Gun Control

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no gunsYes, I said it.  I used the words.  Put the two together, something so many people are loathe to do, and spelled out “gun control.”

Because somebody needs to.

The U.S. has had a gun problem for quite some time.  It’s like a nationwide addiction that no one is willing to address, much less treat.  Why?  Because over two centuries ago, our forefathers told us we have a right to own and use guns.   (Mind you, this was written when the country was on a wartime footing on its own shores… details, details.)  And today, although we haven’t fought a war on our lands for over a century, we have dangerous people among us, and we want to protect ourselves.

So we buy guns.  Many of us don’t learn to use them properly… many of us don’t store them properly… many of us keep ammo in them, leave safeties off and put them where kids can get at them… but there you go.  We feel safer.

And then, an incident like the one in Connecticut happens.  (Are you keeping count?  That’s seven mass shootings in the U.S. this year.)  And we all duck our heads… not from the gunfire, but from the vitally needed discussion that needs to happen immediately afterward.

It should be fairly obvious that gun access and use has gotten out of hand in the U.S., and now presents more of a threat to average citizens than the supposed protection it provides.  According to a recent ABC News report, among the world’s 23 wealthiest countries, 80 percent of all gun deaths are American deaths and 87 percent of all kids killed by guns are American kids.  Although there is a gun for every American citizen in this country, most of them are owned by individuals, and most gun owners have seven or more guns in their collection.

Significant word, that: Collection.  You don’t collect things designed to protect your home, like fire extinguishers or German Shepherds.  You collect things because you think they’re cool.  Do we want people to own deadly weapons because they think they’re cool?

In addition, most of these guns are well beyond what the average citizen would need for personal protection.  Assault rifles.  Automatic and semi-automatic weapons.  These are wartime arsenals, not home protection tools.

And let’s not forget how easy it is to load them up.  Ammunition can be bought online and sent anywhere.  There is no limit to how much ammo can be bought by a single person.  And bullets are cheap enough to be bought in bulk.  (Personally, I think Chris Rock had a great idea when he said every bullet should cost five thousand dollars; then at least only rich people would be armed, and even they’d think twice.)

Put all of that together, and you know what you get?  “What the #&@%!$!! were we thinking?

So, it’s time to wise up.  It’s time to recognize that amendments can themselves be amended.  The U.S. needs to take significant multiple steps to limit the availability, use and lethality of guns on our shores.  And I emphasize the word multiple because the steps that must be taken are various, to not only curb gun use and dissemination, but to deal with the guns that are already here.

First, I believe this country would be best served by a complete public ban on firearms, similar to (or maybe exactly) what is done in the UK, for example.  From Wikipedia: “The United Kingdom has one of the lowest rates of gun homicides in the world with 0.07 recorded intentional homicides committed with a firearm per 100,000 inhabitants in 2009 compared to the United States’ 3.0 and to Germany’s 0.21.”

Failing an outright ban, I think the most sensible step would be to ban all assault, automatic and semiautomatic weapons from private ownership… basically, taking the combat-level firearms out of the hands of the public.  Any owners who want to collect such guns should have them rendered permanently unusable, say, by removal of vital moving parts, filling the barrel with non-removable plugs, permanently blocking the firing mechanism, etc… thereby making them nothing but pretty-looking wall displays, incapable of hurting anyone (unless when wielded like a club).

The non-automatic guns left to be purchased should be fully registered with the local authorities (and through them, the FBI and ATF), including ballistics data.  Each gun will have a chip installed in an unremovable manner that will allow it to be detected by RFID-type equipment. If possible, I’d design the guns so as not to be fire-able unless the user had a matching bracelet (or something) in immediate proximity that would send a signal to the RFID chip in the gun; and the owner would be required to keep gun and bracelet in different places, thereby making it harder for someone to steal or use someone else’s gun.

