Tuesday, July 24, 2012

POS - A Modest Proposal on Gun Control

Today in the POS (Politics or Stupidity) section of CRAPOLA I'll be taking a shot at the controversial topic of gun control in the wake of the mass shooting in Aurora CO at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises.  I found myself engaged in a debate on gun control after the shooting happened with some friends and family that are more pro-gun than I am.  And unlike this Modest Proposal, mine today is not a work of satire but a legitimate path for what I think should be done in terms of gun control in our great nation.

I'm going to take a look at some of the arguments about guns, both for and against their spread in our culture, and weigh in on them with my thoughts and ideas for where we should go from here, in the wake of yet another mass shooting.  As most of you know, I'm primarily a Democrat, but I actually do support gun ownership.  I also enjoy firing guns, I think it can be a lot of fun.  I don't own a gun myself, but I have family and friends that own guns.  Personally I would like to own a gun for home protection, but my wife does not want me to have a gun in the house in case our son gets his hands on it.  Like most debates on issues, I think there is clearly a middle ground solution that we can agree is in the best interest of all moving forward.

Guns seized by Mexican police that originated in the U.S.

To start any examination of gun control and gun rights, we need to take a look at the gun laws and their history here in the US.  That look starts with the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution.  We all know how that goes, right?  "The right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."  At least that's the text of the Constitution that is most frequently quoted, especially by the NRA and its supporters.  However, that is not the full text, and by omitting the full text, we are missing out on some key ideas behind gun rights.

The full text of the 2nd Amendment is as follows:

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

Continue reading after the jump ---->

That first line of the 2nd Amendment is pretty important.  If it wasn't important, the founders wouldn't have had to add it to the amendment.  First off, what jumps out at you is the term "well regulated."  This seems to mean that regulations are okay.  In fact, it refers to being highly disciplined and trained, such as the training a militia soldier would undergo during their military service.  Next comes the term "militia."  Remember, the US had just finished fighting the British for our independence.  During that fighting, each state called up their own militia, which consisted of everyday people such as farmers that happened to own guns.  Since the nation didn't have a large federal army, these militias did a lot of the everyday fighting.  Having gun ownership was key to the security of our nation, because the militias would be called up again in the event of future wars.  That's why the congress passed the Militia Acts of 1792 as well, right around this same time.  Those acts of congress conscripted every able-bodied male between the ages of 18 and 45 into the state militia for their local state, and in the event of war, the federal government would call up these conscripts to fight for the country.  Basically, it's like the modern National Guard, where local units can be activated by the government when needed, except back in 1792 it wasn't voluntary but mandatory.  Also mandated by the federal government in the 1792 Militia Acts was that every able bodied man must purchase a rifle or musket.  (Hey, the founding fathers liked mandates! How's that historical irony taste to those of you that say Obamacare was unconstitutional?)  So, back when the Constitution was written, having every able-bodied male own a gun was a necessity for our nation, as they would be needed in times of war if England ever decided it wanted to try and get its colonies back.

Nowadays, the branches of the military do all of the fighting for our country, and real state militias are a thing of the past (with the exception of the far right wing extremist groups that call themselves militias).  Also, weapons for the military are standardized and given to the soldiers by the government so that all soldiers are fighting with the same equipment.  Can you imagine the logistical nightmare of each soldier in the Army having to buy their own weapon?  We'd have so many different calibers of guns that keeping everyone with ammunition would be impossible.  So, right off the bat, you can see why those that are pro-gun leave out the first sentence of the 2nd Amendment when they are quoting it and instead focus on the "shall not be infringed" side of the equation.  The first sentence makes the intent of the founders kind of murky, and murky doesn't go over well in sound bites.

In the days after the Aurora shooting, I came across a few other soundbites that got thrown around.  I think the one that annoys me the most is "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."  This has to be one of the dumber arguments that a gun advocate can use.  While yes, technically, guns are incapable of killing on their own, as they require a human to pull the trigger, guns make killing other people significantly easier than any other method conventionally available to the public.  Colorado shooter James Holmes would not have been able to wound or kill over 70 people if he was armed with a sword or a baseball bat.  Because guns are so much more efficient at killing other human beings than any other method available to the public, the statement that guns don't kill people, people kill people is actually an argument in favor of gun control.  Steps should be taken that the most powerful sorts of guns are kept out of the hands of the wrong sorts of people.

