© Josh Sager – December 2012
In a foreword to this article, I would like to extend my deepest condolences to the families of the December 14th school shooting. Such a tragedy is awful enough when the victims aren’t children and I cannot image what the parents must be going through. I hope that the families of the victims get as much support as they need, and would hope that everybody has them in their thoughts.
Gun violence is reaching near-epidemic levels in the United States, yet our politicians are failing to act. Lax gun laws and a culture that is desensitized to gun violence have created a situation where thousands of Americans die each year due to guns, but our politicians are afraid to do anything.
In December 2012, there have been two mass shootings (one in an Oregon mall and another in a Connecticut school), leading many to say that now is not the time to talk gun control. These people argue that to bring up gun control in the aftermath of a mass-shooting is to “politicize a tragedy” and is insensitive to the victims. In a normal climate, this point might be valid, but, in our country’s current predicament, we simply don’t have enough time between shootings to waste. Every day, approximately 25 Americans are murdered with guns. How many days (and lives) can we spare, waiting for the time to be right for increased gun control?
According to FBI statistics, 68,720 Americans were murdered domestically during the time period of 2007 to 2011. Of these victims, 46,313 were killed by firearms—to put this into perspective, this translates to an average of 9,263 murders per year or 25 murders per day. These death tolls don’t even begin to illustrate our country’s gun problem, as it fails to account for accidental deaths and injuries due to gun ownership.
Out of all western industrialized countries, the United States has the highest gun ownership rate, and the highest homicide rate. According to a study by UCLA professors, the United States’ per capita gun homicide rate is over 19X higher than any other country of comparable development levels (ex. England).
In addition to the random gun violence with the USA, there have been over 60 mass-shootings within the United States since 1982 (mass-shootings are classified as shootings where over 4 people are killed). To make this statistic even more worrying, eight of these shootings occurred this year alone. Such an increase leads many to believe that mass-shootings will simply continue to increase in frequency and severity until somebody does something to curb the ability of some to perpetrate violence on those around them.
Regardless of ones’ personal opinion on the issue of gun ownership in the United States, it is settled law that the 2nd Amendment to the constitution prevents the government from enacting blanket bans on firearms. In Distract of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court affirmed this interpretation of gun rights and struck down a Washington DC law banning firearms. That said, the American government has broad powers to regulate gun ownership and to intercede in situations which pose a danger to the public The government can regulate many aspects of gun ownership, including:
- What types of weapons can be sold (ex. assault weapons bans)
- Who can legally own weapons (ex. felons can have their gun rights revoked)
- Where weapons can be legally held (ex. banning guns in government buildings)
- How people buy guns (ex. mandating background checks/waiting periods)
- Registration of weapons (mandating that all guns be registered with the state)
Unfortunately, gun laws in many states are absolutely inadequate and must be reformed if we are to stop gun violence. Many states, particularly in the south, have deregulated guns to the point where there are simply no real ways to prevent violent or disturbed people from obtaining weapons.
Case in point for the inadequacy of current gun laws is found in the “gun show loophole.” At a gun show, “private sellers” are allowed to sell guns to anybody that they want, with no background checks, waiting periods or reporting to the government. If a mentally ill man with a history of violence and a spot on the terrorist watch list goes to a gun show, he can buy several assault rifles, shotguns and sniper rifles—no background checks will be done, nobody will know that he bought the weapons, and the only thing that would impede his purchase would be the difficulty of carrying the weapons home.
Over the last decade, our state and federal governments have done nothing but chip away at gun laws. Gun control laws which were previously taken for granted have been stripped away (ex. some gun advocates desire the ability to carry their guns into church for prayer and bars when they want to get drunk) and the limitations on gun ownership are now lower than they have been in modern history.
Numerous states have passed bills that would make it easier to obtain gun licenses and more difficult to restrict people who have mental problems from getting guns. For example, Florida uses an automatic approval process for gun permitting that bans police from making judgments as to who can get a gun permit—the entire process is based around fixed criteria rather than an assessment by experts. This deregulation is extremely dangerous because it allows violent or disturbed individuals to purchase legal guns; these legal guns are then used to commit crimes and sometimes massacres (approximately ¾ of the guns used in mass-shootings during the last thirty years were legally bought).
Laws which previously limited where individuals are allowed to carry their guns have been struck down and replaced with carry laws which allow people to bring guns into schools, churches and government buildings. In horrible symmetry with the December 14th Connecticut school shooting, the Michigan legislature passed a bill that would allow individuals to bring guns into schools just hours after the shots broke out in the CT elementary school. Letting people bring guns into areas where they don’t belong (ex. places with children, alcohol, or high emotions), is simply a recipe for disaster and is beneficial to nobody.
President Bush’s legacy on gun rights was to let the federal Assault Weapons Ban run out and not be re-authorized. This refusal to reauthorize the ban has allowed Americans to legally purchase a host of dangerous weapons—including assault rifles and the high-capacity magazines that we have seen in recent shootings—that were previously illegal under federal law. Such weapons have no purpose but to be used to kill people and, oftentimes, many people. Put plainly, if you need an assault rifle to take down a deer, you shouldn’t be allowed near a gun.
