After any type of shooting, it has become inevitable that the topic of guns and the law comes up. I have purposefully waiting to try and say anything in the hopes that the standard accusations died down a little bit before saying anything else. I have written before about guns here and here.
Let me be clear about a few things upfront. If you believe that there should be no guns in the hands of private citizens, then you will not like this. If you believe that the second amendment says something different that the SCOTUS has ruled, there will not be much here for you, but there is a little for you. If you believe that the NRA is evil, then this is not really for you either. If you think that it is perfectly fine for fully automatic weapons to be sold to individuals, this is not for you. If you think that there should be no gun laws whatsoever, this is not for you either. If you want to be a part of the actual conversation about what can be reasonably done, this might be for you to at least consider.
What we have seen is a lot of conversation about guns and violence without a whole lot of substance. The government has seemingly taken the lead in this. A lot of phrases such as the all to popular “mass shooting” have been tossed about. The problem is that many of these sound bites don’t actually have a set definition, so they are of limited usefulness and just confuse the issue more. (I give you this as an example) I encourage anyone reading this to look at the actual gun statistics provided by the FBI as a basis for opinions. It is vital that we actually understand what we are talking about and what the actual data is. If you do not know a lot about guns, I encourage you to do some research or to actually talk to people you know who do. It is equally vital that we understand what we are talking about. Part of our problem right now is that there are far to many people trying to craft legislation around firearms that don’t know much about firearms and seem to be unwilling to find out much about them. None of the recently proposed legislation would have actually prevented the crime that inspired it. We have seen this before when other shootings have occurred. With the most recent shooting, even the Clinton era ban on, so called, assault weapons would not have prevented the shooting.
So, some general thoughts. I do oppose using either the no fly list or the terrorist watch list as a basis for refusing the purchase of a firearm. The reason is that said lists are secret, there is no definition of what actually can get you put on it, there is no effective way of challenging the list, etc. I do like a proposal that has come forward where a person on the watch list would be refused a firearm temporarily and then a hearing would be held within a set time frame to determine if denial of firearm purchase was to be permanent. This seems to be consistent with our ideas and notions of due process. The burden of proof is on the accusation, as it should be. It is a bit of an annoyance if it were to happen to you, but in a world where someone can report you for a Facebook post and have you put on a terror watch list (yes, this really can happen) it seems reasonable to have due process built into the legislation. There is also the reality that gun ownership is a right. It can be limited within certain boundaries, but a right none the less. It was brought up, correctly, that it is not an inalienable right however, and that our constitution is set up top be amended. While I admit that it would take a lot of convincing for me to support an amendment that repealed or substantially altered the second, I do think it is a reasonable part of the conversation. If that is the direction the nation chooses to go, so be it.
Some states have chosen to go the route of limiting the capacity of the magazine for weapons. I am not categorically opposed to this, but I also do not find it terribly effective. The amount of time that it takes to reload a magazine in a semiautomatic rifle is very small. We are talking a few seconds. This is of course when done by a moderately skilled user, but if we look at the large scale shootings we have experienced, the users are all, at the very least, moderately skilled. I do not know how much difference a few seconds makes in a situation like we are speaking of, but perhaps it would. It seems to me that this is an example of those not understanding firearms crafting a law that seems good, but has little practical effect. That said, I have no issue with it. An interesting idea was brought up about making the rifles more difficult to reload. I am not sure how that would be accomplished (though I am confident it could be), and I am unsure what would then be done about the rifles in circulation, but it is an interesting idea that could, when combined with a smaller clip size, say 10 rounds, limit the ability of a shooter to inflict large numbers of casualties while retaining the ability for self defense. It is an idea worth discussing.
I support increased funding for our background check system. Currently, the system can not process the requests that it receives. Because of this, I do not support expanding background checks as it would not do anything to help anyway. Let’s get what we have working properly before we burden it even further. I do support all firearms transactions to go through a licensed dealer however, even personal sales. This could be accomplished easily enough by dealers charging a small fee for brokering the sale. I also support ending firearms as “gifts”. Again, give the “gift” to the person that you chose, then make it legal by going to the dealer and selling it to who you wish for a penny, brokered by the dealer. It is an inconvenience and burden on legal gun owners. It also seems reasonable. This closes the gun show loophole that some are worried about, and also eliminates the straw purchases that some are worried about. (Straw purchasing is already federally illegal, but that is another story.) This uses the mechanisms already in place and can be handled with the increased funding mentioned earlier. This is a bit different than something I had suggested earlier, but accomplishes the same thing while using the system already in place.
I have written earlier about believing that a mandatory training session be completed within a short time of handgun purchases at the very least, and probably all gun purchases. This can be offered privately, have some basic requirements (care and cleaning, safety, basic qualification with the weapon, and a primer on the laws of your state), and seems again a reasonable accommodation. People with guns do not concern me. People with guns who do not know how to use them do.
I still support reinstituting the assault weapons ban with some modification. Eliminate specific weapons from the list. It is ineffective. We should also really eliminate things like grenade launcher or bayonet mounts. I am ok with eliminating folding/telescoping stocks. Yes, I find them handy. Yes, I realize it makes a weapon more concealable. This seems a reasonable compromise as there is no real purpose to a folding stock that can not be easily overcome.
All of this addresses the hype of the moment. According to those FBI statistics I mentioned earlier, shotguns actually killed more people than rifles. No one is rushing to pass new laws there. We basically ignore violence in the inner city where the vast majority of gun deaths occur. There is a lot that we are ignoring when we get caught up in the hype of a thing. I do hope someday that we can actually try to address what the major cause of gun violence is, but until then, I guess the hype will have to do.