Note that to get this under 500 words, a lot was left out. A few added comments here.
1. I don't like the idea of piling more laws on people but gun culture has changed. More households owned guns when I was young but we didn't have this "me too" movement of mass shootings. Plus, to borrow an analysis from Wake Forest University's David Yamane, Gun Culture 1.0 was about gunsport and hunting. Gun Culture 2.0 is about self defense, i.e., shooting people. I think that transition has encouraged a violent outlook. So if we can't figure out how to keep people from going off the rails in today's culture, we need to interdict them so they derail without taking out their schools, churches, or government buildings. Hence the need for ERPOs and watching for the Deadly Signs of Becoming Armed and Stupid.
2. The culture driving shootings is controlled by social mores (such as social media), drug violence, poverty driven crime, domestic violence, and suicidal urges in a nation where social darwinism has replaced social cohesion. The transfer of firearms from the legitimate to the illegitimate market is inevitable in a nation with 1.2 guns for every person, but we need to make it harder to transition to that illegitimate market.
3. Today's polarizing politics encourages us to see each other as not belonging to the same culture, to say nothing of the same nation. We stop taking each other's advice and instead, bury ourselves in our political bubbles. That really explains a lot about what currently amounts to the gun non-debate. To say its not about the guns but about the people has a lot of truth to it, but clever sayings don't solve the problem. I think educational and social services, drug law reform, and economic justice are far more important than gun control but the left refuses to relent on gun control and the right has abandoned the social safety net. What can possibly go wrong?
Now, on to what was sent to the New Mexican.
To reduce gun violence, we need to find consensus solutions. Consensus
is hard on such a polarized topic. Some suggestions follow.
Stop trying to ban guns. Bans on so-called assault rifles fly in the
face of a half century of legal ownership. Millions are out there but
they make up a very minor portion of shootings. The lion's share of
shootings, including multiple shootings, are committed with handguns.
“ARs” are responsible for some high profile carnage, but we can increase
public safety well short of a ban.
We can require higher standards of ownership for modern, military style
rifles or concealable handguns that put the public at greater risk. This
could be done through progressive licensing and screening, as we
presently do for automatic weapons or to screen motorists before letting
them hop from a subcompact car to behind the wheel of a Mack Truck.
Rules should be clear, fair and not subject to arbitrary and capricious
subjective interpretations. A lower bar should be set for owning low
capacity firearms or handguns more at home in the woods. Storage
requirements should reflect risk, such as if children are in a home.
Once we decide on categories of firearms with respect to risk, we can
issue firearm owners ID cards (FOID) with a nationally-agreed on set of
criteria for reciprocity. Each gun owner would have an ID card, similar
to a driver's license, that would allow the person to own and carry
some or all categories of guns, openly or concealed, depending on the
permit. Of course this means red and blue states have to compromise on
the reciprocity criteria but in return, we could stop worrying about gun
running between states with different levels of restrictions.
In such a system, private sales would be done by entering data into a
computerized National Instant Background Check-like system with FOID
card numbers, PINs, a gun serial number and gun description. An exchange
could be approved remotely between previously cleared people based on
their level of screening for the class of weapon exchanged.
Finally, stop moving the goalposts. The biggest, and often enough,
legitimate fear that gun owners have is that the rules are too fluid and
often the changes can be bewilderingly stupid. Want examples? Start
with California or New Jersey, states that change their gun laws faster
than most of us change our socks.
The Second Amendment provides an individual right for a public purpose,
i.e., that “the people” could be called to arms in order to defend the
nation and to prevent the unwarranted amassing of too much coercive
power by government. The Supreme Court’s Heller decision explicitly
recognized in the 2A an individual right to have a functional weapon for
personal self-defense. The historical reasoning behind the 2A implies
some standards need to be met among the people and imposes limitations
on the power of government to regulate arms. There is a lot of middle
ground that can be explored if we stop demanding all or nothing
Khalil J. Spencer
Santa Fe, NM
Monday, June 18, 2018
Sunday, June 3, 2018
|At the rate the GVP discussion is going, |
we are getting nowhere fast
First. Stop trying to ban categories of guns such as ARs that have long been in circulation, since that creates a battle royal and since most of these guns are owned with little real risk to society in proportion to the political battle that would ensure if we try to ban them. The lion's share of shootings, including multiple shootings, are done with handguns. ARs are a convenient political target for the left as a symbol of what they see as America's Gun Problem.
