Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Some (very) quick thoughts about responsible gun control

I wrote the comments below in response to a request for a civil debate about gun control in the aftermath of the Orlando tragedy. Listed are several questions that have been posed as to the usefulness and realness of imposing some sort of gun control(s) in America that are often asked by those who are adamantly opposed to any restriction on the 2nd Amendment.

I invite comment on this post - please. But I will NOT allow a flame war and comments MUST remain respectful.

Q) Why ban a rifle that is less powerful than others out there?

A) The AR-15 is in a class of weapons designed for the express purpose of being used in war. A combination of light weight, portability, high magazine load (typically 30 rounds although that is regulated in some states) and the capability of loading 75 and 100 round drums (legal to own but not use and easily available on the Internet) combined with the "Macho" factor (after all the military variant of this weapon was standard issue for many years) give it a certain cache. Perhaps that's why it was the weapon of choice in the shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn. as well as Orlando. Additionally, although it is illegal to own a fully automatic version without (fairly) hard to come by licenses the AR-15 can easily be modified to fire fully automatic with instructions available on YouTube and tools you can buy at any hardware store or gun shop. Personally, I can see no reason to use this weapon for hunting as there are cheaper and more accurate rifles available on the general market that would suit better to nearly any game you might choose.

Q) (paraphrase) What about the large number of guns in the "banned" categories that are out there already?

A) We can't get rid of every weapon or even a large percentage of them without either the cooperation of gun owners or through confiscation. We could do a cash for guns buyback program though either with direct cash payments or a tax credit issued when the weapon is certified as destroyed by a regulated agency. We could also compensate dealers for their existing inventory for any weapons that are "banned"

Q) Won't the guns we lose and sell to foreign countries be purchased back through the black market?

A) Inevitable but manageable. We could impose trade sanctions on countries that didn't crack down on black market guns (similar to how we handle drugs and money laundering now). We could make enforcement of black market sales a high priority for local and/or federal law enforcement and beef up the BATF for that purpose.

Q) We can't punish responsible gun owners

A) Agreed. But we could ensure they're responsible by enforcing a background check, requiring gun safety and regular, ongoing training in how to safely use their weapon. We could license them like cars to better track the illegal sale of black market weapons. We could require liability insurance (again in the same way we do for cars). We could impose an age limit (like we do for cars) with both a low and a high range.

Q) Should people on the FBI list be able to have one?

A) No. Further, if you're on an FBI list (or other law enforcement agency list) as a felon, a person with a history of violence, a person with certain medical or psychological issues then you should be subject to restricted ownership (IMO); this one is a bare minimum for me. We have the technology to allow for on the spot instantaneous background checks but the gun lobby has vigorously opposed every effort to enact even the loosest background checks at a national level.

I can see MANY potential reasonable options for limiting access to certain kinds of weapons (and ammunition for that matter) that would still allow gun owners to have a weapon for sport or defense. But, to even begin that conversation we have to get away from the automatic assumption that ANY regulation of guns is a first step on the road to confiscation and eventual total disarmament of our citizens.

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