A Centrist Solution To Gun Violence
I am a long time gun owner. I fired my first weapon at the age of six, and have owned my own weapons since the age of fifteen. There have been times in my life that I have owned as many as 35 firearms at one time and I am like many gun owners, I don’t want the government coming along and taking them away from me. But if it would save the life of a single child or teacher I would give them up tomorrow. Unfortunately even if every firearm in the U.S. were confiscated the violence would still go on.
I am writing this as an open letter now because I have some ideas that I feel could help and might even stand a chance of bipartisan support. I have sent these thoughts to Pres. Obama , to Dianne Feinstein, And to Claire McCaskill. Unfortunately I don’t believe that my emails have ever gotten past the lower staff or they have been ignored. So I am writing this now to anyone who is concerned about the ongoing violence and is willing to look at possible solutions.
Before getting into those solutions though, let’s talk about the present impasse in congress and the senate. Neither liberals nor conservatives are willing to move off their respective extreme viewpoints so nothing ever gets done.
The conservatives are afraid that any kind of background checking or gun registration could lead to eventual confiscation. If you look at the things that occurred in the Weimar republic and later during Hitler’s time in power or in Mussolini’s Italy there is a certain validation of that concern historically. But the way it plays out in the conservative agenda is only going to create a modern day old west with gunfights in the street. To make it worse we now have so many people saying the solution is armed teachers that we create even greater risks for our kids. Let’s be absolutely clear on the last point IT WILL NOT HELP!!! It will only lead to accidental injuries and possibly deaths. In the two weeks after the Parkland shootings there were two separate incidents of firearms being discharged on school property. Both incidents happened to so called trained professionals, one a school resource officer and the other a firearms safety instructor. More guns will only lead to more risk.
On the liberal side there is just as much misguided thinking. They feel that closing the gun show loophole, having background checks for every purchase, and taking away certain types of weapons will solve everything. The sad truth though is that those measures will not solve it and could possibly exacerbate the situation. More background checks and waiting periods will only put a greater workload on the agencies responsible to do those checks, resulting in a lower level of scrutiny overall. The second most glaring fallacy is that banning so called assault weapons is a solution. Let’s look at the reality. They were banned from 1994 to 2004 and virtually every study done on that period agrees that it did not in fact do any measurable good. Secondly if you were to be able to get rid of assault style weapons the really dangerous people who intend to use a weapon for mass killing will simply find a disreputable machinist and have a weapon built. I am a qualified machinist myself and a competent gunsmith. If I wanted to put the effort into it I could easily in a weeks’ time build a weapon on the design of the British Sten gun or American M3 of ww2 fame. These two weapons use a mechanical system that is even simpler and has less critical parts then a single shot weapon. They also both have a massive amount of firepower and using pistol ammunition allow a shooter to carry large quantities of ammo. They had really only one purpose in war and that was as a trench sweeper, where a soldier armed with one could stand over a trench full of enemy and kill dozens without even really aiming. If I were facing an active shooter I would much rather face the weapon in the intro photo than an M3 or sten. The weapon in the photo is my bench rest gun. It looks vicious and would be banned under an assault weapons ban simply because it is based on an ar15, but it is heavy and unwieldy and would be far less a threat than the much simpler weapon.
So let’s talk about what could be done. Simply pass a Federal Licensing law for every person who wishes to possess a firearm. I know that will seem radical to many at first, but hear me out and I have a hunch many who first think it is crazy might come around. I have spoken to many die hard gun owners and quite a few in law enforcement and in the end all have agreed the idea has merit. First there is precedent. You have to have a federal license to fly an aircraft, and a person who wishes to sell firearms for a living must have a federal firearms license. Why not the individual gun owner? If properly crafted it has benefits for both sides of the current argument.
Write the law to require certain things. First that every person who has a weapon in their possession in a public area must have the license in possession at all times or face immediate arrest. Make the criteria for obtaining the license fairly strict. First require a one-time intensive background check. This check should include any previous mental history as well as any record of criminal activity or violence. Include social media activity that might suggest any issues and have the photos and prints of every applicant checked by foreign law enforcement as well. If a person passes this check make them pass both a written and oral exam on firearms safety, applicable laws both federal and for their local area and state, and understanding how a weapon works mechanically, because a good understanding of how something works can seriously reduce accidents. And last they must pass a test on the firing range to prove their competence and safety in actual practice.
These requirements would do a great deal to make the possession of firearms safer. First they would eliminate criminals and the mentally unstable from ever getting a license. Secondly they would assure at least a basic minimum level of competence with licensed parties. A large percentage of deaths and injuries each year occur from accidents rather than criminal intent. I actually had a young guy shoot himself in the foot on my property because he was attempting to pull a handgun from the holster and it was locked and loaded at the time and he dropped his finger in the trigger guard as he lifted the weapon. Luckily the injury counted as more of a lesson than anything, but it could have been far worse.
So how to make this law work? Base the physical license on a credit card with embedded microchip. Have the license holder’s photo on the license and encode the chip with thumbprint data that a POS terminal can verify. Create a national database of license holders that will constantly be updated by the courts and mental health organizations so that a person’s data is dynamic and constantly updated to reflect their current right to have a firearm. This way if a person does something like assaulting their spouse or commits any other crime, or has a mental episode which would invalidate the license, the database would immediately reflect that change in status. Tie this database to POS machines in the credit card system as well as having a terminal in every police car.
A system such as this would have benefits to both sides of the gun debate. For the liberals it would effectively close the gun show loophole by making it mandatory that a person have the license to purchase even at a gun show. With today’s technology a POS scanner with thumbprint reader could be built to work through a cellphone so even at a gun show it would be possible to check a person’s license to be sure that it was actually theirs and was still valid. If any violations had occurred since issuance they would be flagged in the database. It would also assure that gun owners would be vetted for competence which they are not at this time.
For the conservatives it would be possible to eliminate the waiting period because the information on validity of a person’s license would be instantly available, it would also reduce the need of gun registration which conservatives hate, because if a person had a valid current license, it could safely be assumed that they were responsible and law abiding. Also assuming a person is competent and law abiding, there is little reason to worry what type of weapons they possess, so no more need to talk about bans that do no good to begin with.
For the law enforcement agencies responsible for doing the background check it would lighten the workload allowing them more time to be thorough with each check. It would shift the workload to other new agencies keeping the database up to date and might even create some jobs. For law enforcement on the street, it would give them a powerful tool for getting the bad guys off the street. As it stands now in many states, like here in Missouri, it is legal to have a loaded weapon in your car, and in public as long as it is not concealed. With the present situation if a person is pulled over and their driver’s license is good, the officer simply writes the traffic ticket and lets them go. With a federal gun license law, the officer would have them do a thumb print on his terminal and run the firearms license. If it came back ok the person would be free to go. If on the other hand the thumb print failed to match the license, or the database had a flag on that license, the person would be immediately arrested. This gives law enforcement a huge edge on the bad guys that does not exist at present. And for all the rest of us including responsible gun owners it makes our world safer.
The bottom line is this! Trying to solve this horrendous situation by regulating an inanimate object does not work, neither does sticking your head in the sand and trying to ignore it. While there will certainly be various arguments from both sides of this debate on these ideas. Isn’t it better that we use something like this as a starting point and see if we can solve this problem before we lose any more lives?
If you feel that these ideas have merit and wish to reprint this letter on other sites or forward it to anyone in power who might listen, please do so. I do not care how these ideas get to someone who might be able to do something; I only hope that somehow they might make a difference and maybe move this debate toward the center, because as it is now far too many people are dying because no one is willing to drop their extreme viewpoints and work together.