The owner should be similarly registered, and upon registering, the owner’s home will be made subject to random inspection by the authorities (local, FBI or AFT) at any time, to ensure compliance with all regulations.  Failure to meet regulations will be answered with heavy fines, possibly coupled with jail time and/or community service.

In other words, owning a gun will be a serious responsibility, with serious oversight and serious consequences for doing it wrong.

Next, there are greater steps we can take to protect the public, steps that technology can help us with right now.  We can adopt the street surveillance systems used in many urban areas, basically monitored CCTV systems, to more quickly identify trouble (hopefully) before it occurs, and more quickly identify and track criminals after an incident.  We can roll out devices like micrometer radar, capable of identifying concealed weapons, even non-metal weapons, with a great deal of accuracy.  We can apply sniffing technology that can detect gunpowder and other chemicals common to firearms (with single-parts-per-million sensitivity, existing technology is more accurate than trained dogs), and sensors that will scan for the RFID chips of a gun.  We can install these sensors in all public places, along with barriers to entry if a device is detected.

And oh, yeah: $5,000 bullets.  Okay, fine… maybe $1,000.  Non-tax-deductible.  In fact, offer incentives for owners of combat-level ammo to hand them over to the government for a significant incentive (hey, no reason gun owners can’t profit from this).

As another article has pointed out, we have a responsibility to take every step possible to protect our citizens from dangerous technology.  Though some argue that guns don’t kill people… that we didn’t ban airplanes after 9-11… the counter-argument is that cars don’t kill people, drivers do… so we make sure drivers are registered, trained to drive and aware of the motor vehicle laws; we make sure people are not allowed to drive vehicles for which they are not licensed, and we make sure certain vehicles (like formula one race cars) aren’t allowed on public streets.  And no, we didn’t ban jets; but we did put tighter regulations on who flies them, who gets on, what luggage is loaded, and how they are monitored at all times.

Taking the steps outlined above for gun control are the least that we ought to be doing, to protect our citizenry.  Every day wasted in not enacting these steps is another day closer to the next mass shooting… which may take place closer to you than you’d like.

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12 thoughts on “Gun Control

  1. amacd55

    I fail to see how ANY of these steps would have prevented the latest assault. I am not an NRA member but I do think the Swiss model (not mentioned in this article and it should have been) is another solution. There is something basically wrong in our society which is not being addressed here. Do we even know what it is that causes America to be so infiltrated with people who think they have the right to just shoot anybody they wish? If so, I have not heard it and the solution is not in gun control. I do think there should be a limit on what kind of weapons may be used by citizens. Cannons come to mind. Also missiles, including fireworks that have explosive warheads. I think it can be a reasonable argument that nobody needs a weapon that can fire off 50 rounds in a few seconds. Also any weapon that can penetrate 6 walls before losing deadly velocity. My defensive weapon of choice is a shotgun. First round is rock salt, second is birdshot and third is 00. Then change the laws to allow one to shoot anyone on your own property who is threatening you in any fashion. Also change the laws to protect the victim and not the criminal. And then enforce them. Ban the ACLU from the courtroom for starters. There is something really sick in this country and it is not being addressed.

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  2. The Swiss model would hardly benefit the U.S., either; it would result in more people having military-issue guns, training in how to use them, and being allowed to carry them in public. But no effort to screen who gets a gun, because everyone is supposed to have one… like a driver’s license, the rules for passing muster will be wimpy so as to allow everyone to have one.

    That is clearly not in the public interest, especially in places where people are not armed… like schools. Control IS what is needed in the U.S. The monitoring methods I described in the post, almost all of which are possible with today’s technology, might have provided enough warning before a gun could have been brought into the school to have saved lives. Tighter regulations and bans on auto- and semi-automatic weapons and military-grade assault rifles may have also meant fewer lives lost.

    And instead of banning the ACLU, try banning the NRA from “donations” to political offices in exchange for pro-gun laws.