In order to fix our country’s broken gun laws, we must reform them to make it much harder for violent people to obtain dangerous weapons. Through restricting the types of guns which can be sold, to whom they can be sold and the requirements for the sale to be valid, American lawmakers may be able to stem the tide of violence. There are already too many guns on the street, but steps must be taken to prevent this problem from getting even worse. Here is a short summery of my ideal gun-control regulatory regime:
- Nobody with a felony record, severe mental illness, pending criminal charges, or place on the terrorist watch list is allowed to buy or carry guns within the United States. In addition to these restrictions, nobody under the age of 18 should be allowed to own a gun and nobody under the age of 15 should be allowed to operate a gun (even with parental consent/supervision).
- No guns are to be allowed in the following locations: Religious institutions, schools, government buildings, national parks, places where alcohol is sold/consumed, sports stadiums, large public gatherings, political rallies/voting location, or any areas which have large numbers of children (zoos, amusement parks, playgrounds, etc.).
- Before buying a gun, an individual must pass a psychiatric evaluation (with federal standards), and be certified competent in the safe handling of a firearm (identical to a driving test for the right to drive a car). The results of these tests will be confidential and not used in any capacity other than determining whether an individual has the ability to safely handle a firearm.
- The only guns which are legal for civilians within the United States are bolt-action rifles, scatter-guns (shotguns/bird-rifles), and non-automatic pistols (revolver or semi-automatic). Any individual seeking another type of gun may attempt to buy one, but only after submitting a written statement to the federal government, describing the exact purpose and need for such a firearm (ex. private security personnel may require assault weapons for overseas government contracts).
- All legally sold guns must have their barrel striations and firing pin imprints logged and registered to the government; any intentional alterations to these components should be a felony and result in an immediate loss of the right to carry a firearm.
- Straw-purchasing and the personal sale of firearms without disclosure to the government should be a felony. If a gun is stolen, the legal owner has 72 hours from the discovery of the theft to report it to the police, or they will lose their right to own a firearm for a minimum of a year and be subject to a fine.
- All ammunition sales should require identification and should be immediately reported to the government. In addition to this reporting, there should be caps on ammunition sales, both on the number of bullets which can be bought in a single instance and on the number of bullets which can be bought per year; gun ranges and professional shooters are exempt to these limits, but only after receiving a federal waiver.
- No extended magazines or specialty ammunition are to be allowed for civilian use (tracer, explosive, sabot, etc.); a waiver can be obtained for this restriction, but only after a written application is submitted to the government, and the individual has been certified in the safe handling of the ammunition (ex. if a movie crew wants to use tracer rounds for a scene).
- Without receiving a federal waiver, no individual may own more than three of a single category of firearm (sidearm, rifle, or scatter-gun), putting a cap of nine guns for each individual. If an individual wishes to obtain more than three of a single category of gun (hunters, collectors, etc.), they must be evaluated and approved by the federal government.
- When storing a firearm, it must have a trigger-lock (fingerprint based, if possible) or be stored in a secure location (locking drawer, lockbox, safe, etc.). Any violation of this regulation which is discovered by authorities will result in a fine or loss of the right to own a gun for a period of time.
In order to ensure that there is no race to the bottom for gun control, these regulations should be based in the federal government. Any state which wished to further restrict gun rights should have the right to do so, but the above regulations should create the federal baseline for American gun laws.
I am under no delusion that my suggested gun-laws are politically feasible but would hope that our politicians can disregard the NRA for long enough to get some of them passed. We simply cannot stand idle while thousands of our citizens are killed every year.
Counter-Arguments From Gun Activists
When discussing gun-control and the limits of gun rights, the supporters of lax gun laws use a combination of several arguments to make their case. These arguments sound reasonable on their face, but they often break down when attacked with logic or applied to real life situations. In the following section, I will quickly debunk all of the common anti-gun control arguments.
Gun-rights activists say: “The United States may be suffering from an epidemic of mass-shootings…
…but if more people were armed, we would be safer.”
This argument is simply untrue and has been disproven by real-life examples. Never mind the comparison between the United States’ murder rate and that of other developed nations (Remember: 19X more murder in the USA), we see that more guns equals more gun murders in state-level comparisons. According to the Violence Policy Center’s analysis, states with higher per capita gun ownerships have far higher levels of gun homicide—there are 3 to 5 gun deaths per 100,000 in the bottom five gun ownership states, while there are 17 to 20 gun deaths per 100,000 in the top five gun ownership states.
In addition to the statistical evidence supporting the fact that more guns don’t make us safer, we can simply look at the mechanics of a shooting. Shootings are chaotic and, if everybody has a gun, there is a very real potential for a crossfire—nobody would know who the original shooter was, thus everybody would shoot at everybody else. In this crossfire, bullets would likely hit civilians (imagine a room filled with a crowd and three people shooting at each other) and the casualty count would increase. Once the police arrive, it would be difficult to determine who the original shooter was, and it is also likely that the police may end up shooting the people who didn’t start the gunfight.
