Once again the United States is faced with the grizzly reality that guns in the hands of the wrong person can result in a horrific loss of life. Depending on where you fall politically you’re likely thinking something along the lines of “we should remove guns from everyone” or “guns aren’t the problem”. Neither side is correct and yet we’re more than happy to continue going back and forth on a topic that will likely never be resolved until both sides are willing to listen to the other side.
Every time a mass shooting hits the news there are calls from American liberals to push forward on gun control. There is a call to remove “assault weapons” from the shelves of American gun stores, for more thorough background checks. This sort of reaction is not entirely based in pie in the sky logic. Fewer guns would mean less of a possibility of a person legally purchasing a weapon and going on a rampage at the local school. Better background checks would hopefully weed out those whose history shows they are likely to cause this kind of havoc. These ideas are not bad. In the best sense they aren’t even anti-gun so much as they are pro-life.
There are weak points to each of these arguments as well. The United States has a real problem with black market weapons. Banning or severely restricting legal weapons sales could push potential perpetrators to this market, where the law has no oversight. If banning or restricting guns is going to work, then the US must first reign in the illegal gun market. Keep in mind that the gun crime capital of the US is Chicago where it is illegal to own a gun. Every one of the gun crimes perpetrated in Chicago is done with an illegally owned gun. Background checks can only see so far as to what a person has done in the past. There is no telling what might cause a person to “snap” and a background check — no matter how thorough — can’t see into the future. Also, there’s no such thing as an assault weapon. There are guns that look like military guns and guns that don’t, but assault weapons is not a category that exists. Assault weapon is a marketing term used by those who don’t know guns and are against them.
American conservatives on the other hand have their own pet arguments that come out when a gun tragedy strikes. They argue that the reason it happens is that there aren’t enough weaponized people, which gives these psychopaths a free path to go crazy in schools. They argue that the problem is with the people and not the guns — “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” they say. In their mind, more guns would equal less violence. It’s a type of logic that is so crazy that it is nearly impossible to understand. Then there’s the ever popular, if they didn’t have guns they’d use something else argument.
Every so often there’s a story of a civilian that is legally carrying a weapon stoping a crime with their gun. It’s these rare stories that buoy the pro-gun people. “See,” they say, “if that person didn’t have a weapon something horrible would have happened”. While in this case that happens to be true, these kinds of stories are like finding an albino elephant — very rare. Having more weaponized people could deter mass shootings, only if the perpetrators can be detoured by mutual assured destruction. Keep in mind that most of these guys are already suicidal, they plan on dying in a blaze of glory. Some guy shooting them dead while on their rampage only makes the narrative in their head more appealing. Mutually assured destruction, while useful in the cold war where nobody wanted to use the nukes, doesn’t work so well when one party is planning on dying and using their weapon along the way. As to the argument of the attacker using something else if they didn’t have a gun, this is likely true in crimes of passion. Mass shootings aren’t crimes of passion done in the heat of the moment. They’re cold and calculated and impossible to pull off with a weapon that requires close contact to the victims.
The truth of guns in the US is that there are so many of them the prospect of actually confiscate them all is as absurd as believing that we could actually deport all of the illegal immigrants from this country. Eliminating guns from American culture is not going to happen, but on the other hand keeping things as they are isn’t going to work either. Here’s what I propose.
First, law enforcement needs to get the resources to enforce the laws that are already on the books. We need to stop the illegal gun trade from the start.
Once we have the current laws being enforced, we’ll need to move to a licensing process. I would propose that licensing guns work like getting a drivers license. You need to take a class, pass a written test and a skills test to prove you are not a risk to others when your weapon is loaded. Secondly, we’d need background checks (both criminal and psychological) of the person buying the gun and also any person that resides with the household of the applicant. Finally, the licensee and all household residents over 8 would have to pass a one hour session with a psychologist. If they pass this line of checks then they could own small caliber guns with a maximum magazine of 3 shells. (I’ve been shooting since I was 8 and honestly there is no reason to have a magazine bigger than that for the vast majority of things you’d do with a gun.) This license would have to be renewed every 2 years and every new person in the home over the age of 8 would have to go through the background checks or the license will be lost. If the licensee wants to own a higher caliber gun and/or a higher round magazine they’ll have to pass classes and tests for each type. Before a gun could be purchase the proper license would have to be on record as well as proof of liability insurance for that weapon. Hopefully this would be a finer filter for people to pass through and we could prevent tragedy before it happens. Still even with this, there are thousands upon thousands of guns that are still legally owned in the US already. I would suggest that every gun owner have to go through the process if they want to keep their guns in working order. If they didn’t want to go through this process, then their guns would have to be capped in order to prevent them from being used.
The kind of gun a person could own would also be restricted by population and police density. In places with the highest density of people and police the restriction would be to low caliber weapons with a maximum of 3 shots and in some case an outright ban on guns. In less dense places having a higher caliber and larger magazines would be allowed. For those living in cities that like to hunt and use higher caliber guns there would be a provision for those guns to be stored in a secure manner either in locker facilities in less population dense areas or in a way where they would not be usable in the population dense area — this is probably tech that doesn’t exist yet, still it’s an opportunity for an enterprising soul. The purpose behind the population density restriction is simple — the more people in an area the easier for things to get out of hand. Sociologists have proven that in cities, care for other humans goes down. Adding deadly weapons to that mix is a recipe for disaster. Meanwhile we need to allow those in rural areas to protect themselves when the prospects of the sheriff getting there in under a half an hour is unlikely.
In addition to a licensing program for gun owners, we’ll need to make it easier for people to buy and sell guns between each other in a legal, trackable manner. I would suggest we make another new license for being a gun seller, who would work as a sort of notary for gun sales. This person would be responsible for making sure all the checks are done between the buyer and the seller of the gun. There would be steep penalties, including jail time, for not making sure all the proper paper work is done and checking that the buyer is properly licensed to own that type of gun. In order for this to work, the licensing fee would have to be a reasonable rate. To have this kind of license the licensee would have to pass, at the very least, the basic gun ownership licensing process and probably a more advanced license as well and hold liability insurance.
I know the pro-gun folks who are reading this will claim that I am being anti-gun and that the licensing process is too restrictive. I’m not anti-gun. There is nothing I like more than shooting skeet. It’s a lot of fun and requires a ton of skill. Still, this sort of licensing system will help to prevent the kind of person who thinks shooting up a school is a good idea from getting their hands on a gun.
I know there are those who will say that this impinges on the second amendment. It does, that doesn’t mean that it’s wrong or shouldn’t be done. The right to live trumps your right to own a gun, which is exactly why this sort of thing is necessary.
Like I said before, I’ve been shooting since I was 8. My dad was a legal gun dealer for years. Both of my parents have concealed carry permits, which they use. Guns are part of American culture and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We need to make sure that killing people with guns is not a part of American culture. Restrictions are necessary, but often restrictions make those who follow the rules better off. This is an opportunity for legal gun owners to step up and do the right thing to keep American gun culture a thing of pride and not a thing of scorn.