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