The time has long since passed for the United States to reform its approach to the purchase of firearms. Over the past decade mass shootings have gone from too frequent to far too frequent. Politics-as-usual has been stuck in the same pointless conversation for decades - largely dominated by special interest groups arguing on one side for virtually no restrictions on gun ownership and on the other side to make gun ownership either incredibly onerous or simply take most people's guns away. It should be obvious that neither of those arguments are politically acceptable - as we've gotten nowhere. It should also be obvious that neither is a good solution either.
Most Americans support some notion of 'reasonable' gun control. The following is my proposal for what 'reasonable' gun control should entail. I think and hope it represents a politically feasible compromise that accounts for solving the problem and respecting the American citizens' right to keep and bear arms.
First, a bit of context: The Constitution states that "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
We all recognize some restrictions on the various rights afforded to Americans via the Bill of Rights, generally when one's exercise of those rights would conflict with someone else's exercise of theirs. One has a right to free speech, but not to shout 'fire' in a crowded theater. The Constitution even tells us why Americans have a right to keep and bear arms - that a well-regulated (meaning trained) Militia is necessary to the security of a free state. Not only for the security of the United States, but as a check on potential governmental tyranny. I believe these are both excellent reasons for the freedom to keep and bear arms, and that solutions to the gun control problem must come from the approach of improving and promoting a well regulated Militia.
The problems with the status quo are two-fold. First, it is way too easy for a nutcase to purchase a firearm very well suited to shooting up a crowded area. Second, we have too many nutcases who want to shoot up crowded areas. We have a structural problem, and a cultural problem - and the solution needs to address both.
I propose we do several things:
1. Classify weapons into three categories with different training requirements:
a) Self-defense weapons (namely pistols) for which there are few training requirements beyond use and basic gun safety and self defense
b) Hunting weapons (namely bolt-action rifles, crossbows, etc) for which there are no training requirements beyond what states already require for a hunting license.
c) Everything else (assault rifles, specialty weapons, etc) for which there are militia training requirements on use, safety and civics. It might also be a good idea to include continuing requirements of training and civic responsibilities as part of Militia membership and gun ownership.
2. Establish a unified national database so law enforcement can track and respond to any and all changes to an individual's ability to own 'everything else' firearms. This database must:
a) Include automatic entry for all relevant state and local organizations and agencies, such as medical/psychological agencies and local law enforcement, on markers that would effect the eligibility of an individual's potential for gun ownership. There must be a unified, nation-wide, go-to place to track this so people don't slip through the cracks.
3. Establish a dedicated law enforcement task force responsible for database information triage to search for people who are under suspicion of the potential for domestic terrorism.
a) This could look something like an FBI task force to investigate tips and information flagged from the database that indicate that a militia member may no longer be allowed to own guns. I'm thinking of tips from locals, social media postings, criminal violations, etc.
b) Must be able to conduct timely investigations in coordination with local law enforcement
c) Must NOT be able to restrict gun ownership by mere administrative decisions. Gun ownership restricting must come ONLY from a legitimate court order, unless judged to be an imminent threat.
Details of Militia requirements:
I envision something similar to the military's Inactive Reserves, but managed at the state level. It would not be a part of the military in any form nor would imply nor impose any sort of military requirement whatsoever. For example, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania would establish a state militia apart from the National Guard. Pennsylvania would administer training programs to meet the requirements of whatever gun class a citizen wishes to purchase. These training programs must be 1) free to any citizen, 2) conducted frequently and at times convenient for working people (day, night and weekend) and 3) of relatively short duration (no more than two weeks for the 'everything else' category). Persons inducted into the militia would receive background checks, a basic psych evaluation, and the required training. That person, upon successful completion, would be free to purchase any and all firearms from the 'everything else' category.
Militia membership would also put individuals into the national system of militia members so that we can know who is and is not allowed to purchase very dangerous firearms. Training courses and membership also give locals in the community a chance to provide a sanity check on who in their community can purchase these types of weapons. Young people purchasing guns would be better served by respected members of local communities providing training and mentorship than going it alone, or getting caught up in some lunatic organization on the internet.
The system I'm proposing will allow three things. First, it gets gun ownership back to what I believe is its original intent, which is promoting a body of the citizenry knowledgeable in the use of firearms should the need arise. The second is to allow for a unified system of tracking and investigation so law enforcement can rapidly respond to any threats to public safety posed by owners of dangerous firearms. The third, and most important, is to promote a culture of responsible gun ownership and civic responsibility for armed citizens.
My system will greatly improve tracking, enforcement, and law enforcement responsiveness while over time promoting and instilling a culture of civic responsibility around gun ownership. At the same time, it does not curtail the individual's right to bear arms, and in many places would expand it considerably. I realize that most gun owners, owners of dangerous firearms included, are responsible citizens who would never shoot up a school. We must however recognize that there are too many people who would, and those people have relatively easy access to the guns to do it. It's our responsibility as a society to make sure we proactively prevent those people from getting guns, and moreso to prevent them from becoming homicidal maniacs in the first place.
1) The new system would not be retroactive - only new purchasers of 'everything else' firearms would be required to meet militia training requirements. Existing gun owners, especially those who take a personal interest in training and civic duty/responsibility, would of course be encouraged to join and help mentor and train the next generation of responsible gun owners.
Please keep in mind, these are merely the beginnings of a plan on how I would approach such legislation. I encourage the feedback of Voters. Please comment or message me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.