Friday, December 21, 2012

A Commission of My Own

Here are some cold facts. There are almost as many guns as people in the United States of America. The Second Amendment is a part of the Constitution for a good reason, and the Supreme Court has recently upheld the rights of the people to own firearms, with the caveat that those firearms can still be subject to government regulation. The majority of firearms homicides and suicides in the US are caused by handguns, while the most high profile mass shootings are often associated with assault weapons. Even the term "assault weapon" is so loosely defined it could cover almost any firearm with a semi-automatic firing capability.

And then you get to the human factors: the vast majority of firearms owners in this country are law-abiding citizens, who have done everything the state requires them to do to ensure their weapons are owned legally, stored safely, and are used correctly. On the other hand, individuals who live outside the law in this country can too easily get their hands on firearms. Finally, it is difficult to reconcile these two factors when there are babies dead inside a school and church bells toll in mourning.

Furthermore, you can't take the racial and demographic aspect out of it, because babies have been getting shot for decades in certain neighborhoods this country has been too willing to write off. Many of those neighborhoods are populated by the same demographic groups that were historically and legally forcibly disarmed by the very real slavery and Jim Crow regimes that this country doesn't like to think about, so they might provide easier targets for violence from terrorist groups and harassment at the hands of authorities.

Lastly, if you advocate complete disarmament of the American citizenry, how do you do it? Who do you send to seize the guns from a population that does not want to give up their guns? Other people with guns, right? So, how many police, law enforcement, veterans, active duty military and national guard are you willing to put in harm's way to this end? How many police, law enforcement, veterans, active duty military and national guard are also legal and trained weapons owners and operators, who would be tasked with giving up their own personal weapons first? That's simply not going to work, and the gun control and gun rights crowd both need to come to grips with that.

So when you're making gun control policy in the United States of America, both gun control and gun rights activists have to take the emotion and the mythology out of the conversation. There is a lot of Constitutional space between "no guns for anyone, ever" and "no regulations, whatsoever."

Familiarize yourself with existing gun laws at both the state and Federal level. You have to realize that there are a limited number of things that can be done at the Federal level, for a reason, and that a tremendous amount of policy can (and should be) made and enforced at the state level. Municipalities can get in on this policy, too. Courts will also be important, as they've always been, as they serve as the referees on how far regulations are allowed to go before rights are violated. At that point, you can start thinking about where to go from there.

Considering all that, here are some of my ideas (if these aren't already being done) at the Federal level:

  1. A reaffirmation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms, and a reaffirmation of the government to enact reasonable regulation of arms.
  2. A Federal definition of assault weapons, with a list of guns on the market that qualify. It may not cover every single in-practice assault weapon, but it establishes a baseline. States can add to this definition, but they cannot reduce this definition.
  3. A national licensing and registration structure for assault weapon owners. This would include a background check, training and qualifications requirements, and a licensing fee. The license could be renewed annually, biannually, or on a time frame otherwise determined most effective, at the time of mandated training and qualification with the weapon itself. Training and qualification would have to include a safety component for locking and storing the weapon when not in use.
  4. A national licensing and registration structure for every single assault weapon. That's right, not only do assault weapon owners have to have an individual license, these weapons should be registered individually. This would also include a fee.  
  5. Additional licensing requirements, taxes, and fees for any firearms dealer who wants to sell assault weapons as defined. Licensing requirements would require additional insurance, mandates for background check and reporting of suspicious activity, providing information to law enforcement, and waiting periods. These would be the only points of sale for Federally defined assault weapons. Individuals could still sell to other individuals, but they would have to do so through a Federally licensed dealer.
  6. No more gun show loopholes. Every firearms purchase or gift requires a background check. Gun shows could invite licensed firearms dealers to support the show with their resources, and hold any weapons for their waiting periods if necessary, or gun shows themselves could apply for Federal licensing, and could even consider Federal and state participation to ensure compliance. 


These fees and taxes will be used to establish and maintain:

  1. A national registry of assault weapons and assault weapon owners.
  2. A national background check database. This will be a database maintained by the Feds that develops information provided by the states and territories. This will exist so firearms dealers and law enforcement from any state or territory can check applicants for firearms licenses or firearms purchases against someone's background and determine eligibility to own or acquire.
  3. A national assault weapon buyback program. While this would likely need to be assisted by additional budgeting from the Federal government, this would be needed to fairly compensate those gun owners who currently own Federally defined assault weapons, but do not wish to go through the licensing process. This would be best administered through the states, and functional weaponry would be stored and used to augment National Guard armories within the states.
     
  4. Funding support for an expanded national school safety / resource officer program. This would send money to the states to help schools offset the budgetary requirements of having police officers assigned to every school in the country. This would include grants to the states to support additional training for resource officers in threat assessment as well as the use of lethal force in chaotic and emergency situations. 


And that would be the extent of Federal action. It would simply focus on the assault weapons making them expensive and highly regulated without outlawing them, and compensating owners who do not wish to participate in the registration and licensing program; and gun shows.

Long guns and hand guns would still be regulated mainly by the states. Where I would advocate my state enact the following registration and licensing requirements for handguns:


  1. A state licensing and registration structure for handgun owners. This would include a background check, training and qualifications requirements, and a licensing fee. The license could be renewed annually, biannually, or on a time frame otherwise determined most effective, at the time of mandated training and qualification with the weapon itself. Training and qualification would have to include a safety component for locking and storing the weapon when not in use.
  2. A state licensing and registration structure for every single handgun. That's right, not only do handgun owners have to have an individual license, these weapons should be registered individually. This would also include a fee.
  3. Carry concealed training is already in place in my state, but due to the nature of carry conceal, additional training requirements, safety qualifications, and licensing fees should be required. The renewal schedule should be at least biannual if not annual.
  4. All gun crimes should be felonies and should remove an individual's eligibility for firearms ownership. Additionally, all domestic violence or child abuse convictions remove an individual's eligibility for firearms ownership. (This is probably already in place in my state.)  


Long guns:

  1. Background check (non-eligibility). (Probably already required.)
.

No comments: