The Gun Debate and some Common Sense

Common Sense Gun Legislation Proposals

Gun violence in the USA supersedes levels seen in any other civilized country in the world.  That is a fact.  There are no excuses about not being able to do better.  Of course we can.  We simply refuse to.  America likes their guns, but are now rising up against seeing their children and young people being murdered en masse using the types of weapons that are readily available to the general public.

 

There are no ‘single fixes’ or statements like “The problem is….” as there are a plethora of problems and issues and therefore a plethora of things that need to be addressed to improve the situation.

Here is what we are NOT going to do:

  • We are NOT going to stop gun violence, we are working to reduce it
  • We are NOT going to take all your guns away, but some of them (and their accessories) must go and/or at the very least, many people should not have access to them

But here is the broad spectrum of issues that need to be addressed:

  • Licensing of the PERSON, not necessarily the gun
  • Tracking the sales and movement of guns from manufacture to meltdown
  • Private sales must also be tracked, all of them
  • Training, use and care minimums
  • Storage and transport minimums
  • Background checks for buyers AND sellers
  • Waiting periods
  • Funding the study of gun violence and its causes
  • Limiting the killing capacity of the weapons we have
  • Removal of unwanted guns from society, i.e. buyback and disposal programs

Managing the data

The country already has dozens of databases of people that are used for screening.  NICS, TSA, DHS, travel bans, Law Enforcement at city, County and State levels, the FBI, the ATF and so on.

The obvious choice for a database of people that are either cleared to own a gun or people that should NOT have a gun is the ATF.  They already have background check processes in place for explosives, fireworks, and they already handle the applications and background checks for those that want to own a fully automatic machine gun.  (Yes, you can still buy a machine gun).

Note that the ATF background checks are not so much about the types of explosives or fireworks that people have, they are about WHO has them, WHERE and HOW they are stored and transported.  And that model appears to work.

Information is collected and submitted to the ATF database on criminal history of people.  Similar to a security clearance, the standards need to be developed using metrics developed by the study of gun violence – which surprisingly we do very little of today.

Mental health issues (i.e. 5150 Psych eval) need to be included in the database, however this poses challenges and definitions are currently vague.  What data already exists and what data can be used?  Does mentally ill invalidate the ownership of gun all the time?  i.e. People suffering from depression are mostly stable, law-abiding members of society with no external issues.  Much of the personal medical data available is not made public through privacy laws – which is fine.  Privacy is a concern of course, but can create difficulties for this type of data use..

The Purchase of Firearms and Accessories

If we are wondering how guns go from being ‘legal’ to ‘illegal’, then we need to track the sales and movements of them – from the start to the end of their lives.

There is no assembly line by Remington or Glock that manufactures guns for the illegal trade.  ALL GUNS are legal at the point of manufacture.  They simply fall into the wrong hands with little reporting or recording of how that happens.  That needs to change.

When a consumer wants to buy a gun (private or dealer) of any kind, that transaction needs to be tracked and recorded for future tracking should that weapon end up being used in a crime.  Who sold it, who bought it, when and where.  Serial numbers, makes and models, and modifications managed through the same database.

Law enforcement agencies, from Municipal Police, the County Sheriffs and State agencies already have access to federal databases for crime history and research.  This could easily be expanded to include the firearms access database mentioned in the first section.

  • The buyer and seller agree to a sale of gun, whether that is a dealer or private. The same is recorded on a standard bill of sale form for such purchases, similar to the 4473 form used today.
  • The seller brings the weapon to the LEO in the area, or ships it to the LEO where the buyer is located, with the forms and details of the sale.
  • The background checks are performed by the LEO on the gun, the seller, AND the buyer and approves the transaction if there is no reason to NOT approve the sale.
  • The buyer receives the gun/accessories from the LEO and the transaction is complete.
  • Criminal penalties apply to those that circumvent the system or bypass it.
  • All current weapons in circulation are required to be entered into the database with the owner data, a compliance period and then an enforcement period.
  • Licensed gun dealers, as they exist today, could be given access to the same online database, and could be the ‘escrow’ for a gun sale, private or dealer, as long as the LEO/ATF/agency is performing the background checks and the ‘all clear’ is given.
  • Gun show sales can still occur, they pickup-and-drive-away model will go away and people will have to comply with the LEO intervention requirement to complete the sale.
  • The cost of this is funded through a tax on gun sales or a flat fee per transaction, just like we fund drivers licenses through a fee structure.

The solves almost all the issues in one fell swoop.  We have addressed the background checks, we have addressed the gun show loopholes, we have addressed the waiting periods, and we have addressed the cost of the system.

The convicted felon is NOT likely going to go into an LEO to retrieve a gun that they are trying to purchase, and over time, many of the illegal guns out there will be eradicated from the system, suppressing the flow of legal-to-illegal guns and making it harder and harder for criminals to get their hands on guns.

I am not under any illusions that this will take time, but law-abiding citizens will NOT be impacted by this any more than they are to get a drivers license.

Capacity of Weapons

This probably needs to be addressed.  The gun lobby does have a point that there is not much different between the scary looking military style AR-15 right out of the box and the Ruger Mini-14 which is a semi-automatic ranch and hunting rifle.  One looks like a hunting rifle, and one looks like a military weapon.

With a 30-round magazine, they are effectively the same weapon.

Limit the magazine sizes, and you limit the killing and carnage capacity of the weapon.  We restrict vehicles with throttle controls so they cannot reach excessive speeds, and we limit many things in society.  Fertilizer is still available but when you buy a 500lb bag of it, someone is supposed to notice that you might be making a bomb.

At the very least, if you are going to allow large capacity magazines, then you must include them in the database of who is buying them and who possesses them.  I suggest that 5 round magazines be set as the limit, and an outright ban on any magazine more than 5 for any center fire rifle.  No magazine sizes larger than the manufacturer’s specification for handguns.

No third party modifications that increase the capacity of the weapon beyond what is dictated for a particular make or model.  (Yes we can actually get to make and model specifications where needed)

Bump Stocks

Banned, and repossessed.  They effectively turn a semi-auto into a machine gun, without calling it a machine gun.  The ATF already regulates machine guns and should also regulate these under the same regulations.

Any modifications that turn a semi-auto into an auto repeater, need to be banned or regulated under the current ATF permit process.

Waiting Periods

Generally covered by the LEO involvement through the background check process, however more stringent waiting periods could be attached to the types of weapons.   i.e. bolt-action hunting rifle could have a shorter waiting period than a handgun.  Handguns have a longer waiting period that could and should involve the training cycle below

Training

Mandatory training for handgun purchases and assault rifles, demonstrating use, cleaning, handling, storage and transportation as well as marksmanship.   Ongoing re-certification every few years to maintain.  Few people have a problem with trained individuals being allowed to carry in our society.

Current classes in Florida for Concealed weapons are 3-4 hours long.   That is NOT enough time for someone to be considered competent to carry a deadly weapon or to be able to react in any given situation.

I propose training that includes actual self-defense scenarios, decision making processes and actual shooting range training similar to Police practical training before anyone should be expected to be the judge, jury and executioner in any given situation.

Sorry but I do not trust the average citizen to pull out a gun and affect a situation where lives are on the line.  But I do if they are properly trained for those situations.

Buy-Back Programs

Given the cost to society of the gun violence that we see, the government should fund the buying and destroying of unwanted weapons in our society.  There are probably tens of millions of guns that are sitting in drawers and closets that have outlived their usefulness or purpose, that owners have mostly forgotten that they own.  These are some of the guns that fall into the wrong hands by giving them to friends and family, or through break-and-enter theft.

