commercial driver's license. You have to pass much more comprehensive written and road proficiency tests, plus get a complete physical exam. If you want to fly a plane, you get a pilot's license. That requires more comprehensive written and proficiency tests, plus the physical exam.

All it would take to implement the first two proposals would be to tweak our requirements for getting a driver's license and apply them to gun ownership. We could make it mandatory that to own any gun you would have to have a permit.

If you wanted to own any gun with a magazine capacity of up to 10 rounds, then you would have to pass written and proficiency tests, plus a background check and a mental health evaluation. There should be both basic and advanced permits. Advance permits would be for those who wanted the privilege of carrying a concealed weapon. If you wanted to own any gun with a magazine capacity greater than 10 rounds, you would have a more extensive written exam, proficiency exam, background check and mental health evaluation.

This background and mental-health check might also investigate others who lived in your household. If you wanted military-caliber weapons, then all of the evaluations would be more comprehensive.

To make this transition easier, I would recommend exempting current gun owners from having to have a permit for guns they now own. However, in the future those selling guns, either commercially or privately, could only sell to individuals with permits appropriate for the gun they were buying.

While the requirement for a mental health evaluation may seem unusual to some, according to the NRA mental health is the primary cause of the problem. If so, then it is only reasonable that this be addressed. In reality, this requirement is little different than requiring that those who want to get a driver's license have their vision evaluated.

Our experience after 9/11 conclusively shows that security works. Per the NRA recommendation, to safeguard our children at school, their schools should have armed guards. To ensure the guards were well trained, they should come from the ranks of our existing state police.

Since they already administer the process for getting a driver's license, it seems a hand-in-glove fit for the state police to administer the permit process for gun ownership. The revenue to provide this protection and services would come from the fees for gun permits.

With this proposal, as long as there was public assurance that those owning guns would do so responsibly, then it would not matter what type or how many guns they owned. Nor would it matter whether the gun was for self-protection, hunting or recreation.

This issue is not about gun ownership or gun control. The issue is the security and safety of all, including those who own guns.

Dr. James Leadingham of Richmond is an optometrist who practices in Louisa.

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