In addition to that argument against gun control, I was also exposed to the "government needs to enforce existing rules, not add new ones" argument.  My counter to that is, "why can't the government do both?"  Who says it's an either/or proposition? 
That being said, this is my proposal for what needs to happen in this country in terms of gun control, to make our nation a safer place for all.  Some of these laws are on the books already in some states, some are not, but all should be considered.

1.  Enforce existing laws
This should be blindingly obvious and go without saying, but the government needs to do a better job of enforcing the laws on the books as they already stand.  This would require drastically improving the funding of the ATF, something that the NRA opposes out of fears the ATF will come and take away citizens' guns.

2.  Reinstate the assault weapons ban
In 1994, congress passed an assault weapons ban.  Weapons such as the AR-15 assault rifle, wielded in Colorado last week, were banned.  Unfortunately that ban had a provision that called for the law to expire in 10 years, and the Congress in 2004 failed to renew the ban.  Assault weapons have no purpose in civilian hands.  These are tactical weapons that should only be carried by members of the military or law enforcement.  They are designed for one purpose: to bring death to whoever you are shooting at.  This is why they are used by the military and law enforcement. 
Not a hunting weapon
You don't hunt with an AR-15, or an Uzi, or an AK-47.  You hunt with a shotgun or a sniper rifle.  They cannot be carried on your body easily, like a pistol.  And with their potent power, they are extremely poor for home defense, because they have a high potential for shooting through walls and injuring others in your house if you are firing at an intruder.  In Canada, you have to apply for a special license to own one of these types of guns, and also have to notify the police any time you plan on taking it out of your house to the firing range to shoot it (the only place where it is legal to do so).  Here in the US you can by an assault rifle from any gun store with no restrictions.  Untrained civilians should not be able to own firepower this potent, it should remain in the trained professional hands of our law enforcement and military.  Obviously, anything more powerful than assault weapons (such as fully automatic weapons, machine guns, etc) should obviously be restricted as well.
Ironically, after the federal ban on assault weapons ended in 2004, Massachusetts passed an assault weapons ban.  Governor at the time the bill was passed (and the man who signed it into law): Mitt Romney.  Here's Romney's thoughts on assault weapons in 2004:
“I believe the people should have the right to bear arms, but I don’t believe that we have to have assault weapons as part of our personal arsenal.” - Mitt Romney on Fox News in 2004 after the law was passed.
Yet another position Romney has flip-flopped on in the past few years.

3.  Ban high capacity magazines
In Colorado last week, the shooter had a 100 round drum magazine for his AR-15.  Fortunately for those in the audience, that magazine at some point and time jammed, causing him to switch to the other guns he was carrying that didn't have as much firepower as the AR-15.  Had it not jammed, he would have been able to fire off all 100 rounds in less than two minutes.  In Arizona last year, during the shooting spree that wounded Congresswoman Giffords and 12 others, as well as killed six, the shooter was using a Glock pistol equipped with a 33 round extended magazine, which increased the killing power of his gun by over 2/3rds.  High capacity magazines sole purpose is to allow the shooter to shoot more rounds between reloads.  Considering the AZ shooter was incapacitated by those in the audience when he stopped to reload, had he had to reload sooner, he would have fired 14 fewer rounds during his shooting spree. I would love to hear a reason that could justify the sale of these magazines that trumps the lives taken in shootings involving these accessories that increase a weapon's firepower.  In the wake of the Giffords shooting, laws were introduced to ban these, but those laws never passed.  Perhaps in the wake of this shooting spree the law might come to pass.

4.  Better communication/reporting/maintenance of restricted "do not sell" lists
Many states have laws on the books banning the sale of guns to criminals or the mentally ill.  Unfortunately, the reporting of those situations isn't always up to snuff.  This is part of why shooters like the Virginia Tech shooter were able to buy guns.  Had his prior mental health issues been reported to the right place, he would not have been able to kill 32 people because he would not have been able to buy the two guns he used in the shootings.  In the wake of the VT shooting, laws were passed to improve the strength of background checks, and like item 1 on this list, we need to make sure those laws are enforced.

5.  Tracking of ammunition purchases and purchases of suspicious items online
I know this one verges into Big Brother territory and is somewhat invasive of privacy in comparison to the previous items on this list, but there should be some sort of flag system set up when extremely large quantities of ammunition are being purchased for one person.  The CO shooter bought over 6000 rounds of ammunition in the last couple months, all online.  Had he been forced to buy this ammo in person at a gun store, maybe it's possible that someone would have seen something suspicious in his behavior and tipped off police.  Some states do have regulations on the quantity of ammunition purchased, Colorado is not one of them.  Also, he bought full body armor online as well.  Body armor should be in a restricted class of items to purchase requiring a permit, to make it harder for criminals to cover themselves in Kevlar before committing a crime. 

