So this post is sure to get lots of agreement from both sides. Nothing brings together America like their unwillingness to talk rationally about guns. But that doesn’t mean we couldn’t implement a reasonable and sane gun policy if we took the politics out of it. As with so many public policy issues these days, the solutions are far easier than the politics.
Let’s start off with a few assumptions. First, there is a right to bear arms and that should be respected whenever reasonable. Second, reasonable restrictions can and should be placed on gun ownership. If you disagree with either one of these points then save yourself the trouble of reading this and go find an ideologue website to fight the good fight.
So what do I mean by reasonable restrictions? Well restrictions that make it so things like Straw Purchases become extremely risky for the seller. Restrictions that actually make gross negligence with handling and storing weapons a felony crime that can lead to real jail time.
On the other hand, our guns laws need to be more consistent. I think it is unfair that a law abiding citizen who went through the often difficult process of getting a permit to legally own a firearm could be arrested if he dares bring the firearm across a state border. That is unfair to legitimate gun owners.
So what can be done?
First thing we need to do is pass universal background checks. Without that our gun laws are mostly a waste of time. What are universal background checks? Current law requires that any person who is a registered gun dealer MUST do a federal firearm law(FFL) background check on the buyer to make sure they aren’t on the FBI’s naughty list. However this only applies to licensed gun dealers. It does not deal with private sales. So if you are Joe Gangbanger with a bunch of prior convictions you can’t directly buy a gun at a gun shop but you can go find someone who has no felony convictions and have them buy the guns for you. What makes the problem of straw purchasers even worse is that the Feds usually can’t do anything about it. So unless we can create enforceable laws that punish straw purchases, background checksdon’t achieve much.
Of course, as with all public policy, we need to create the laws in a way that makes sense. We would need to make it reasonable for people to perform the background checks. Selling a weapon to a direct family member may not require a background check, although if the family member is a known criminal that would make the seller criminally culpable still. Some other caveats may be necessary but they should be limited in scope or they will create loopholes for criminals.
Now when it comes to respecting the rights of valid gun owners, we do need to do something to respect their right to cross borders with a firearm. This issue commonly referred to as reciprocation among gun rights folks as they want states to respect the rights of other states when it comes to gun laws. That is never going to happen the way they would like. The permissive states will do it but the restrictive states never will.
So what we need to do is create a voluntary federal licensing program in which a person can get a federal firearm license that would allow that person to carry a firearm into any state. This program essentially already exists but it very limited as to who can get such license. I propose that we expand it to anyone who does not violate FFL rules and will also comply with specific requirements such as submitting serial numbers of the firearms they wish to carry across state lines, and recertifying their license every few years. This license would not affect state laws in any way except by allowing legal gun owners to carry the licensed firearm(s). The specific details of what would be required to get such a license can be discussed and would need to be comprehensive but if you are person that is hindered by each state law being restrictive this is a path you could do down.
Lastly, implement laws for negligent handling and storage of firearms. If you have children in your house and you have an unsecured weapon that leads to a death, you can be held criminally responsible. If your weapon is used in a crime and you have no evidence of a sale of that weapon or a police report that the weapon was stolen, you can be held criminally responsible for any crimes used for that weapon.
That’s it. No laws regarding assault rifles or ammo types or magazine sizes. Unless we plan to outlaw semi-automatic weapons those discussions are all completely pointless. So there is no reason to debate these topics.