There’s been a lot of threads here on gun control, and most have degenerated into emotional, ideological mudslinging.
Here’s a proposal for gun control that tries to meet two needs: to radically reduce gun violence, and to permit Americans to own any firearms they want to.
My premise is that the problem is not gun ownership, it’s that there’s a large number of illegal and poorly secured firearms.
So, imagine the following legislation:
[li]All previous gun control legislation is now void.[/li][li]Any American citizen may own any firearm, up to and including automatic weapons.[/li][li]The sale of all firearms will be subject to the following conditions:[/li][list=1]
[li]All guns manufactured or imported in the U.S. will be “fingerprinted” - all conceivable identifying signatures of the firearm will be submitted to an agency of the federal government, to be kept on file until the gun is demonstrably destroyed, and available to all law enforcement agencies for comparison.[/li][li]The sale of firearms will be by licenced dealers only, who will be responsible for recording and reporting the sale to the above agency. The sale of personal firearms must be brokered through a licenced dealer.[/li][li]When purchasing guns, purchasers will be required to present, for the record, some form of acceptable I.D. - social security number, drivers licence, etc. - which must be verified immediately with the issuing agency (who would be set up to provide immediate checks). If the check for valid identification fails or is unavailable, no gun sale.[/li][/list=1]
[li]Possession of an unregistered gun is a felony punishable by life in prison.[/li][li]Failure to produce to any lawful authority, in a reasonable amount of time (like, a few hours), a registered weapon or identification demonstrating legal ownership of a firearm, is a felony punishable by life in prison.[/li][li]Failure to immediately report loss of a firearm, by theft or otherwise, is a felony punishable by life in prison.[/li][li]Unregistered sales of firearms is a felony punishable by life in prison.[/li][li]Use of a registered firearm in a crime subjects the perpetrator to a sentence multiplier of 2; use of an unregistered firearm in a crime subjects the perpetrator to a sentence multiplier of 4.[/li][li]No grandfathering of current ownership is permitted; current gun owners may register their guns appropriately, turn them over to authorities for destruction, or face the above penalties.[/li][li]Any criminal use of a firearm subjects the registered owner of that firearm to liability for the crime when the firearm is still under the control of the registered owner. In other words, if your kid takes your gun to school and blows away another kid, you’re liable for failing to take sufficient precautions in securing your gun. You can leave it loaded on the coffee table, but you’re running a hell of a risk in doing so.[/li][li]A class of citizens will be legally defined to be ineligible for gun ownership: felons, the mentally unstable, the mentally retarded, etc.[/li][li]No other gun control legislation is permitted.[/li][/list=1]
In this computerized day and age, the registration of firearms in this fashion could be instantaneous and present no practical barrier at all to obtaining a firearm. The point of this approach would be to control the traffic in firearms, rather than the firearms themselves.
In other words, people who want to own guns for legal purposes - hunting, personal defense, collecting - can obtain as many guns of any type as they want, as easily as going into a gun shop and showing a driver’s licence. On the other hand, obtaining a firearm for illegal purposes will be maximally difficult - untraceable guns will be almost impossible to obtain, or at least incredibly expensive given the hoops one would have to go through to “launder” a gun, and use of a firearm for illegal purposes will be be especially onerous if one gets caught. Also, gun owners would be responsible for securing their weapons properly, not by legislation, but by threat of responsibility for the consequences of failing to do so.
This wouldn’t prevent a Columbine High School; then again, school shootings of that type being statistically rarer than getting hit by lightning, that’s not the point. The point is to reduce gun violence in ordinary crimes and to make gun owners face the responsibility of owning a deadly weapon. Neither would it prevent militias from gathering and training if they wanted to.
No, guns wouldn’t disappear, and neither would gun crime. I believe, however, that the pool of illegal firearms would shrink over time, and as that pool shrank, so would gun violence. Add to that the severe criminalization of gun crimes, and it wouldn’t be worth it. Meanwhile, gun owners can swim in a pool of firearms, if they so desire.
Is this a compromise both sides can live with? Or that neither side can live with?