6.  Limit on the quantity of guns purchased at one time
I would really love to hear a justifiable reason why anyone needs to own a very large quantity of guns, much less purchase multiple guns at the same time.  I feel gun sales should be restricted to no more than 1 gun purchased every month.  How many guns does one person need anyways?  You only have two hands, how many guns can you hold?  Do you walk around looking like this guy?
There's no kill like overkill

This would help cut down on gun trafficking to criminal organizations, especially places that have weak gun sale laws like Arizona.  In fact, Arizona's gun sale laws are so easily skirted, the state was the focus of the ill-executed Operation Fast & Furious that recently became a scandal, as well as the preceding Bush administration operations also aimed at cutting down on straw purchases of guns.  During the F&F investigation, one gun purchaser, buying for the Mexican drug cartels, bought 34 assault rifles in a month, no questions asked.  For more on Operation Fast & Furious, check out this great article from Fortune.com here.

7.  Incorporate job/income verification into the background checks for gun purchases
If you read the article linked to item #6 on this list, you know that the drug cartels were handing young Americans with no jobs upwards of $20,000 at a time to go and buy guns in bulk for the cartels.  If someone with no taxpaying job or verifiable income is dropping several grand a month on gun purchases, that is a pretty big flag to law enforcement that the guns are likely destined for the hands of criminals.

8. Ban direct reselling of guns between individuals without a seller's license
Allowing a person to walk into a gun store, buy a gun, and then turn around and sell it to someone else, like is currently allowed in Arizona (again see the great article linked at the end of item 6) is a huge glaring loophole that allows criminals to get their hands on guns.  All they need to do is pay someone without a criminal record that can pass a background check to go and buy a gun, and then sell it directly to the criminal, bypassing the background check that would keep the gun out of their hands.  I am willing to make an exception for antique weapons, because it is unlikely that someone will use a single shot flintlock pistol to commit a crime, and those types of guns are often sold on auction websites or in direct party sales.  But for modern guns, you should not be able to resell the guns to a private party without first getting a license to be a gun retailer.  Also, this would close the "gun show loophole" where non-licensed individuals selling guns at a gun show can get around background check restrictions.  Some states already have these types of laws on the books, but many do not.

9.  Laws regarding the storage of weapons
If you want to own a gun and keep it in your home, and you have children in your home, a trigger lock at a minimum should be mandatory.  Preferably, the gun should be kept in a gun safe as well.  If a gun you own is not securely stored and is stolen, you should be treated as an accomplice in any crimes perpetuated by a criminal using your gun. Also, if your unsecured gun is used by a child to shoot themselves or someone else, there should also be penalties for that.

10.  National ballistic database
Going forward, all guns sold in the US should have a ballistic fingerprint on record with the FBI.  This way, any gun used in a crime purchased after that law is put into effect would be far easier to trace.

11.  Restrictions on concealed carry
I do actually support the concealed carry of firearms.  However, I believe that it should be extremely difficult to obtain a permit for concealed carry for anyone that has not served in the military or law enforcement.  For someone without a background in law enforcement or the military, they should have to take extensive classes on the handling and firing of guns in order to obtain a permit, including having to demonstrate very strong accuracy on the firing range, and they should need to have to be approved by local law enforcement as well.  For the record though, I do not think that concealed carry cuts down on the amount of crime.  49 states in the country allow for concealed carry.  Last I checked, there are still plenty of criminals willing to commit crimes in places with concealed carry.  Otherwise, only one state would have crime.  Open carry would be more effective, as then the criminals would know exactly who was packing at all times.  Increased concealed carry is more likely to lead to increased gun violence, as either the criminal will get shot by the intended victim, or the victim will when he goes for his gun.  Also, I think that there should be places where guns cannot be brought by civilians with permits.  Schools, universities, daycare facilities, and bars, just to name a few, should not have guns on the premises.

Ok so that is my proposal for gun control in this country.  It allows gun owners to keep their existing guns, while adding in some place some key protections for the rest of us.  What do you think?  Let me know in the comments or on Facebook!  Thanks for dropping by CRAPOLA.


  1. So before I start, I do carry and I do enjoy going to the range, I also own multiple guns. Also, no I am not a guy trying to over compensate for anything. I am simply a girl that like guns and wants to be able to protect myself and family if I need to.

