June 14, 2016

Gun Control

In response to the massacre of club goers in Orlando carried out with an assault rifle, the House of Representatives responded quickly by staging the now obligatory moment of silence. The Republican shills of the NRA  will, of course, do nothing more.

There is reason to think, however, that, in the immortal words of Bob Dylan, the times they are a-changin’. Americans are becoming impatient with the never-ending cavalcade of mass shootings. A Hillary Clinton victory in November will likely be accompanied by shifts towards the Democrats in the Senate and House. And a Clinton administration will have an opportunity to tilt the Supreme Court toward sanity and justice.

The Second Amendment reads
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.
There is ambiguity in this provision, and it is significant that the Supreme Court has only recently reinterpreted it as favoring unlimited gun ownership. (I wonder how constitutional originalists justify this. In 1791, this amendment did not countenance AR-15s.) A new court could find a different meaning in the Second Amendment.

I doubt that we will see a change in the Constitution to undo the damage of the Second Amendment, although at least one legal scholar, in response to Orlando, has argued that that must be done. David S. Cohen, writing for Rolling Stone, wrote
But sometimes we just have to acknowledge that the Founders and the Constitution are wrong. This is one of those times. We need to say loud and clear: The Second Amendment must be repealed.
Even if the Second Amendment is not repealed, the Supreme Court could revisit the question of whether there is an individual right to bear arms. I believe that a more liberal court would allow more stringent gun laws.

Here is a proposed list of rational gun laws for the U.S.:
  1. All guns must be individually licensed.
  2. A background check is required to obtain a license.
  3. A gun license is good for three years and may be renewed after another background check.
  4. Guns can only be purchased in person through licensed dealers at a dealer’s permanent place of business. (Guns cannot be purchased through mail order or at gun shows.)
  5. Every firearm requires the owner to carry liability insurance of at least $1 million.
  6. It is a felony to possess an assault rifle and certain types of ammunition. (I am not an expert here. Others can draw up specifications for prohibited items.)
  7. It is a felony to own an unlicensed firearm.
  8. It is a misdemeanor to fail to carry the required liability insurance, and a conviction for such failure results in forfeiture of the weapon.
  9. It is a misdemeanor to carry a gun without having its license on one’s person.
It may take a while to enact such laws, and there will be many Second Amendment martyrs before it’s done. It is my hope and prayer, however, that these or similar laws will eventually be passed.

Update, 6/14/2016. Being Liberal on Facebook has suggested additional regulations, including mandatory training and testing

Update, 6/18/2016. Clarification of item (4): Guns cannot be transferred between individuals. The transfer or sale must take place at a licensed dealer’s. Clarification of item (5): Proof of insurance is necessary to purchase a gun. Clarification of item (6): Prohibited items should not be specified in a list of models or types; it should be based on performance (e.g., muzzle velocity, projectile weight, rate of fire, etc.).

1 comment:

  1. This is somewhat covered in Item #5 but I would explore the possibility of writing "Strict Liability" laws for guns. The legal concept is if you are engaging in a dangerous activity and something goes wrong, you can be held legally liable. So if you own a gun and someone steals it and then commits a crime with it, you can be held liable. This would give the gun owner extra incentive to ensure their guns aren't stolen.

    I think the gun regulation debate is much like the alcohol debate 30 years ago when MADD first came on the scene. Mothers Against Drunk Driving wanted to do something to stop auto fatalities caused by those driving drunk. Now this seems like a no-brainer and of course we should get drunk drivers off the road and administer appropriate penalties. But many American's first response to MADD was "Oh, no we are going back to Prohibition. They are going to take away MY alcohol, etc."

    Yetchanging laws is only part of the equation. We must make guns the equivalent of cigarettes - something which once seemed cool and which we simply could not live without but now seems dirty, disgusting, unhealthy and uncool.

    Bob Button


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