We may be headed for Round 2 of the Washington gun debate, but if the current battle lines are not redrawn, little will emerge.  The two sides are so polarized that any sensible reforms will disappear in the vast middle space between the two extremes.  The NRA and its allies believe that gun violence can be solved by controlling people – enforcing laws and increasing punishments for those who use guns to commit crimes.  The other side believes that gun violence can be solved by controlling guns – regulating access to make it more difficult for guns to fall into the wrong hands.

My organization – Evolve – was established to find a way for the two sides to meet in the middle.  Making us safe from gun violence requires aggressive enforcement of existing laws as well as more effective methods for keeping guns out of the wrong hands.  But binding those strategies together requires a commitment for self-prevention, a commitment that should be led by gun owners ourselves.

Aggressive enforcement means there has to be better coordination between federal agencies that track the movement of guns and local police departments that respond to felonies committed with guns.  But why would a homicide detective in Trenton, NJ, care whether a gun was originally sold in a gun shop in Texas, when all he wants to do is solve the crime?  He’s paid to close the case, not to worry about how the gun ended up in his town.  In fact no police department in the country is actually required to trace guns that are picked up in their jurisdiction.  Some do, some don’t.  Even federal law enforcement agencies were not required to trace weapons until President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum on January 16.

As for controlling access to guns, extending background checks to private transactions is a no-brainer, even though the NRA leadership is working overtime to sell its opposition to a membership that wants this done.   The fact that the movie shooter in Aurora passed a background check is beside the point.  Any procedure that keeps guns in the hands of qualified users isn’t an attack on the 2nd Amendment, it’s just common sense.  Most people who sell guns privately do it not to avoid background checks, but because it’s convenient.  They don’t see any tangible connection between selling their gun in one place and a homicide or armed robbery that occurs somewhere else.

But there is a connection.  Every single gun that enters the consumer market goes through multiple transactions (manufacturer – wholesaler – retailer – customer) that are recorded and diligently checked by the ATF.  At some point the guns that are used in the carnage of gun violence leave those legal owners and end up in the wrong hands.  Whether the gun moved from the right hands to the wrong hands because it was sold, or lost, or stolen, or kept loaded in the living room, the truth is that a legal gun owner wasn’t diligent about protecting the gun.

At EVOLVE we believe the key to ending gun violence is to create a self-prevention movement against gun violence led by gun owners like myself.  Why gun owners?  Because more than anyone else, we understand the value and pride of gun ownership, as well as the risks of irresponsible use, storage and sale of guns.   We have no quarrel with the NRA.  The 2nd Amendment is tried and true. But let’s not pretend that gun rights should trump human rights.  They can co-exist in harmony and peace.

One of my best customers came into my shop recently and told me that he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and probably had less than six months to live.  Before he died he wanted to make sure that his precious guns would go to the right hands.  So we made an appointment for his children to come to the shop together so that he could register all the gun transfers to them at the same time.  This man is not only passing on his legacy, he’s also passing on his commitment to responsible ownership of guns.