    Y’know, I don’t like the fact that regulation is the best option, either. Unfortunately, we live in a country where citizens believe “freedom” seems to mean having the right to do whatever they want, even when it hurts others. That is what’s infiltrated this country: A belief that Americans can do absolutely anything they want, because the country is built around the idea that absolutely anything you want to do, including theft, rape and murder, is basically okay (as long as you can get away with it, of course).

    In that light, only regulation and control will curb the violence… because we clearly don’t have the capacity to rein in our own base desires.

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  3. Donn

    “And instead of banning the ACLU, try banning the ARA from “donations” to political offices in exchange for pro-gun laws.”

    I think you obviously meant “NRA”.

    Good post Steve, and a brave one. I think the “treat guns like cars” model is the most realistic. Register guns, licence the owners, require the owners to be trained, on their safe operation, and applicable laws. And perhaps most appropriate, not legally allow certain types of (operational) guns. I think bolt action rifles for hunting, only 6 bullet internal magazines, And revolvers, or pistols that can only hold 6 cartridge magazines. And I prefer prison sentences for violators.

    Still leaves a lot of room for random murders, but not the kind of carnage we are currently experiencing.

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  4. (You’re right, Donn, I meant “NRA.” Fixed.)

    Obviously, no improvements to regulations, enforcement, etc, will be 100% effective, that’s a given. And it’s true that while we can enact these regulations and enforcements, there’s an underlying issue of why this is a problem in this country… why do we have people who want to arm up and shoot innocent people? Where did we go wrong? Or is it just the expected amount of damage when you have a nation of millions, however good or lax the laws?

    I do believe there’s a lack of viable support systems for those in the U.S. who need it most, and incidences like Sandy Hook are the direct result. As much as we need to talk about gun control, we need to talk about this country’s social network, and where it’s failing.

    In the meantime, taking better care to restrict gun access and opportunities for use is a sensible, logical and overdue next step.

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  5. Donn

    I think we went wrong when we started treating the Bill Of Rights as a substitute for common sense, as if the Founding Fathers had omniscient powers, As you stated in your post, The 1780s were very different times, with very different technologies, and demographics than what exists today,

    The “original intent” crowd just not seem to get that. These are not the Ten Commandments sent from God. These were working rules for the thirteen colonies, with continuing confrontations with Mother England. And barrel loaded muskets.

    Then is not know. We need to adjust our sights.

    I agree that a large part of our current massacre-a-week problem lies with our neglect of the support structures for the mentally ill. But sadly in this case, It seems to be an adult (with World Armageddon fantasies) taking care of a child with more easily diagnosed problem.

    In this case it was the adult who believed media driven clap trap (dare I mention FOX news, and other right wing enablers of the deranged) who provided the means of this tragedy.

    We have to quit denying that irresponsible profit motivated media bares some responsibility,

    But that leads us to the hornets nest of the amendment before the 2nd.

    Perhaps we need to take the profit out of News, and make it a required public service for access to the airwaves.

    Just some thoughts.

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  6. The Founding Fathers always intended for our government to be evolving and adaptable; that’s why we have the government we have, why we vote regularly, why we have amendments, etc. So every time I hear people talk as if the amendments are untouchable, I find myself thinking, “Do you KNOW what country you’re IN? Have you not noticed how amendments are written to help America evolve into its new needs over time? Did women vote when America started? Did Blacks have equal rights? Did we not have, then cancel, Prohibition? OF COURSE American laws can be changed… that’s the whole POINT!”

    Then I calm down, shake my head and walk away.

    And unfortunately, that makes me part of the problem. Because I’m not doing my civic duty in making sure other American citizens understand how this country is supposed to work. I recently discovered my brother does not vote (long story), but instead of reaming him out for ignoring the one civic act that makes this country unique… I just told him “You’re a bad American,” and in an admittedly flippant way, and walked away.

    We Americans, so concerned about not being controversial, not being insulting, and not wanting other people to think badly of us, do an awful lot of walking away. All the “This is not the time” talk from our politicians and media pundits is just that: Walking away. Treating social problems, climate change, unemployment and political unrest as something we can deal with “after the next break” is walking away.

