Thinking outside the ammo box

A provocative thought experiment from a new friend, David Work, Executive Director Emeritus of The North Carolina Board of Pharmacy.

Whenever a bizarre killing occurs from gunshots such as the recent events producing two deaths and a wounded physician at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, we see predictable comments in the media. One group claims that more gun control laws are needed and the other says that guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

Wrong! Bullets kill people.

If we treated ammunition with just the same kind of restrictions that apply to legitimate Controlled Substances or Prescription Drugs, I believe the number of deaths due to gunshots in this country would be greatly reduced. A federal requirement that all ammunition must be ordered in writing with a specific quantity by a licensed Physician would certainly put a stop to mentally distressed people such as Paul Pardusin in Baltimore obtaining easy access to bullets. This kind of provision also would have intercepted the killers at Columbine High School in Denver.

I asked a physician friend for an opinion about this procedure and was surprised at the reply. Since most gun owners are men, who are notorious for their reluctance to visit physicians, this plan would have the extra added public health benefit of getting men into the health care system. This could identify such conditions as hypertension or diabetes that need early treatment.

It also would not require a huge bureaucracy to administer nor any new taxes. The average citizen could obtain the prescription with a quick trip to the family doctor so it would not be unduly burdensome. It would also avoid many genuine confidentiality issues and should be easy to implement. There would, of course, need to be some exemptions for the military and the police but that could be worked out.

The phrasing of the Second Amendment to The United States Constitution ,“A well regulated militia, being necessary to the Security of a free state, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” is a prime example of a convoluted and disconnected statement put together by a committee. One can easily parse this out to subcommittees on militia, security and guns. Actually, there were several different versions of the concept debated in the House and Senate and the adopted language is obviously a compromise.

Remember that this was developed during a time when the normal firearm was a Musket that could only be fired one shot at a time. This required that a man pour a black powder mix of Charcoal, Sulfur and Potassium Nitrate down the gun barrel followed by the tamping of a cotton wad and finally a metal ball which was shot from the gun after the powder was ignited. The shooter needed to be careful not to point the barrel downward or the ball could accidentally roll out of the barrel. Nobody could have envisioned the variety of guns and ammunition available today.

The principal described in the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution began as a state security matter. Changes in our society including the development of new weapons and ammunition combined with a much more dense population present a very different environment today. It is difficult to believe but the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were both written by candlelight as electric lighting had not yet been invented.

As society has changed so have our needs. We definitely should consider measures different from the standard background checks, waiting periods and other similar criteria. A nontraditional approach certainly seems justified and requiring a Physicians order for ammunition is a reasonable, non threatening and prudent approach that I believe is worth the effort.


Provocative indeed

I think the number of arguments against the "outside the ammo box" idea would make it nearly impossible to ever get this kind of thing into law. There are other approaches to controlling the ammunition sales, which I personally agree with. California has recently signed stricter restrictions on the sale of ammunition and in 2011, it is going to be even more restricted. Here is a quote I got from a site on the internet:

"Starting in July, the law will require dealers to keep records of handgun ammunition sales for at least five years, and store the bullets securely out of customers' reach.

Like gun transactions, all ammunition sales will have to be face-to-face, a requirement that will force online buyers to arrange delivery of ammunition to a seller in California. Another provision makes it a crime to knowingly sell or give ammunition to someone who cannot possess it legally, including felons, gang members and the mentally ill.

As of February 2011, all ammunition buyers will have to provide a driver's license or other state identification and a thumbprint."

Some of the obvious arguments to what Mr. Work is suggesting would be what kind of doctor would be needed (psychiatrist or family practioner with no psychiatry background) and then a question about the cost of seeing a doctor every time a person wants ammunition. There would necessarily be concerns about availability of doctors to perform this due to the shortfall of doctors in many parts of our country today. I am sure doctors would be very questionable about issuing these permits because of possible litigation against them if someone did go beserk and kill someone after they wrote a prescription for ammunitions not to mention the increased cost of malpractice insurance that might ensue..

I like the California approach.

I think we definitely need

to treat ammunition sales more carefully. Not so sure about the doctor prescription thing, but we do need some sort of screening system to keep those with certain mental health issues from having access to firearms (and ammunition).

Ammunition "prescription" would never fly...

I believe requiring the "prescription" for ammunition would get shot down (bad pun intended... sorry) for 2nd Amendment reasons. Courts would see it for what it is - an unabashed end-around to stricter gun restrictions the courts have already ruled against. With the current Supreme Court, that goes double.

California might have a viable solution to ammunition restrictions - face-to-face purchases only. But, again, part of that will not make it past the courts if the record retention for ammunition purchases exceeds retention requirements for gun buying.

DNA for bullets

A few states have already done this, why hasn't NC?

After the General Assembly forced a law through (only a handful of Democrats objected, no GOPers voted against the human DNA bill) that mandates collecting human DNA upon a mere arrest - not conviction, just arrest - where was the "bullet DNA" law?


Bizarre = Strange or unusual

Statistically, that's what these events are. Heinous? Yes.

It seems as if the only prescription for controlling crimes/murders committed by loons and criminals using guns is to make normal law-abiders pay the price one way or another. Pretty soon we'll need a prescription to buy beer or wine (just as soon as the state figures out a way to take over this business too and hire more crooks to manage the deal and who will pay themselves and their relatives exorbitant salaries and bonuses...and then collect a big pension after they're caught and fired because what they did wasn't illegal...just unethical.)

And, naturally, we couldn't possibly pass legislation that would provide swift and lethal punishment to the perpetrators of these crimes. That would cruel and unusual.

Stan Bozarth


The problem is that people use certain rights that we have to gain access to almost anything. I will never agree though, that our rights should be taken from us. Prevention is key but, people are human with minds of their own and personal responsibility should come into play.

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But wasn't it more than 10 years ago?

Jeebus, time flies.