Towards Sensible Gun Rules

One of the outcomes of the Newtown tragedy is that a national conversation has started about gun control, and reducing the levels of gun violence in this country.  It’s sad that it took the deaths of 20 children to bring this front and center, but unlike previous tragedies it looks like this one has staying power.   As I’ve said in a previous post here, we need not only have sensible regulations, we need to change how our culture views guns.  The cultural change is going to be a longer term effort, but there are some sensible things we can do with the laws.

First, we should put into place a licensing requirement to own a gun.  Canada has a pretty strict set of laws relating to gun ownership, and while I think many of their rules would run afoul of the Second Amendment, it has some good ideas.  This is what Canada requires:

Individuals who wish to possess or acquire firearms in Canada must have a valid possession-acquisition, or possession-only, licence (PAL/POL); either of these licences allows the licensee to purchase ammunition. The PAL is distributed exclusively by the RCMP and is generally obtained in the following three steps:

  1. Safety training: To be eligible to receive a PAL, all applicants must successfully complete the Canadian Firearms Safety Course (CFSC) for a non-restricted licence, and the Canadian Restricted Firearms Safety Course (CRFSC) for a restricted licence; the non-restricted class is a prerequisite to the restricted licence. The RCMP publishes information on the locations and availability of these courses.
  2. Applying for a licence: Currently only one type of licence is available to new applicants, the possession-acquisition licence (PAL). People can request a PAL by filling out Form CAFC 921.
  3. Security screening: Background checks and investigations are performed. All applicants are screened, and a mandatory 28-day waiting period is imposed on first-time applicants, but response time may be longer.

In short, if you want to have a firearm in Canada, you have to take a course – or two courses – on firearms safety, and you have to go through a background check.  Most people – and that includes NRA members – think it’s a good idea that you should have safety training and know how to use your firearm.  We already require a criminal background check and a waiting period for purchasing a firearm at a dealer.  So making it mandatory to have a license to own isn’t a big controversial step, or at least it shouldn’t be.  Yes, I know it will be.  It would make things easier for businesses, and it would also close a loophole in the current system:  That criminal record checks aren’t a requirement at gun shows.   In other words, no license, no sale.

Second, we need to modernize the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.   Purposely it has been kept in the technological dark ages.  To track a firearm, it has to be done by people looking through files of paper.   That needs to change.  There should be computerized databases, and firearm sales from dealers should be registered into the system, instead of filling out the reams of paperwork.  Yes, it will cost money, but in the long run it will save everyone even more, and make it much more effective to track a firearm when it’s been used in a crime.

Third, we need to control or ban the military style weapons, AKA assault rifles.  Seriously, the justifications for having them are complete and utter bullshit.   You can’t use them for hunting in most states.   Yes, I know about “varmint hunting,” but bolt action rifles do just as well, and if you have to fire as many bullets and at the speed the assault rifles allow, then you really need to stop and go learn how to shoot.  “Personal protection?”  Give me a break.  Unless you live in a combat zone, or have hordes of bandits attacking you in your fortress home every other week,  it’s a pretty stupid reason to have one.  Did you ever look at the specifications for the ammunition?   You want to fire a bullet which is designed to penetrate a centimeter of steel – 3/8″ – inside your house.  Assuming the best case, you hit an intruder with a shot and it stops inside of them.  Unfortunately, unless that bullet hits a bone, you’re going to have it go through and keep on going.  If you miss, it’s going to keep going – through a wall or two, and maybe into someone you care about.   Good idea! :roll:

Fourth, we need to look at the proliferation of concealed carry.  We may not be able to do away with it, but we can have a requirement that people with them carry liability insurance.   One of the arguments I’ve seen is that people are allowed to drive cars, and cars kill a lot of people.  Yes, and it’s a requirement to drive a car that you be licensed and have insurance to do so.   If you want to walk around with something that even you don’t kill someone with it is going to cause damage to property, then you’d better have insurance to cover that.

These aren’t by any means a complete list, they’re just some “doable” ideas.  The third one is the one that’s going to be toughest politically, because the National Rifle Association will fight it tooth-and-nail.  But we need to get back to the idea that there’s a responsibility that goes with a right.  That it has gotten to this point, that we are talking about legislation – and that it’s needed – is saying that the notion of “responsibility” has been forgotten.

12 Comments

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12 responses to “Towards Sensible Gun Rules

  1. I like most of your ideas but have a problem on firearm type. The vast majority of firearm homicides are committed with a handgun, Canada has made handguns very difficult to have. Restricting the ownership of the type of gun that causes all the mischief makes sense, but no liberal blogger will touch it. Mainly (I believe) because many liberal bloggers have handguns. Until liberal men can give up their handguns the rest is just blowing smoke.

    • (sigh) I see you’ve missed the entire point of this post. I’m proposing here are things that are likely to be passed, in other words, what you can get done as a start. Handguns would be covered under the “licensing” I proposed. Neither do I fool myself that it would do away with firearm homicides.

      The AR-15 variants, as well as the AK-47 types, are principally – and were developed to be – military weapons. Their “civilian uses” are only if you stretch beyond reason. We already ban ownership of weapons like that. I’m not allowed to own an M2 Browning .50 machine gun, and I can’t buy a 155mm howitzer. The “assault rifles” category are designed to throw a lot of bullets in a hurry at an opponent. Yes, they’re accurate, but considering that combat forces expend around 1 million rounds for every enemy killed, rate of fire is the critical thing. In civilian uses, there’s no reason for that capability.