In response to the “everybody should be armed” argument, people should simply ask the gun activist whether or not they support Iran getting a nuclear weapon. By the logic that the gun activist applies, everybody is safer when everybody is armed, and this would translate to support for Iranian weapons; in reality, these people almost always say that Iran isn’t a rational actor and that giving them a nuke endangers everybody around them. When they say this, you should simply tell them that not every gun owner is rational and that unrestricted gun ownership is the micro-equivalent to letting every country have nukes.
…but guns don’t kill people—people kill people”
While it is true that guns are simply tools and have no ability to harm anybody on their own, the assertion that they have no part in the perpetration of violence is absurd. Guns give people an easy, cheap, and relatively detached (compared to stabbings/beatings) method of killing people—even large numbers of people. By making killing easy, guns directly contribute to the thought process that must go into a killing and facilitate even higher body counts. Without guns, people would still kill others, but it would be far more difficult to accrue high body counts (ex. mass stabbings happen, but they don’t kill as many people as mass shootings).
Perhaps a better way to state this quote would be: “guns don’t kill people; people kill people. However, people with guns can easily and quickly kill a lot of people, while those who don’t cannot.”
…but the 2nd Amendment guarantees us a right to bear arms.”
It is true that the right to bear arms is guaranteed by the constitution, but it has also been held that reasonable restrictions on guns are constitutionally allowable. The federal and state governments have long maintained restrictions on who can carry guns (ex. felon disarmament), where people can have guns (ex. no guns in airports), and what types of guns are allowed (ex. the now-expired Assault Weapons Ban). What gun reformers suggest is not to ban all guns—that would be unconstitutional—but rather to ensure that these regulations are increased to sane levels. Currently, our weapons technology outstrips our regulations and this has allowed violent people to obtain guns that weren’t even within the realm of imagination in the time when the 2nd Amendment was written.
Our current gun laws are inadequate for our weapons technology and most gun law reformers simply wish to correct this imbalance. Few people talk about totally banning guns—something that is impossible because of the 2nd Amendment—but it is entirely rational to want a tightening of gun regulations in the face of thousands of murders.
…but if we restrict guns, only the criminals will have them.”
Restricting guns may not immediately stop hardened criminals from obtaining weapons, but it would help stop insane and violent people from getting them easily. Many shooters that kill large numbers of random people are disturbed loners who would have a difficult time obtaining a gun if not for legal channels—this isn’t to say that they wouldn’t eventually find a way, but it would make it more difficult.
We see that gun restrictions do work in the rest of the world. In Europe and much of Asia the per capita murder rates are far lower than the United States and this is, in part, due to the fact that they have fewer guns. Crime still occurs, and murders still happen, but it is harder to massive harm to large numbers of people when guns are less common.
By restricting guns, forcing gun registration, and punishing illegal guns harshly, the total number of guns on our streets will eventually decrease. As it gets more risky to buy or sell guns, people will have a harder time getting their hands on them and overall gun-homicide deaths will decrease.
For as long as we keep flooding our streets with guns, the disturbed among us will always be able to find the weapons that they need to commit murder. By stemming this flow and making it more risky to illegally obtain guns, the authorities will be able to gradually decrease the terrible violence that faces our country today.
…but limiting guns will only lead to violent people simply using other methods of killing large numbers of people”
Guns are a very quick, compact and efficient way of killing people and it is unlikely that any other weapon will replace guns as the weapon of choice. If somebody wishes another person dead, it is likely that they can find a way to get it done, but this doesn’t mean that we make it easy. Restrictions on guns make it harder to kill large numbers of people, as psychopaths find it more difficult to obtain their weapons.
As to other weapons:
- Knives can kill people, but are much more difficult to use and it is virtually impossible to kill the same number of people with a knife as with a gun (an assault rifle can kill dozens of people a minute, simply through the squeeze of a trigger).
- Bombs can kill large numbers of people but are unstable and difficult to build—the most likely victim of a bomb is its creator.
- Cars have been used to kill people but they are far too large an unwieldy to replace guns (you can’t exactly put one in your pocket)
If properly motivated, somebody can kill their enemy with a pair of nail-clippers, but this is irrelevant to the greater regulatory scheme. Just because there are other ways for people to kill one another, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t in the public interest to restrict the most common way people currently kill each other.
…but we need guns to protect ourselves from the danger of a tyrannical government.”
I hate to break it to supporters of this argument, but they are simply deluded if they believe that any amount of personal firepower would protect them from a tyrannical government—the government has weapons that simply render personal firearms nearly useless. No matter how many pistols and rifles the population has, the government has planes, tanks and missiles. As we saw with government/militia conflicts in the past, no matter how many guns an individual has, it never turns out well for them when they turn those guns on the government (case in point: Ruby Ridge). The proper tool to prevent a government from falling into tyranny is the voting booth, not a gun and bullets.
…but there are other countries which have a lot of guns that don’t have a high murder rate”
Several countries have very high gun ownership rates but comparably low gun homicide rates—Switzerland and Israel as the two most common gun-activist examples. This is very simply explained by the fact that both Israel and Switzerland have compulsory military service and everybody must learn how to use guns. Those who are incompetent for military service (ex. psychotic people) don’t get guns, while those who finish their military service often keep weapons into their civilian lives.
