Month: September 2014
To suggest gun control to a conservative is a bit like suggesting censorship to a liberal. Not a perfect analogy, but the courts have consistently ruled in favor of gun ownership, and its hard to argue that the founding fathers would have approved infringing on this right in any significant way even if comparisons between 18th and 21st weapons are laughably absurd. Still, no one outside the NRA is suggesting we can not regulate weapons if we really wanted to. But do we really?
Gun regulation is not itself a desirable end but a means. The end is greater health and safety of our populous and I think there’s a better method than so-called gun control. The high water mark of gun control is undoubtedly the Federal Ban on Assault Rifles which actually managed to outlaw some of the worlds most dangerous weapons from the civilian market. However, the effect on gun crime was limited for two reasons. One, crimes involving assault weapons are rare, and the ban was easily avoided by making no more than cosmetic changes to the rifles. If we had the political will it may be possible to go back to the drawing board and craft a stronger law, but even with the enthusiastic support of both parties, I fear that these results will simply be repeated.
Gun control at its heart only makes sense with a few varieties of weapons that are difficult to modify and manufactured from a central source, but this is not the case. If gun manufacturers can not sell you a fully functional weapon they have no trouble selling inert nonfunctional completely legal gun parts. You assemble. Perhaps, if even that is not enough, weapons designs have become simple enough that people are simply milling their own weapons from a kit stock and printed directions. But even that pales next to the increasingly sophisticated 3d printing technology. I see no realistic ability for a governmental body to craft regulations that effectively prevent someone from simply downloading the specifications and printing out their own ready made weapon. I fear that gun control targeting guns in the manner that liberals are envisioning is simply ineffective and, given the political realities, impossible.
But that doesn’t mean nothing can be done. As I said, gun control is merely a means to an end and I think we’ve overlooked the most obvious place for a solution: The Constitution. When it comes to gun law, I’m a strict constitutional originalist. And the awkwardly worded 2nd Amendment is perfect. We need to reclaim militias for the side of angels. Gun ownership should be contingent on membership in a “well-regulated” militia. Make that a very well regulated militia. I think doing so would accomplish several goals at once. For example, guns are most associated with what kind of death? It’s not homicide, its suicide. And this is a worthy challenge for gun law.
I imagine federal laws regarding militias looking something like this. In order for a militia to be permitted under federal law, it must make psychological help available to its members as well as a create a first line response should a member be in trouble. It could be as simple as suicide prevention counseling and referral to a professional and other mental health resources. It would be similar to a suicide prevention hotline. You might even go so far as to develop a national credentialing system for a more comprehensive list of services.
Another major cause of gun death and injury are accidents. In order to be a militia member, you would be required to receive extensive training in gun proficiency, fire control, maintenance, and storage. There is not a single right listed in the constitution that is not dependent on personal responsibility. If you are to be a gun owner you should be required to spend the time and money learning and practicing proper care and handling from a qualified instructor.
Crime prevention. Militia members must be required to learn the legal codes regarding appropriate use of force, learn deescalation techniques to manage situations without resorting to lethal force as a minimum. If they achieve a high level of proficiency wear readily identifiable uniforms, and demonstrate their skill the could be potentially credentialed for some law security functions. They could function as a more complex version of a neighborhood watch. Note they must meet a very high bar and they would only be allowed lethal force in the most extraordinary circumstances. Their primary role would be merely to observe and report to law enforcement. But something like this might work well for vulnerable targets like public venues, parades, or schools. Obviously the last thing we need are vigilantes, but well trained individuals acting in a lay support capacity might be useful. Or maybe not but it warrants discussion.
Then, I feel extraordinarily odd suggesting this, militia groups should be required to swear allegiance to the government. There are too many groups out there that are borderline treasonous. In fact, the standoff at the Bundy ranch was not borderline but actual treason. We even have public figures and politicians supporting fringe right wing groups that believe they have the right to take up arms against the lawfully elected government. It needs to stop. If you think violence against the government is ok or ever going to be ok, you should not have access to weapons.
This is another odd suggestion, but I believe militias should be subject to the same federal guidelines for the workplace. Organizations that have a policy of bigotry, discrimination, or hate speech should have their charter voided by the government. Any organization that touts violence toward another individual or group no matter how obliquely should never be allowed to have ready access to weapons.
We can’t regulate the weapons. The technology moves to quickly and getting rid of them entirely is a non-starter in American politics. Other nations have their solution to guns and gun violence and I envy those countries. But we’re Americans. We need to find an American solution and The Constitution affords us one. One that, if regulated well, will provide support, training, and better integration with law enforcement.