    Ok, an AR-15 is not an assualt riffle. An assault riffle is defined as an automatic firearm and an AR is a semi-auto. The term assualt weapon is not clearly defined and tends to get thrown around. Also, I do believe although not banned outright, assualt riffles are restricted and you can't just walk in and buy one with a simple background check like other firearms. They are also awesome guns, they are light weight and are great for varmet hunting. They do look meaner then they are, I would much rather take my chances with a .223 round then a 30-06 or a slug from a 12 gauge.

    When it comes to restrictions on how many I can buy, how much ammunition is too much or how big is too big for a clip, who is to say what is too much. I have bought two guns in a months time frame, and there are a lot of guns in my home. Because of that there is a lot of ammunition as well. When I am out of the range I can go out and go through hundreds of rounds in a short time. So do I have to reload after every five, ten, or fifteen? Do I also have to go and buy ammo before each time I want to go out?

    For the discussion about concealed carry, I don't have big issues with taking a course on laws and to show basic skills. But every weapon is different and I am a more and less accurate with each, do I have to take a test with each weapon or if I get a new weapon? Also, why is it assumed that military or law enforcement should have carry permits and not me? I have the same rights as them. For the argument about concealed vs open, if you open carry your make yourself a target in a dangerous situation. It is much better to carry concealed, this gives you opportunity to size up the situation and make an informed decision on whether or not to pull your weapon. All I want is to feel like if I am in a bad situation I have options, having a concealed weapon is just one more option.

    I don't believe more restrictions on firearms will help anything, I believe crime rates have more to do with a societies values then there type or amount of firearms. Statistics don't mean much on the topic, because I feel there are so many more factors that play into crime rates then just what kind of firearms are available. I just feel like we should find ways to address the real issues or at least at this point, try to determine what they are so we can address them.

    1. S-
      Do you always conceal carry or only when you were in IN? Basically I'm just curious if you or Chris were packing when we do dinner with you, if so thats totally cool and next time I want to see the gun :-D

      As to the definition of an assault weapon - per the 1994 ban on assault weapons, the AR-15 was one of the weapons cited in the bill as a banned gun. This is the definition of an "assault weapon" as per the 1994 law:

      "In the former U.S. law, the legal term assault weapon included certain specific semi-automatic firearm models by name (e.g., Colt AR-15, TEC-9, non select-fire AK-47s produced by three manufacturers, and Uzis) and other semi-automatic firearms because they possess a minimum set of cosmetic features from the following list of features:

      Semi-automatic rifles able to accept detachable magazines and two or more of the following:
      Folding or telescoping stock
      Pistol grip
      Bayonet mount
      Flash suppressor, or threaded barrel designed to accommodate one
      Grenade launcher (more precisely, a muzzle device which enables the launching or firing of rifle grenades, though this applies only to muzzle mounted grenade launchers and not those which are mounted externally)

      Semi-automatic pistols with detachable magazines and two or more of the following:
      Magazine that attaches outside the pistol grip
      Threaded barrel to attach barrel extender, flash suppressor, handgrip, or suppressor
      Barrel shroud that can be used as a hand-hold
      Unloaded weight of 50 oz (1.4 kg) or more
      A semi-automatic version of a fully automatic firearm

      Semi-automatic shotguns with two or more of the following:
      Folding or telescoping stock
      Pistol grip
      Fixed capacity of more than 5 rounds
      Detachable magazine"

    2. Also as to whether or not you need to go through extra hoops to buy an AR-15 or other similar guns, it really depends on your state of residence. As per the article I cited on #6, the state of Arizona for one example has next to no restrictions on the purchase of those types of guns, you just have to pass a background check, no more. It varies from state to state.

      On your points on reloading - maybe a compromise there - only gun ranges can own extended magazines and you can rent them when you shoot there?

      I didn't realize your points on concealed carry vs open carry, those were some good points on those.

    3. After I made the comment about definitions I saw that, however I do find it silly that the definition really has nothing to do with the powe of the gun at all. It is all about the accessories. Also, most states don't require extra regulations for assault weapons (although it is different per state) that is because the assault weapons ban is no longer in place. However, that ban had nothing to do with assault riffles. They still have restrictions on them.

      As far as if I have carried around you, well, I generally like to keep it a secret, but considering we have only been in IL together and I can't legally carry there, the answer would be no. :) Also, I don't think you should be asking a married woman if you can see her weapons. (wink wink nudge nudge)

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