By using this argument, gun activists are actually giving an endorsement of gun registration and strong restrictions on who can own a gun. If we had a very strict evaluation process to determine who is stable enough to own a gun (as these countries do as a prerequisite for service) then high gun ownership rates would be less of a problem—a lot of people would have guns, but they wouldn’t be unstable or untrained in their use of said guns.
It’s good to read something rational for a change, well done and keep at it.
As I’m a British citizen and a US alien, I find the differences in what should be similar 2-party politics disturbing. In the UK, it’s clearly the position of the majority party to argue for a proposed change, and the job of the “opposition” to oppose, in debates. They practice quite often in colleges by arguing for both sides. The idea is that the right solution needs to be the best, and all the pro/con angles explored before a decision is made. The process usually results in agreement despite which side you argued for. In the US it seems policy decisions are dictated by a line that swings between the left and right wings, and rational arguments are deflected by both religion and the Constitution.
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While I applaud your sincerity, you seem to have some fairly big holes in your understanding of firearms, the situation we are currently facing and the problems with your proposed fixes. I’ll attempt to address these in order.
First, “mass shootings” are not “epidemic,” and, in fact, are still quite rare. Only about 1% of all gun homicide victims are killed in a mass shooting. The biggest difference between now and 20 years ago is the 365/24/7 news cycle that camps on these tragedies for days and sometimes weeks at a time. On a more positive note, the overall violent crime rate, including “gun crime,” has actually fallen by half over those same 20 years. Concurrently, the supply of guns in civilian hands has increased by roughly a third; from 170 million to about 310 million. (This supply increases by roughly 10 million each year.)
Despite all of this, I’ll be the first to agree that there is too much misuse of firearms and even ONE innocent victim is too many. I do agree that we can do more. The devil is always in the details.
I find that people who bemoan our “lax gun laws” have no real clue as to what those laws actually ARE. They don’t understand that few consumer products are as heavily regulated, nor governed from manufacture, advertisement, sale, distribution, transfer, use, storage and final disposal as are firearms. Seemingly every scenario imaginable has laws governing them. And as you hinted at, some ARE unconstitutional, as was DC’s ban. Slowly but surely, progress is being made to expose and repeal these infringements.
Laws, then, tend not to be the answer as they are not the real problem. They only have so much power; criminals and the mentally ill BREAK them. Enacting more laws, then, cannot stop these people. Few realize that Adam Lanza’s so-called “assault weapon” was legally owned and compliant with CT’s local ban, which it enacted in the wake of the federal ban not being re-enacted. So any NEW laws must be examined for their potential EFFICACY, and who, exactly, will be affected.
This brings us to your assertions on the aspects of gun ownership permitted by the 2nd Amendment.
– What types of weapons can be sold (ex. assault weapons bans)
The term “assault weapon” is meaningless; it does NOT refer to machine guns! These rifles and pistols are no more deadly, accurate or powerful than those excluded from the moniker, their main distinction being mostly cosmetic similarities to military firearms. This term, borrowed from “assault rifle” (a specific type of military gun that can be switched from semi to full auto) was politically contrived to take advantage of the ignorance of the general public. This was (and still is) plainly spelled-out on the anti-gun-rights VPC website.
– Who can legally own weapons (ex. felons can have their gun rights revoked)
Agreed; known violent offenders abdicate various rights. Caution: it is necessary to tread lightly where rights are concerned! (More on this later.)
– Where weapons can be legally held (ex. banning guns in government buildings)
This is a recipe for disaster. What makes one area more “holy” than another? If I am trusted to be responsible with my firearm on a public highway, in a restaurant or at the mall, why am I suddenly suspect in a post office or government building? I’ve carried my licensed firearm in my state’s capitol building many times; it’s perfectly legal in Michigan. KEY: If you exclude those who are legally armed by a LAW, then you put the law abiding at a disadvantage if/when a criminal/bad guy brings THEIR guns into the area. We call no-carry areas “criminal empowerment zones.”
– How people buy guns (ex. mandating background checks/waiting periods)
Only works on legal buyers from legal sources.
– Registration of weapons (mandating that all guns be registered with the state)
Registration has ZERO crime-prevention value. It has extremely little crime SOLVING value. Most guns involved in crime are stolen and/or purchased on the black market. At best, then, a registry simply leads authorities to the last known legal owner. We register cars, bikes and pets to facilitate the RETURN of STOLEN PROPERTY, not to solve crimes. Since most government entities have policies against returning guns, registration loses ANY practical value.
The “registration leads to confiscation” argument is NOT paranoia; all one needs to do is look at the examples of history. Unerringly, where there is registration, confiscation eventually follows. And this is NOT confined to the far past or countries far away! Just Google “California SKS rifle ban” or “New York Sullivan Law gun confiscation.” A similar situation is developing in CT.
There IS NO “GUN SHOW LOOPHOLE.” It is a myth. Most sellers at gun shows are FFLs (Federal Firearms Licensees). As such, they must run the SAME BACKGROUND CHECKS as if the sale was taking place in a brick-and-mortar gun store. No exceptions; guns sold from or to an FFL are checked. The main boogeyman here is the private seller; a person who already owns a gun or collection of guns who goes to a gun show and either buys a table or shops their firearm(s) around who might hook-up with another private citizen. This can happen anywhere, not only gun shows! The internet, classified ads and community bulletin boards or simply word of mouth.
