I saw yet another letter in the Los Alamos Daily Post where it looks like folks are still shouting past each other. So here goes. First, some caveats.
1. I don’t like the idea of piling more laws on people, but gun culture has changed. More households owned guns when I was young, but we didn’t have this “me too” movement of mass shootings. Plus, to borrow an analysis from Wake Forest University’s David Yamane, Gun Culture 1.0 was about gunsport and hunting. Gun Culture 2.0 is about self defense, i.e., shooting people. I think that transition has encouraged a violent outlook. So, if we can’t figure out how to keep people from going off the rails in today’s culture, we need to interdict them, so they derail without taking out their schools, churches, or government buildings.
Hence the need for ERPOs and watching for the Deadly Signs of Becoming Armed and Stupid.
2. The culture driving shootings is controlled by social mores (such as social media), drug violence, poverty driven crime, domestic violence, and suicidal urges in a nation where Social Darwinism has replaced social cohesion. The transfer of firearms from the legitimate to the illegitimate market, where all of the above motives result in their misuse, is inevitable in a nation with 1.2 guns for every person, but we need to make it harder to transition to that illegitimate market.
3. Today’s polarizing politics encourages us to see each other as not belonging to the same culture, to say nothing of the same nation. We stop taking each other’s advice and instead, bury ourselves in our political bubbles. That really explains a lot about what currently amounts to the gun non-debate. To say it’s not about the guns but about the people has a lot of truth to it, but clever sayings don’t solve the
problem. I think educational and social services, drug law reform, and economic justice are far more important than gun control but the left refuses to relent on gun control and the right has abandoned the social safety net. What can possibly go wrong?
Now, on to what was sent to the Santa Fe New Mexican.
To reduce gun violence, we need to find consensus solutions. Consensus is hard on such a polarized topic. Some suggestions follow.
Stop trying to ban guns. Bans on so-called assault rifles fly in the face of a half century of legal ownership. Millions are out there but they make up a very minor portion of shootings. The lion’s share of shootings, including multiple shootings, are committed with handguns.
“Ars” are responsible for some high-profile carnage, but we can increase public safety well short of a ban.
We can require higher standards of ownership for modern, military style rifles or concealable handguns that put the public at greater risk. This could be done through progressive licensing and screening, as we presently do for automatic weapons or to screen motorists before letting them hop from a subcompact car to behind the wheel of a Mack Truck.
Rules should be clear, fair and not subject to arbitrary and capricious subjective interpretations. A lower bar should be set for owning low capacity firearms or handguns more at home in the woods. Storage requirements should reflect risk, such as if children are in a home.
Once we decide on categories of firearms with respect to risk, we can issue firearm owners ID cards (FOID) with a nationally-agreed on set of criteria for reciprocity. Each gun owner would have an ID card, similar to a driver’s license, that would allow the person to own and carry some or all categories of guns, openly or concealed, depending on the permit.
Of course, this means red and blue states have to compromise on the reciprocity criteria but in return, we could stop worrying about gun running between states with different levels of restrictions.
In such a system, private sales would be done by entering data into a computerized National Instant Background Check-like system with FOID card numbers, PINs, a gun serial number and gun description. An exchange could be approved remotely between previously cleared people based on their level of screening for the class of weapon exchanged.
Finally, stop moving the goalposts. The biggest, and often enough, legitimate fear that gun owners have is that the rules are too fluid and often the changes can be bewilderingly stupid. Want examples? Start with California or New Jersey, states that change their gun laws faster than most of us change our socks.
The Second Amendment provides an individual right for a public purpose, i.e., that “the people” could be called to arms in order to defend the nation and to prevent the unwarranted amassing of too much coercive power by government. The Supreme Court’s Heller decision explicitly recognized in the 2A an individual right to have a functional weapon for personal self-defense. The historical reasoning behind the 2A implies some standards need to be met among the people and imposes limitations on the power of government to regulate arms. There is a lot of middle ground that can be explored if we stop demanding all or nothing solutions.