Maybe we should move toward a right to rent guns

Bob von Sternberg
Bob von Sternberg: I've never heard such a succinct, sensible gun control strategy.
Photo courtesy of Bob von Sternberg

By Bob von Sternberg

Bob von Sternberg was a reporter at the Star Tribune for 27 years, covering politics and other topics. He lives in Minneapolis.

My daughter, an avid news consumer halfway into her 10th year, came across the Colorado massacre Friday morning when she fired up the TV to play her Wii.

She didn't linger over the CNN bulletins, but peppered my wife and me with questions for the rest of the day about what on earth had happened in Aurora. This was, after all, the first mass shooting that had ever creased her consciousness.

At one point, she offered a suggestion: Nobody but police officers or hunters needs a gun. If you want to go hunting, you could rent one.

Huh. I've never heard such a succinct, sensible gun control strategy for a country that's awash in firearms and a complete outlier in the developed world.

Molly's not a stranger to guns. Her grandfather is an avid hunter who has long guns. A neighbor and friend is a local cop who keeps his sidearm in the house when he's off duty. But Molly and her younger brother feel safe in both places because the guns are safely locked up, out of reach to anyone but their owners.

My daughter offered up an epiphany, not a prescription. So let me flesh it out, for what it's worth.

If you own a gun (or a lot of guns), fine — you're grandfathered and can keep them until someone pries them from your cold, dead hands. For everyone else, if you want to go hunting, you can rent a rifle or shotgun from the DNR. Want to go target shooting? Rent your Glock from the local police department.

Background check? Photo ID? Tough. These are lethal weapons that should be treated as such, not as something benign as a fishing rod.

Yeah, such an idea is political lunacy, given the clout of the NRA and the timidity of nearly every politician of stature to stand up to that elephantine lobby. But maybe some of them could heed New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said hours after the shooting that expressing remorse and condolences isn't enough, that the men running for president need to explicitly say what concrete proposals they have for ratcheting down the gun violence that has engulfed this country.

Bloomberg is an unabashed advocate of gun control laws. Maybe he should try Molly's idea, start a nationwide trend. Out of the mouths of babes.

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