They aren’t “allowed to sell guns to anybody they want,” but are actually SHUT OUT BY LAW from running their own NICS background check! Those who think that all private sales should also be checked — and I’m among them — have suggested two options: putting NICS online, similar to a sex offender registry, and allow ALL sellers anywhere to run a FREE check. When floated as an option, anti-gun-rights activists REJECTED the plan. Why? Because the MESS OF A BILL that was rejected by Congress forced all sales to go through FFL dealers, who in turn would add a FEE to facilitate private sales! This adds a defacto TAX to private sales!
The POLITICAL reason behind this is to shut out more buyers, presumably those of more modest means. (The poor, who often need self-protection more than most other groups.)
The POLITICAL reason in calling it the “gun show loophole” is to shut down gun shows altogether, despite the fact that less than 4% of all recovered “crime guns” come from such a show. Politics permeates this issue, and the tricksters count on the sincerely concerned to uwittingly draft them into their effort.
Most states already make it illegal to drink and carry a gun. Banning carry in bars ASSUMES that one is going there to drink when, in fact, employees go there to work, many go there for dinner and many are “designated drivers.” Any ban is redundant and, again, puts the law abiding at a disadvantage should a bad guy decide to carry there anywhere.
While banning violent felons and those with known violent mental illnesses is something we can all agree on, shutting out those on the so-called “terrorist watch list” is an unconstitutional violation of the rights of people who have not been convicted of anything! It is a denial of rights based on suspicion alone, and illegal in any other context. There is some real cause for concern here, since no one knows how a name gets on the list in the first place (remember Ted Kennedy being detained?), who adds names to the list, WHY they’re on the list and, most significantly, there is no procedure in place to get your name OFF of the list. Until these issues are addressed, basing anything on this list is a bad idea.
The licensure process in Florida is what is known as “shall issue.” This does not stop states from putting requirements in-place for these licenses. My state of Michigan requires an in-depth background check that goes much deeper than the “instant” check when simply buying a gun, the completion of an extensive training course and a qualifying score at the firing range. The “discretion” that was removed was mostly corruption. Prior to shall-issue, few permits were issued to people who weren’t friends, family or big contributors to the Sherrif’s re-election campaign; a “good ol’ boys” network that shut out the average citizen regardless of their training or other qualifications.
And speaking of Michigan, allowing these trained, licensed and background checked people to carry in schools, churches and anywhere else makes no one less safe and, in fact, potentially makes them safer. In the wake of Sandy Hook, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA took a lot of heat for his suggestion that every school should have armed safety officers. While he dodged the media barbs, President Obama quietly used an executive order to implement just such a program! The only sane, logical, rational response to an armed attack is an armed response. That’s why police get called. They have guns.
Police want to be excluded from any restriction on magazine capacity. If they’re so dangerous and it’s such a grand idea for “Joe Average,” why do they get a free pass? To answer this, we need to examine their reasoning.
It is well known that, when under an actual attack, a human being undergoes several involuntary reactions, none of which makes their hand-eye coordination any better. In fact, this is the main reason why stories of police firing dozens of rounds at a suspect, yet hitting them rarely or even missing completely abound! Even the best trained officer will miss… and maybe miss a lot. So more ammunition can literally mean the difference between going home alive and well or not going home at all. Why isn’t this good for me, too? Especially when you consider this:
I walk the same streets as they patrol.
I may well blunder into the same bad guys.
I don’t have a partner; I don’t have a “K-9 Unit” or back-up on call.
I don’t have a bullet-proof vest.
I am a human, subject to the same involuntary reactions.
Is it fair, then, or even MORAL to ask me to accept what the professionals will not? Are you aware that, after the LA riots, the only reason that people in some neighborhoods could buy groceries was because their Korean owners defended their businesses — the few that weren’t burned to the ground — with their “assault weapons” and “high-capacity” magazines? Do you understand that the worst school shooting in our country, Virginia Tech, was perpetrated with standard handguns with standard magazines; Cho just had PLENTY of them and reloaded several times.
Barring younger kids/pre-teens ANY exposure to firearms is another recipe for disaster. Despite crime levels and headlines, the vast majority of gun owners are sane and responsible with their firearms, and part of that comes because they learned from their parents. I know that’s true for me. We know that, regardless of what is being learned, children learn far more quickly when they’re young. Strict parental supervision is a must, to be sure, but legal mandates barring children from learning is irrational and unproductive.
ALL of those locations you mention have, at one time, been killing grounds. Many states, for instances, make schools and churches off-limits to guns. But that law does NOT stop bad guys; it disarms the innocent. When you look at the list of “4 or more” mass murder incidents, 83% happened in a “gun-free zone.” So how can anyone justify disarming the law abiding there or anywhere else? If people are going to be there, then violent crime is possible. The ONLY places I agree with a weapons ban are courtooms and prisons, and even then I approve of armed security officers and guards in towers. No ban ever stopped a determined killer.
