My mom used to accuse me (lovingly) of not being born with commonsense. I would do things like leave lights on or drawers open, like any pre-teen does. Sometimes it would be more egregious things like forgetting to turn off the hose before it flooded the yard or close a car door so that the battery wouldn't drain.
'Commonsense' for me in those days were the kinds of things I had to recognize as my responsibility. I had to engage in the world around me in ways that serve me now as an adult (with my own kids who are allergic to turning off lights).
But when it comes to safety and security, 'commonsense' takes on a whole other weight and urgency. It's commonsense to lock my deadbolt and close my garage door at night. It's commonsense to wear a seatbelt in a moving vehicle.
And it's especially commonsense for me to ask people who interact with my children in their homes--piano lessons, playdates, etc., if they secure their guns.
Yes, I said secure their guns.
Because if my children are in your home, I don't want them finding a loaded gun. I don't want them playing with it. And I certainly don't want them firing it.
And it's commonsense to me that you would have trigger locks and gun safes for your firearms. Especially if you also have children in your home. Especially if you have MY children in your home.
Commonsense and Credit Cards
I attended college in the tech boom of the mid-1990s. Every day of the week there would be a table set up on the heavy foot traffic routes on campus covered in white t-shirts and clipboards. Credit card companies were giving away free t-shirts just for signing up! And what college student can resist a free giveaway? Even if the company ultimately rejected your credit application, you still got to keep the (advertisement for the credit card company) t-shirt.
We held on to a few of those t-shirts for years.
But the first time I applied for a gas credit card, I was declined. I didn't have enough of a credit history at 18 to be issued credit.
I wasn't a good risk for a $300 credit-limit card that could only be used at one gas station chain to pay for gas at 99 cents a gallon.
Maybe they suspected my commonsense was limited at that age. But even if they didn't suspect it based on my age alone, they ran a background check.
As it turns out, I am actually a pretty fiscally-responsible person. I don't carry tons of credit card debt today. But even if I did, I'm still considered a decent risk with an excellent credit score.
So why wouldn't someone want to know about my background with violence, law enforcement, illegal substances, or mental health status if I wanted to purchase something as powerful as a gun?
If a company wants to give me money, they check me out. If a store wants to sell me a gun, they don't care?
You have to be licensed and carry insurance to own and drive a motor vehicle. You have to license your pet. You need a license to carry a concealed firearm.
Universal background checks are overwhelmingly supported by gun owners. The average American believes that looking at someone's background is important when deciding on the risk of them owning a motor vehicle and a firearm.
Other Commonsense: Violence and Mental Health
Speaking of guns, it also seems to make a lot of sense to protect people who might harm others or themselves by temporarily removing the firearms from their reach.
Research shows that having access to a firearm triples one’s risk of death by suicide. (Source)
If someone has a history of violence, mental illness, or other issues that could put them into a state of upset, then a handy, nearby firearm can become a tempting solution to the upset.
Law enforcement should have the tools and authority to prevent the kind of suicide tragedies that make up 6 out of every 10 gun deaths in the U.S. (2017, Source). A court order to remove firearms from someone's possession when they need protecting from themselves seems like commonsense.
Responsibility in Michigan
The Michigan Legislature has the opportunity to enact three types of commonsense gun laws that have already been outlined above:
SB-679: Amending State law to make all firearms subject to background checks and limiting people who can purchase firearms in Michigan based on the results. Currently, only handguns are subject to background checks at purchase.
SB-156: A new bill to identify gun owners with extreme risk factors and empower family members and law enforcement to ask a judge for a protection order. The protection order would temporarily remove any firearms from the gun owner's possession until the risk has been determined diminished. This is also known as a 'red flag' law.
HB 4511 & 4512: The first bill adds 'failure to store a firearm resulting in injury or death' to the Michigan penal code as a felony. The second bill compels gun retailers to provide written warning to gun purchasers about their responsibility to secure the firearm on penalty of a felony.
None of these bills have had readings in their respective committees. All of these bills have been introduced by Democrats in Republican-majority chambers.
Does the U.S. Constitution guarantee the right to bear arms? Possibly. I am not intending to debate constitutional law.
Does the right to own a firearm preclude the necessity of securing it? Does anyone have the right to force violence on anyone else--firearm or fists? Should we turn a blind eye on those in mental health crisis?
The answer to all of these is no.
An advanced, civil, progressive society does not encourage a 'might is right' culture. It does not allow the innocent and compromised to be targeted. And it does follow its own rules.
Let's engage with the world around us and see it how it is. Then we can take responsibility for our part in shaping the world--while possibly creating a new commonsense.
Since writing the piece above, the Michigan Legislature has introduced and passed a bill in the House regarding gun buyback programs.
Buyback programs typically offer firearm owners the opportunity to dispose of unwanted firearms in a way that ensures they will not find their way into the hands of anyone who will use the firearm to commit a crime. It also relives owners of the worry of the firearm being stolen from their home for the same purposes.
This bill prohibits local government entities from using public funds to buy firearms from private owners. Buyback programs typically remove the firearms from circulation and destroy them--although police departments can also trace the history of weapons and return them to owners from whom they were stolen.
According to the news source MLive, the bill's sponsor defended it by saying, "it’s not the place of local governments to be buying firearms from residents - she said the buybacks unfairly compete with gun businesses and waste taxpayer dollars." (Source)
An alternative way to pay for a buyback is by partnering with private industry. The Cleveland Ohio Police Department has been running a buyback program for over a decade. The department hands out gift cards and other incentives, especially for handguns. The incentives are financed by a steel manufacturer who reclaims the steel from the weapons, melts it down, and uses it for other products such as automobiles or appliances.
Opponents of this newly passed House bill include local government and police associations: "the Michigan Association of Counties, the Michigan Municipal League, the Michigan Fraternal Order of Police, and the cities of Midland, Port Huron and Detroit." (Source)
Wouldn't it fall into the category of commonsense to listen to the voices of our law enforcement officers when it comes to crime and firearms?