Guns don’t kill people. Gun owners kill people, with bullets fired from guns. Let’s regulate those.
There are certainly some sensible limitations on the kinds of firearms and accessories that could be imposed to good effect. We don’t allow people to own just any kind of arms, after all; antipersonnel mines and nerve gas shells are not legal for civilians to own, nor should they be. The same principle can be (and in some jurisdictions already are) applied to limiting the capacity of magazines and the types of ammunition that can be legally sold or possessed…
And speaking of ammunition, the technology exists to serialize bullets so that they are traceable back to the manufacturer, and that traceability can be extended to the sunsequent vendors and buyers; this should be implemented for all newly manufactured ammunition. Sure, there’s plenty of non-serialized ammo out there now, but unlike the guns which can last for generations this is a self-correcting problem.Ammo gets used up (and can go bad if stored too long, something people tend to forget).
But never mind all that. Forget regulating guns and ammo, for the moment. Let’s regulate the gun owners.
It makes sense to do it that way. There are responsible gun owners with perfectly valid reasons for owning guns whose rights should be respected. They do have a right to keep and bear arms. The NRA and fellow travelers like to completely ignore the first half of the Second Amendment tying the right to the need for a well regulated militia, and the Supreme Court has pretty much gone along with them over the past few decades, equating individuals to members of an ad hoc militia.
However, the plain original intent of that Second amendment allows for regulation of that militia, and some regulation of the gun owners would solve the vast majority of America’s gun problems. Regulation costs money, and the proposals outlined below will somewhat raise the cost of gun ownership, but even the NRA can’t claim that the Second Amendment requires that guns be cheap enough for everyone to own one, much as they’d like to.
If it means that fewer poor people can afford a gun, that’s just a trade-off we’ll have to face; most of the poor people I know wouldn’t be overly saddened by the idea that there would be fewer guns in their neighborhoods.
There are slightly more guns than there are people in the United States, and they are next to impossible to keep track of. Any private individual who owns a gun can sell it to anyone else, and no central registry exists to say who currently owns a particular gun. I could buy a gun from a registered gun dealer, and while I may have to pass some kind of backround check to do so I can then walk out into the parking lot of the gun store and sell it to any passing maniac. This is what is misleadingly named the gun show loophole; it doesn’t apply only to shows, and a loophole that big isn’t really a hole, it’s a missing wall. My right as a gun owner to sell that gun can and should be regulated.
So fine, for a first step, without infringing the rights of decent responsible non-criminal people to keep and bear arms; let’s just stop letting them do it anonymously. Let people who want to keep guns accept the responsibility for them, and by that I mean down to the specific gun. Let people have all the guns they want, but let them register each of those guns in a national registry, preferably together with ballistics information where applicable. Make only the unregulated possession of an unregistered firearm an offense.
Let them be legally responsible for what happens with those guns; if they hurt someone due to being improperly maintained, or because they were stolen due to not being carefully stored, then the registered owner should be legally liable for damages. Liability insurance could be required. If there are personal consequences to not storing and caring for your weapons, people will be more liable to store and care for them properly.
We can go further in regulating this ad-hoc militia; we can require that at regular intervals they prove their ability to safely handle the dangerous devices they wish to carry. Basic testing of competence to safely carry and competently fire a gun should be a minimum requirement for a gun owner’s license; a written test to demonstrate an understanding of the rights and *responsibilities* of gun ownership could also be required.
Yes, the model is the driver’s license for a car, why not? It’s the regulation of people who want to use a potentially dangerous device. Just like that license, a sensible penalty for failing to maintain your gun safely and securely, or for using it while drunk or otherwise incapacitated, would be to lose your license. You can be a militia all on your lonesome if you wish, but you will damn well have to be a well regulated one.
Will these steps prevent all gun-related tragedies in America? Of course not. They would certainly reduce them drastically in number and scope, however, and that is surely a goal worthy of expending a little of our national energy toward.