Reasonable cash value purchases and offers by LEOs, funded by the tax dollars that already go to cover the massive costs of gun violence, are used to buy back the guns, which MUST be destroyed, not re-sold back into society.  The number of guns in the country is part of the problem, reducing the numbers down to the owners that really want to own a gun is important.  This will help to reduce the numbers of ‘spontaneous’ violent acts resulting from drug and alcohol induced events, domestic violence, anger-related disputes and accidental shootings within family units.

Arming Teachers and increased security at Schools

No, we should not arm teachers.  Children are in a learning environment.  Teachers should not be engaging in gun battles, nor should they be expected to take a bullet for your child or mine.

The root cause of the problem with recent mass shootings is not the lack of security, it is the ease of which massive killing power is available to people without ANY checks whatsoever to their ability or stability in owning these weapons.

And the gun lobby has fought for and encouraged such access over a few decades now – we are reaping the results of those efforts.

Increased security, sure, but who pays for that?  I suggest that the gun owners and proponents pay for the increased security costs through taxes on gun or ammunition purchases.  Much like pilots pay for the infrastructures that support aviation through fuel taxes.

Update March 4, 2018

So a lot of people have asked me specifically “Are you in favor of an assault weapons ban – Yes or No?”  I will answer this with a couple of scenarios.

First, you would have to address what an assault weapon is – and all that we mean is a weapon that can rapid fire fairly large center-fire cartridges with large magazine capacities.  The AR-15 is one of them.  And so is the Ruger Mini-14, which shoots the same ammo, comes with a 5 round magazine standard and is used for varmint hunting.  But it can have an add-on 30 round magazine to make it exactly the same deadly weapon that an AR-15 is.  This does not make it an assault rifle – in the generic layman sense of the word.  The gun lobby is not incorrect when they state that the anti-gun people see one as a ‘scary weapon of war’ and one as a ‘hunting rifle’ when they actually do, and are capable of, the same thing.

However, I am NOT opposed to model specific gun restrictions.  Which would probably have to be implemented, case by case.  “Semi-automatic” leaves a lot of leeway and a lot of models and accessories.  I am firmly in support of reducing the capacity of killing machines – whether that be bans, whether that be magazine restrictions, whether that be age and background limits, to reduce the accessibility of the general public to have and own these weapons and the ability for them to kill and maim large numbers of people in a short period of time.

So to answer the questions…. Would I support an assault weapons ban?  Well, if the bill or legislation presented was a binary choice – i.e. a clean bill with nothing else on it – then YES, I would have to support that ban.  Which may scoop up a lot of guns that maybe should not be on that list.  But that would not affect the safety of the people, it would only improve it.

But to say that I would NOT vote for a bill that included the background checks, the magazine restrictions, the training and tracking requirements, the storage, buy-backs and disposal, and EVERYTHING else that we might want in a gun bill – but left the AR-15 in it – then really, what would you expect me to do?  I would have to consider voting for the bill that gives the public 90% of what they want and leaves the weapons there… as long as the bill ensures that only the serious gun hobbyists have access to them.  Seldom are legislative bills so black and white.  They are almost ALWAYS a combination of concessions.

There is room for compromise.  What if the bill put assault weapons in the same class as fully automatic machine guns?  What if the bill put people through a full ATF background check that took 6-8 weeks to complete?  These are all things that everyone agrees would improve gun safety in the country – which is the ultimate goal.

So yes, I would vote for an assault weapons ban if that was the only choice, and yes, I might allow access to semi-automatic rifles as well, should enough other safety concessions be made.

Update June 11, 2018

So I get the first of a few surveys sponsored by the NRA and sent to me by Unified Sportsmen of Florida.  Given that I am a ‘sportsmen in Florida’ as well, I would suggest they are not actually unified.  You can read my responses to their survey. Which, by the way, I will NOT be submitting, but posting here, they can come and find my responses themselves:

Update June 12, 2018

Yet ANOTHER survey/questionnaire from yet another pro-gun group that basically demands that you are either a) 100% for their agenda or b) you are an anti-American enemy of the state.  Everyone wants some common sense gun laws… no one in Congress or the state is will to act.  Oh wait… I am… yes I am willing to act.