You cannot tax a basic civil right; no poll taxes or literacy test to vote. Similarly, you cannot place barriers (psych tests, training requirements) in-between a citizen and their constitutionally protected right to arms. If they have a clean record and there is no reason to believe they’re violent, I submit that there’s no reason to subject them to any psych eval. Operating a car and operating a gun are very different things; the latter is far easier than the former! The main thing here is responsibility; most gun owners, by their behavior, demonstrate that they understand the gravity of misusing a firearm. It’s not angry bands of disgruntled NRA members pulling drive-by shootings. No psychiatrist would certify anyone if they would be held accountable for their future behavior either. (Would you?)
Your proposed restrictions as to weapon type, I believe, is mostly aimed at machine guns, and such a system is already in-place. Google “NFA firearms.” Semi-auto rifles aren’t evil and have genuine utility. And lest we forget, John F. Kennedy was killed with a bolt action rifle.
Recording “barrel striations and firing pin imprints” is a fool’s errand, as they change over time, especially if a firearm is used often. Basic cleaning, too, alters the chamber and barrel. Lastly, just as criminals file off serial numbers (despite the harsh penalties for doing so), a criminal can change these characteristics quite easily. Then there are replaement parts; you can easily buy and change the barrel of most rifles, pistols and shotguns. Millions of dollars was spent on just such a registration system in MD since 2000. To date, it has not solved a single crime. The costs are horrific, and there has been zero benefit to law enforcement.
Straw purchases are already a felony. Private sales of legal products are not, nor should they ever be. What SHOULD happen is that private sellers should be given access to run their own FREE checks, anytime, anywhere. Make that a requirement — I’m fine with that — but NO registry; no stored databases. Also, when a felon IS detected trying to buy a gun from an FFL or legal owner, they should be arrested. (Only a paltry handful are ever prosecuted.)
Restricting ammunition discourages practice by the law abiding; BAD IDEA! Also, it’s hard to restrict something that you can churn-out in your own garage. The Crips and Bloods don’t shop at Bass Pro or Cabela’s. Besides, a right to arms includes their ammunition. As it is, a felon may not be in possession of ammunition. True story.
I haven’t heard of many shootings, mass or otherwise, involving tracer or explosive ammunition, the latter already being tightly restricted. “Extended magazine” restrictions again only ties the hands of the innocent. There are legitimate legal uses for them and, as I mentioned above, police claim exemption to any such restriction. So do I. I don’t want bad guys to have ONE round of ammunition! I want a senior citizen facing a group of home invaders to have as many as her gun will hold, and a dozen spare magazines or more to boot. NOTE: Hard data, gathered by the Clinton Justice Department and released when the AWB sunset admitted that limiting magazines to ten rounds had “no discernable impact” on the number of people killed or injured during a typical shooting instance.
A person can only realistically fire one gun at once; two if accuracy is unimportant. Restricting the number of guns a person may own has ZERO utility in crime prevention; ZERO utility in crime reduction. There is no scientific data, or even anecdotal evidence, that a person with 100 guns is any more prone to commit a crime than a person with one gun.
Mandates for “safe storage” excludes any possibility of having a firearm immediately accessible in an emergency; BAD IDEA. Think of it this way: place your fire extinguisher in a safe. Go ahead and make it a biometric safe. Would that be fine? Might a person, under pressure, not be able to remember or properly enter their code? Might a person with gunk on their hands not be able to access a biometric safe? The MAIN thing here again is RESPONSIBILITY. A gun owner, by law, IS responsible for their weapons and for every bullet that comes out of it. This is already a FACT. Smart gun owners already own trigger locks; they already secure their weapons when not in-use. I’m all for harsh penalties for negilgence, especially when it results in injury or death. This, too, may already be on the books. But too many accounts of home invasions and other crimes being thwarted because a homeowner kept a gun readily available makes the wisdom of “safe storage” mandates questionable at best and outright dangerous at worst.
Lastly, you seem to have an overly optimistic trust in the “federal government.” We have plenty of examples that feds can be just as corrupt, greedy and inept as small-town podunk officials! I’m a bigger fan of the Jeff Korwin endorsed “BIDS” system as a replacement for NICS for background checks. The more responsibility we can place on citizens and police, and the less on bureaucrats, the better IMO. BTW, the “VIolence Policy Center” is the NRA of the anti-gun-rights movement and their “studies” are rubbish; none have been accepted by academic publications, nor do they often see anything like peer review. Note that they talk about “high gun ownership states,” yet ignore city-by-city figures. If they did, then a different picture emerges. Why? Because again, it’s not the presence of guns that is dangerous, but who has them and WHY. California has very strict gun laws, but they also have a very big gang population. Ditto for Chicago. My hometown of Detroit isn’t in one of those states, but tops the list of gun homicides. The VPC is lying to you.
I hope this helps a bit. If you contact me via e-mail, I’ll hook you up with a copy of my book that details all of these points and more. Thanks for reading!
As a gun owner that is not a republican nor conservative let me review your suggestions:
“Nobody with a felony record, severe mental illness, pending criminal charges, or place on the terrorist watch list is allowed to buy or carry guns within the United States.”
May I ask what type of pending criminal charge a revocation of 2nd Amendment Rights (under Heller) would qualify? Does a charge (not conviction) of public urination result in someone losing their rights? How about a non-violent civil disobedience to protest the increasing police state and injustices?
