What I’ve Learned from the Guns In America Symposium
Now, some points I think there is some general agreement on.
1) The AWB was/is bad law, as it poorly addresses a type of firearm used in a very small subset of crimes. Continuously attempting to revive said law (or it’s variants) distracts considerably from any effort to craft meaningful gun laws. (i.e.: Gun rights advocates will dig in their heels hard and stop listening to you.)
2) The major issue in this country is crime and violence committed with handguns. Said crime (I believe) predominately affects those involved directly, or peripherally with drugs and gangs. Clearly this is where the focus should be.
3) There is, as BlaiseP and Morat have pointed out, a growing fascination – fetish? – with military style arms, along with a growing population of gun owners who are irresponsible with firearms. (And there appears to be some overlap of the two groups). I personally don’t think that the growth of military style arms is significantly affecting crime rates, but I do think there is something there. I’ll come back to this.
4) The transfer of legally purchased firearms to prohibited persons is a significant problem, and there needs to be some action in this regard. I’ll come back to this as well.
5) The current state of firearms regulations is a mess. The laws are a horrible hodgepodge and patchwork of offenses that have illogical penalties, inconsistent enforcement, and are causing considerable grief to law abiding citizens; meanwhile, they are doing little to stem the violence or the black-market trade in firearms. While I do think each state should be able to set their own laws, there needs to be greater uniformity, less arbitrary restrictions, and a measure of full faith as people travel around.
I attempted in my first post to lay out some ideas for a regulatory system that nobody would like, but everyone could live with. I had some new ideas come around through the comments as well, so I’d like to lay this out again here at the end of the symposium and see what everyone thinks.
Regulations – Clean them up, make them logical, consistent, and make the penalty appropriate. (e.g.: Misdemeanors for technical violations, felonies for violence and transferring to a felon.)
Gun Registry – The primary goal (and only purpose) of a registry is to tie a person to a gun for the purpose of solving a crime. (If you do not think that is the only reason to have one, you will never get the buy in of the gun-rights crowd). The primary objection to a gun registry is that it would be used for confiscation. So, we could create a database that is encrypted and can only be searched/accessed via firearms serial number. That way, if the police find a gun at a crime scene they can enter the serial number into the database, get a return on all who have owned the gun, and go have a chat with them. Without the serial number you could get the database to produce a name, and so you could not just print off who owns what guns and go start confiscating. Firearms would be entered into the registry at the point of sale and/or during the NICS check (enter a serial number, assign a name and address, or state ID number, and it’s done). Police have a database; gun owners have general anonymity. Make this registry only apply to handguns, and you’d get even more buy in from gun owners. Allow the NRA to inspect the database to make sure it can’t be used to print a list of names, and you’ll put a lot of minds at ease.
Concealed Carry – We need a national standard, if not a national system. While the background checks for a CCW are pretty consistent across most states (with a few exceptions), the training requirements are not. That needs to change.
Safe Storage – I’m all for this, with a few exceptions. The requirements can not be so onerous as to be unaffordable for many. Children who are trained should be able to access their parents arms in an emergency if the parent wishes, and that there should be no rules requiring a gun be stored unloaded. (If it’s an arm for defense, it kinda needs to be ready to go in a hurry).
Insurance – Insurance should be mandatory, at least for liability purposes. There should be no price meddling by government.
Hoarding/Arsenals – This isn’t honestly something I think is a problem, but I’m going to put this idea out there regardless. The basic three firearms are handgun, shotgun, and rifle. So, how about if any adult with a clean record can own one handgun, one shotgun, and one rifle (or maybe just a 3 gun limit) with no questions asked. That would satisfy a large number of gun owners, right there. However, there are legitimate enthusiasts and collectors out there, people who truly enjoy firearms and own dozens. For them, there might be an extra hoop that would be similar to what owners of machine guns go through (extra background check, tax, verification of secure storage, local LE knows you have a collectors permit, etc.). It’s a one-time thing, and once you are cleared you don’t have to worry about it again – unless you get convicted of a felony.
Magazine limits – Someone suggested 10 for rifle, 15 for handgun; this seems reasonable.
Finally, regarding military style semi-autos and the tacti-cool/mall-ninja gun owner. A week or so ago I read an interesting observation. The arms that civilians purchase for self defense closely follows the arms the police choose for themselves. People used to own a .38 revolver, because that is what the police used. Then the police started carrying 9mm semi-autos and shotguns, and people followed suit. Now they carry large caliber (0.40/0.45/10mm) semi-autos and patrol rifles (AR-15s/M-16s), and guess what the most popular rifle and caliber of handgun is these days? I think that the militarization of the police, coupled with ad campaigns highlighting AR-style platforms, the entertainment media that features them heavily, and the visibility of PMCs using them in the news and elsewhere has made the AR-style rifle the “Barbie for Men”.
Since I doubt the police will be giving up their patrol rifles anytime soon, I don’t think you’ll be seeing the demand for such rifles diminish; any ban against them will, at this point, be closing the barn door long after the horses got out. As for irresponsible owners, honestly all I can say is: training, training, training. Require training to own a gun, and you’ll cut down on accidents, improve safe storage, and help reduce the strutting cock with a gun.
I think such a setup would respect the rights of gun owners, assuage some of everyone’s fears, and at maybe put gun laws in a place where we can stop messing with them and start to address the parts of our culture that seek out guns for the purpose of violence.
Did I miss anything?