Regarding the rash of gun violence that continues to cause this country so much sorrow and pain, when all is said and done only one thing remains to be said and one thing remains to be done: we must speak out about mental illness and how we can help those in need of treatment and support; and we must do our best to keep guns away from irrational, irresponsible people.

In addition to a decrease in funding for mental health services, there has been a virtual cessation of our national conversation about mental illness. Americans simply don’t like to talk about what’s wrong with us; we just want to revel in our individual liberties, dreams, and accomplishments. The poor and the sick, according to the conservative culture of “American exceptionalism,” are mere aberrations to be swept under the carpet, tiny statistics to be marginalized or ignored.

But murdered children are more than tiny statistics. Their legacy demands that we do better.

At the very least, perhaps we ought to tighten the requirements for those who want to acquire firearms and increase the accountability of those who do own guns. That’s what we ask of people who want to own and operate vehicles; it is astonishing that we don’t do the same when it comes to firearms.

So, let us begin with:

  • Registration: Each privately owned firearm should be accompanied by a certificate of registration, just like a privately owned vehicle. In order to obtain said certificates, the applicant should be subject to an immediate background check and standard psychological profile. Upon complete evaluation of the check and profile—perhaps a ten-day waiting period—the applicant can then take possession of the firearm(s) in question.
  • Licensing: Gun owners should be licensed according to the category of firearm(s) they possess. Just as different classes of vehicles require different classes of operators’ licenses, so it should be with firearms. Knowledge of elements like proper use and safe storage should be tested. These firearms licenses should be renewed every four years.
  • Insurance: Just like drivers, gun owners should be required to purchase firearms insurance covering potential damage and death. It’s high time insurance companies were kicked out of the health care business; here’s a new field they can concentrate on.

If we Americans cannot be persuaded individually to give up our guns, we can at least shoulder the social responsibility of showing that we know how to safely use them and accept accountability for their misuse.

Meanwhile, would it kill us to shoulder the social responsibility of reaching out to help those who are ill and in need of assistance? If we don’t, it just might.