As to serious mental illness, are you saying that mentally ill persons are dangerous? I seem to think that the APA has very clear guidelines on which specific mental illness are dangerous. Perhaps you would be in favor of preventing (APA verified non-dangerous) mentally ill persons from employment that involves a degree of responsibility for others?
“No guns are to be allowed in the following locations”
So private property owners have no rights on what is allowed what activities are allowed on their property? (Please no reference to malum in se acts) What about 21 gun salute to a fallen combat medic funeral at a church? Are you going to deny the medics family that honor? So currently, it seems you will be willing to deny property rights and honors to fallen persons that protect Americans. Furthermore, if a woman had a concealed carry permit and her child was taken and murdered by a more physically imposing person, would you tell that woman that you supported the ban that may have gotten her child killed? How about when I want to protect myself when camping the the wilderness regions of National Parks? Will the Forest Ranger appear in a split second to protect me from danger 100% of the time? If not and I have a valid firearm, may I hod the state responsible? I feel a reasonable floor for a mandatory pay out is $20,000,000 (tax free) for any serious injury, deaths should be $100,000,000 mandatory pay out, a woman whose child is abducted or murdered should get $150,000,000 for the obvious trauma and therapy needed.
“The only guns which are legal for civilians within the United States are bolt-action rifles, scatter-guns (shotguns/bird-rifles), and non-automatic pistols (revolver or semi-automatic). ”
So you want to ban a certain class of firearm? The semi-automatic rifle. This is despite rigorous studies by the federal government that found no statistically significance regarding (overall-) gun crime committed. (-Please not the emphasis on the word overall) (I don’t care to what might have been the result. I only care about what the result was.)
“All legally sold guns must have their barrel striations and firing pin imprints logged and registered to the government; any intentional alterations to these components should be a felony and result in an immediate loss of the right to carry a firearm.”
When you say, “right to carry a firearm” is that an affirmation of conceal carry as a Constitutional right? Furthermore, as most liberals state that guns are stolen what good will the imprints do? Crimes of passion are unrealistic, as by there very nature they are sporadic. Planned crimes with a firearm usually involve illicit acts who’s penalties are far greater than the “right to carry a firearm” . Thus the criminal for a planned crime will already alter the identification methods. Please address forensic counter measures too. Whats to stop an individual from obtaining spent casings with the other peoples firearms (perhaps from a gun rage) and placing it at a crime scene as a forensic counter measure?
“Straw-purchasing and the personal sale of firearms without disclosure to the government should be a felony. If a gun is stolen, the legal owner has 72 hours from the discovery of the theft to report it to the police, or they will lose their right to own a firearm for a minimum of a year and be subject to a fine.”
Straw-purchasing is already a felony. The personal sale thing is stupid, but I won’t oppose it. As to notification after discovery. How do you determine theft? Perhaps I left it at the gun range that is closed for X day, maybe it was stolen when I was hiking in the wilderness.
“In addition to these restrictions, nobody under the age of 18 should be allowed to own a gun and nobody under the age of 15 should be allowed to operate a gun (even with parental consent/supervision).”
So what is the purpose of this law? Perhaps it’s the old Bible-thumper and anti-gay tactic of limiting involvement of a person in certain environments to manipulate individuals? This still does not answer the question of hunters and the shooting “sports” programs supported by a number of youth organizations, while providing college scholarships.
“All ammunition sales should require identification and should be immediately reported to the government. In addition to this reporting, there should be caps on ammunition sales, both on the number of bullets which can be bought in a single instance and on the number of bullets which can be bought per year;”
What is the purpose of the law? What is the limit of rounds that a person may own? Do you know that individuals make their own rounds? Do you believe that the general trend of mass shooters is to use all 1000 rounds they have? Btw… how do you feel about a (FREE) voter ID?
“No extended magazines or specialty ammunition are to be allowed for civilian use (tracer, explosive, sabot, etc.); a waiver can be obtained for this restriction”
The typical shooting uses three rounds of ammunition. So I am not clear on how this would prevent gun shootings. IF you want to suggest it will reduce mass shootings, I will suggest that they are usually planned and if they are planned the magazines can be constructed in a workshop or using a 3D printer. Addressing the explosive rounds, may I ask what the current restrictions on explosive rounds are?
“Without receiving a federal waiver, no individual may own more than three of a single category of firearm (sidearm, rifle, or scatter-gun), putting a cap of nine guns for each individual.”
What is the rational behind this law?* Do you feel that the persons with the most guns are the most likely to commit murder? Frankly, I feel that it is the opposite. Rationally, it would seem that if an individual could afford up to nine guns they would most likely be employed and a high paying job, middle aged, and with a family. Not exactly the typical criminal found in the FBI Uniform Crime Report, is it?
“When storing a firearm, it must have a trigger-lock (fingerprint based, if possible) or be stored in a secure location (locking drawer, lockbox, safe, etc.). Any violation of this regulation which is discovered by authorities will result in a fine or loss of the right to own a gun for a period of time.”
First, I want the secret service and all law enforcement to use these fingerprint trigger lock based firearms. Second, does this apply it the firearm is being carried on the person? If not, than you are purposely reducing the effective self-defense ability of gun owners and creating victims.