      I doubt your last statement, but heck, you’ve been concern trolling here, and I don’t expect you to stop.

      • Actually I started reading long ago after seeing your blog recced by someone I respect at the Great Orange Satan. I like most of your stuff but have slightly different opinions about gun control, so I commented.

        I won’t do so again.

        • Your comments about gun control have been mostly concern trolling, which is one of several reasons I left Daily Kos. Your opinion seems to boil down to “meh,” and “everybody has guns, so what?” Which was a series of red herrings. If you had read the “New Reader” page, you’d have realized that I have very, very little patience with it.

  2. Interesting article on the Second Amendment: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2012/12/jeffrey-toobin-second-amendment.html#ixzz2Fq7UQ4yc
    Wish we could get back to the Burger Court on this. At least it gives hope that with enough political will and pressure things could change.

  3. Here’s another article on the statistics of gun death. And I have also read that mainly a shooter like the one in Newtown will mostly only be stopped when he runs out of bullets, so limiting the ammunition in some way might be an effective thing to do, but I no longer have the reference for it. http://election.princeton.edu/2012/12/22/scientific-americans-gun-error/

  4. see above

    The training and license before purchase is a really good idea. I remember the old NRA where the held gun safety for young people was held at playground activity and community centers. Even if they didn’t own guns they might have friends whose father/mothers did and knowing how to handle them meant everyone was safer. All my kids went and most of their friends. Since you’re using Canada as a model it makes sense to recognize they have the same TV shows, movies, and video games we do. I’m sure the mental health statistics are in line with ours but they all have health care. Their statistics on gun violence are enviable when compared with ours. For firearms that use clips for loading it semms it would be easy to limit the number of rounds allowed per clip and to make the unloading and loading more complex. Not being familiar with them I don’t know. I do know that with shots guns they have waht is called a plug you have to use when hunting ducks in our state so you can only shot so many times before reloading.
    I found interesting the comment I heard after the Crazy Wayne show by someone surprised that the NRA (claimed) membership is 3-4 million. They wondered what other organization that size could get national coverage by all networks if they were speaking on anything. I think they compared it to AARP which has 40+ million members and they don’t get that kind of national coverage for anything.
    P.S. It’s about what we can get done. I love the “we can’t stop it or make it perfect so we shouldn’t do anything” arguments against change.

    • I grew up in an era and an area where most of our fathers were WW II or Korean War veterans, as well as being active hunters. So we learned from an early age about safety and proper marksmanship from them. When I was in elementary school, my father was a hunting guide during hunting season. ;-) But I long ago recognized that not all, and these days, not many, people have that training and experience when it comes to firearms. None of our fathers were under any illusions about what a bullet could do, and most definitely didn’t romanticize guns.

      Most states have strict controls about what type of weapon you can use for which game, including the number of rounds. I have in my wallet two hunter safety course certificates, one from Colorado and one from New York. It’s a requirement to take that course before I can get a license to hunt. Yes, there was some griping about it when it first became a requirement years ago, but now everyone just considers it “part of the deal.” The reason I think licensing for ownership would be a relatively easy sell is that polls have shown that safety training is considered a good idea by an overwhelming majority, and it makes things easier for gun shops, and dealers.

  5. That Crazy Wayne after-discussion referenced above was on Rachel Maddow’s show several days ago — she drew a number of potential parallels like that, with considerable information (as she so often does), and made the point clearly that the NRA gets way more than its “fair” share of attention from the media and the politicians, and way more than organizations who really are working to make life better for us all.

    I agree that we need to do a lot of “small” things to chip away at the problem, but we also need to keep a long-range picture in mind. For me, that picture would be the elimination of all firearms EXCEPT (maybe) those used for hunting food animals and those required for certain jobs (e.g. soldiers, law enforcement). As I say — LONG range goal!!

    • What makes the NRA influential is not the number of members it has. If it were paying attention to its membership, it wouldn’t be as extreme as it is. What it is, through various linked organizations, is a political lobbying group and political action committee, which has major funding through it’s “support & donations” from gun manufacturers. Which is good for the manufacturers, but doesn’t do much for the members.

      Personally (and professionally) I wish there were more people hunting.

  6. nathkatun7

    Norbrook, as always you proposed sensible steps that can be taken to minimize the horror of gun violence by civilians that seem to plague the U.S. I like your practical approach that focuses on what’s doable while not losing sight of long term actions that must include changing the cultural glorification of guns. Sadly, many purity progressives think that the problem of gun violence can be immediately solved by a stroke of a pen from the President. I don’t know of any other entrenched social and cultural problem that has been solved that way. My hope is that this despicable horror that took the lives of 20 children and their teachers will awaken everyone to focus on long term solutions. It would be a mistake for advocates of gun control to expect a quick and easy victory.

    • Thank you. I don’t for a minute think there’s an “instant solution,” and I most definitely don’t think that my proposals are going to make gun violence go away. They’re just what I think would be things we can get done in today’s climate and that would withstand court challenges. They control some of the more egregious problems.

      The longer-term problem, which cannot be solved legislatively, is cultural. The NRA has done a remarkable job of creating an “us vs. them” mentality, “good vs. evil” climate of fear which does wonders for creating the market, but doesn’t bear a lot of relationship to reality. Getting that changed is not going to be quick or easy.