But as a hedge, and as I suggested in 2015 and as Mike Weisser suggested about a week ago, we can, if necessary to keep Junior from mowing down his school or place of work, modify the 1934 National Firearms Act to regulate ARs and some handguns, i.e., arms more lethal than garden variety hunting rifles, shotguns, and some large unconcealable handguns, in some manner between machine guns and Dad's Remington 1100. That doesn't mean people can't have exotic guns or, "modern sporting rifles", or whatever you want to call stuff. It just means it will be a little harder to own more lethal guns, there will be a little more screening, and not every bozo who walks into a gun shop can come out armed to the teeth with his Man Card intact. How we decide what would fall into this category should be decided carefully so we don't run afoul of Heller or intractable political issues. As a point of discussion, how about if owning "modern sporting rifles" and/or being able to carry concealed require a common, higher level of screening than traditional low capacity firearms and hefty handguns more at home in the woods. A "basic" firearms owners identification card (FOID) could be had by anyone who scores 100% on a Form 4473 and one could upgrade if the spirit moved one.
|this was stupid|
Secondly, stop trying to keep people from owning guns if they have not proven that they should be disqualified. Once we decide on categories of firearms, how about national reciprocity with ownership? Or at minimum, a state-issued FOID card with national reciprocity? Make it shall-issue after jumping through reasonable hoops. Each gun owner would have an ID card, similar to a driver's license, that would allow some or all categories of guns to be owned, openly or concealed, analogous to a license that allows individuals to drive just cars vs allowing the person to drive cars, motorcycles, eighteen wheelers, etc. Of course this means red and blue states have to compromise on M.Q.'s but in return, we could stop talking about gun running from so called weak law to strong law states and I could plink at tin cans with my old man's hand cannons in NYS without fear of being chased down by Andrew Cuomo. State level sensitivities such as not carrying in government buildings could be preserved. What a concept.
Background checks? Easy. Private sales/transfers between owners would be done by entering a computerized NICS-like system with a pair of FOID numbers, PINs, a gun serial number and description and presto, a private exchange is done between previously cleared people based on their level of screening. You want to be screened to own an M-60 for shits and grins or sell one to your buddy who is equally screened? Sure, why not? Right now there are hundreds of thousands of legally owned machine guns. They are never in the news because you have to be pretty squeaky clean to own one. Just show you are responsible for the damn thing and God bless ya. Just make sure you can afford the ammo.
Finally, stop moving the goalposts and messing with people who have never crossed paths with the law. The biggest, and often enough legitimate fear that gun owners have is that the rules are too fluid and often the changes are bewilderingly stupid. Want examples? Start with California. These situations make Molon Labe an understandable, if not a legally defensible response. Plus, these situations result in single issue politics at the polls, which doesn't help the bigger issue of running the country. The recent editorial by Santa Fe Mayor Webber, i.e., that he would attempt to circumvent the state constitution's preemption clause, is yet another example of why gun owners are wary of trusting government. Sure did bug me that this showed up in the Santa Fe New Mexican three months after I moved here. No, I didn't get a call from Mr. Mayor as a "responsible gun owner", either.
I think we need to do more to keep guns under control, i.e, from being diverted from the legal to the illegal side of the house and to ensure the irresponsible dofus and clearly identified legal loose cannon is not sending rounds whizzing past my hair do. That means some controls on ownership (i.e., theft prevention and periodic cross-referencing with court records) and transfer (to ensure you don't sell that semiauto to someone about to blow away his wife after she got a restraining order against her slap-happy hubby). But if the laws are designed to control transfer and reward lawful ownership rather than prevent ownership by good people (i.e., California et al), maybe we can get past the impasse.
The 2A was written so that a citizen militia (of whoever passed for a citizen back then) could be called on to defend the state and/or nation and to try to prevent the unwarranted amassing of power by a government that no longer represents its people. UCLA Law Professor Adam Winkler covered that pretty well in Gunfight and there have been numerous papers written about the evolution of arms and self defense in England and America. Heller's contribution was explicitly including in the 2A the right to have a usable weapon for self defense in the home. The historical reasoning behind the 2A implies some standards need to be met among the people. For one, it would be wise if we don't elect assholes who we might genuinely worry about as far as usurping excessive power (hence the ballot box and high school diploma with an A in rhetoric and civics are far more powerful tools than the sword) and two, that we know the limits of being armed and therefore, know muzzle from breech as well as the law of self defense. No American who has thought carefully about the often-used Jefferson quote about watering the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots and tyrants wants to live in an Anbar Province, no matter how pissed off he gets at Big Gubbmint. Any doubts? Read the history of the Civil War.
Fix the country with a saw and hammer, not with a match and gasoline.