Third, how would the government discover this? Surely, you would not suggest a restriction of the 4th Amendment rights to exercise a 2nd Amendment right. If you are in favor of such a measure, how about a similar provision on the 1st Amendment? So much crime could be prevented if all law enforcement agents could access our emails, texts, or phone calls. (Please do not be disingenuous an bring up malum in se laws regarding speech)
“According to the Violence Policy Center’s analysis, states with higher per capita gun ownerships have far higher levels of gun homicide—there are 3 to 5 gun deaths per 100,000 in the bottom five gun ownership states, while there are 17 to 20 gun deaths per 100,000 in the top five gun ownership states.”
Did they find a 1:1 causation relationship? Could I just not say that the increase in gun crime (from certain small select groups) results in higher overall legal gun ownership? Does the study have the data to refute this? What was the methodology they used? I will plug the numbers and controls into SPSS myself and we can discuss the findings.
“When they say this, you should simply tell them that not every gun owner is rational and that unrestricted gun ownership is the micro-equivalent to letting every country have nukes.”
Perhaps you need to address this obvious continuum fallacy. Unless, you want me to translate the letters of my 2nd Aunt / Uncle that was a survivor of Hiroshima nuclear “incident”. My uncle was conscripted into an officer position (due to prior service) of the civil defense force. I could take you to his grave and record you say him having is pistol and being shot at as a medic was similar to being nuked.
“Currently, our weapons technology outstrips our regulations and this has allowed violent people to obtain guns that weren’t even within the realm of imagination in the time when the 2nd Amendment was written.”
Are you using an appeal to antiquity argument? If so, than is it not a logically consistent to say that controls on the internet, radio, television, or cell phones are not out of the question. Heck, what about the 14th amendment and gay marriage. Perhaps we need controls on the application of the Equal Protection Clause.
“We see that gun restrictions do work in the rest of the world. In Europe and much of Asia the per capita murder rates are far lower than the United States and this is, in part, due to the fact that they have fewer guns. Crime still occurs, and murders still happen, but it is harder to massive harm to large numbers of people when guns are less common.”
Much of Asia has a very different culture than that of the United States. Other factors abound such as limited Constitution protections for those arrested and increased police powers. Would you like me to list Amnesty Internationals issues with Japan criminal justice system?
Furthermore, the overall crime rate is fairly higher in many European countries and for certain violent crimes (that have been controlled for) they are slightly higher. This does not even account for the crimes that may occur due to a lack of a gun as a result of onerous regulations. (This of course is just speculation as you could just state the opposite.) But then this becomes an argument of utilitarianism. Do we deal with more crime (as evidenced in your examples of European countries) or more gun deaths? Personally, I don’t care if people kill themselves or gangster get shot in drive bys. For the innocent civilian that dies as a result of gun murder, I balance this against the probability that they died for the good of the many.
“Guns are a very quick, compact and efficient way of killing people and it is unlikely that any other weapon will replace guns as the weapon of choice. If somebody wishes another person dead, it is likely that they can find a way to get it done, but this doesn’t mean that we make it easy. ”
What guns are compact? An AR-15? A Barrett .50 cal? A shotgun? But even ignoring that issue, perhaps the goal IS to kill someone without making it harder. An AR-15 is easier to aim, fire, and maintain control of than a pistol. Loaded with hollow-points any concerns about over penetration is not an issue.
“I hate to break it to supporters of this argument, but they are simply deluded if they believe that any amount of personal firepower would protect them from a tyrannical government—the government has weapons that simply render personal firearms nearly useless. ”
Who said anything about the entire federal government? Perhaps, its just to overthrow a regional form of government. I say this because such an example has already happened. I suggest you research the Battle of Athens. Furthermore, perhaps (in a unlikely tyrannical world) 45% of the government is for the people but 55% is fighting for the 1%. Rather than taking out a tank, perhaps the citizen militia mission is to delay enemy ground troops until the reinforcements could arrive to assist friendly troops.
“Several countries have very high gun ownership rates but comparably low gun homicide rates—Switzerland and Israel as the two most common gun-activist examples. This is very simply explained by the fact that both Israel and Switzerland have compulsory military service and everybody must learn how to use guns. …
By using this argument, gun activists are actually giving an endorsement of gun registration and strong restrictions on who can own a gun. If we had a very strict evaluation process to determine who is stable enough to own a gun (as these countries do as a prerequisite for service) then high gun ownership rates would be less of a problem—a lot of people would have guns, but they wouldn’t be unstable or untrained in their use of said guns.”
I don’t use this argument, but I do like the Vermont, New Hampshire, Utah, and other high SES republican areas (one of the locations where the majority of guns are concentrated). These locations have gun crime rates within the range of European countries but have lax firearm laws.
In conclusion, you may think you are intelligent. But you really are not (intelligent) due to the flawed post that you have. Perhaps, this sense of superiority is a result of talking to NRA automatons, but I caution that with me you will be challenged.
*I am applying substantive due process to your suggestions. I have worked for the DA office for three years, am a paralegal, and listen to SCOTUS oral arguments when I job, then read any referenced cases. I know, I am a legal dork!
This is only a test