    We desperately need to stop walking, turn around and face the music. Preferably, before we discover that music is a dirge.

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  7. In numerous websites I see some typical reactions to anybody who promotes any level of gun control.

    “It wouldn’t have stopped the last mass shootings”. This is a lame excuse, and not even an excuse. It is an excuse to inaction. The proposed solution is not perfect, so we shouldn’t do it. Strike this one as an exercise is failing to think.

    “Guns don’t kill people, crazy people kill people”. The age-old claim that guns are not dangerous, almost laughable except there are people who believe this. If a person wants to take this approach, you could apply it to anything. Machine guns aren’t dangerous. Land-mines aren’t dangerous. Bazookas aren’t dangerous. Cyanide isn’t dangerous. It is time to stop the lies, guns are dangerous and we know this. But hard-core gun enthusiasts (my personal preference would be the term gun-nut) refuse to see the danger in firearms, no matter how they are designed or what the design is for (assault weapons are designed to kill people, and lots of them, not prey animals). If a tool is deliberately designed to kills lots of people, anybody who wants to say it isn’t dangerous is beyond ignorant, they are a fool.

    “We need the right to self-defense”. A vague claim at best. Self-defense tools can include mace, pepper-spray, stun guns. Or if self-defense does indeed require a firearm, how about a pump-action shotgun? or maybe a 6-shot revolver? Self-defense does not require the use of instruments designed to be used in wars to shoot lots of people at one setting. Outlawing military style assault weapons will not hurt anyone except some people’s pride.

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    • amacd55

      Once again we disagree. Assault Rifles (as used by the military} are fully automatic and have been banned for years. Semi-automatic weapons like my 12 gauge shotgun and my pistol with its less than 11 bullet are not. Meanwhile I repeat, the cause of these murders is not the weapon. When are we going to toss out Dr. Spock and get back to disciplining our children? We have to get to the cause of the problem, not cover it with a bandaid.

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  8. “Self-defense tools can include mace, pepper-spray, stun guns.” Yes… and self-defense courses. Combining self-defense tools with protective technology can effectively replace the need for guns held by public citizens. We just have to knuckle down and apply the tech and best practices.

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  9. “Meanwhile I repeat, the cause of these murders is not the weapon.” Maybe so… but the people who are murdering are using guns as their means of action. And until and unless you have a means of effectively screening all potential gun owners, to insure people who may use them to murder will never hold a gun… our only other alternative is defense, which includes removing guns from everyone’s use and making it increasingly impossible to use them in any way.

    I realize it’s a shame that we need to take such action, due to a misbehaving few who have ruined it for everyone else. But that’s simply the way it is. Don’t be mad at the people who want to take all guns away; be mad at the people who acted out and gave the rest of us no alternative.

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    • amacd55

      And what method would you use to remove the millions of guns from already in the citizen’s hands, particularly the criminal element that I am sure would be delighted to see home owners reduce their risk in home invasions?

      I am more afraid of an American dictator than I am of injuring myself with my own weapon. As I said before, if you remove all the guns without removing the root cause of the problem, you have merely thrown the baby out with the bathwater and NOT solved the problem. Five times as many murderers use knives than use guns. Certainly you don’t propose we dispense with all knives. Also, any nut job has an automobile at his disposal that I am sure he could deliberately run into a crowded intersection. You still have not said what you propose as a solution to the basic problem. This thread has gone on long enough, I propose we just agree to disagree. Cheers.

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  10. Personally, I’m a lot more afraid of being shot by a criminal than I am of an American dictator. I’m not alone. And I’m not nearly as concerned about your harming yourself with your weapon, as I am of you hurting someone else with it… that’s the issue at hand.

    The original post outlines a number of solutions to the problem… I’ll leave you to reread it, and agree to leave it at that.

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