Fixing Our Nightmarish Web Of Federal Gun Laws
One of the most infuriating things about our common desire to reduce the criminal use of firearms in the United States is that the majority of Americans have fundamentally different views on how to address the problem than the radical fringe of the gun control movement.
Most law-abiding American citizens would like to ensure that the following groups are denied access to firearms as much as is practically possible without infringing upon the rights of the average law-abiding citizen:
- violent felons/drug traffickers/gang members/terrorists (professional bad guys)
- domestic abusers, substance abusers, the dangerously mentally incompetent (those with impulse control/competency issues)
- unsupervised children
The problem with crafting legislation that reasonably addresses firearms access control is a toxic environment of mistrust created almost entirely by gun prohibitionists.
Groups such as the Brady Campaign, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, Everytown For Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action—and others that slip my mind—have a well-documented, long-term goal of citizen disarmament and the repeal of the Second Amendment.
Individuals in these disarmament groups fear firearms on a visceral level both personally and politically, and do not believe that the individual citizen should have access to them, for any reason.
These groups have long pursued a legislative “anaconda” strategy, using a series of ever-tightening laws to slowly choke the natural human right to bear arms out of existence by making it difficult to legally own or practically carry and use firearms.
Every time they pass a law restricting access, they insist that just one or two more laws will fix the problem. How many times have you heard this in your lifetime? One dozen? Two dozen times?
Making this horrific package even worse, having “othered” all those who refuse to disagree with them as something less than decent people. Simultaneously, they caricature gun owners as sexually inadequate, inherently violent, indifferent to human suffering, and driven by greed and fear.
These prohibitionist groups are perfectly comfortable with an “ends justify the means” approach to their goal, and routinely stoop to deception and outright fraud to support their position. Some of the groups, such as CSGV and Moms Demand Action/Everytown, are so blatant in their outright lies that even their ideological allies in many media outlets feel compelled to debunk their faked “studies” and “reports” on a regular basis.
All of these character flaws inherent to the radicals in the gun control movement have made it very difficult for the rest of us to address limiting access to firearms to criminals, because gun control cultists attempt to hijack any and all legislation to attempt to expand reasonable attempts to disarm law-abiding citizens as well.
As a culture, we’ve learned not to trust gun prohibitionists for the simple reason that they are untrustworthy. They are bad actors, with clear motives.
If we remove that fringe element from the equation—which is very difficult, considering the way they have infiltrated the media and the upper echelons of the Democrat Party—we might be able to remove the ineffective patchwork they’ve created to formulate a uniform, intelligent and rational federal law that ensure lawful citizens can obtain access to any firearm that strikes their fancy in a logical, reasonable, and timely manner, while disarming those segments of the population that we most agree should not have firearms as much as any law can dissuade those determined to be criminals.
Unfortunately, we can’t have that conversation because the radicals refuse to even consider a unified, coherent rational law.
Instead, they insist on attempting to claim that certain firearms are “too ______” for law-abiding citizens to own, or to carry to _____ place.
When you hear this sort of talk, know that you aren’t listening to a person focusing on reducing access to those people who should be prohibited from having firearms. They are specifically focused on telling you which liberties they would deny law-abiding people.
So how do you craft legislation to protect the natural human right to bear arms for self-defense of the person and of the free state, that simultaneously makes it more difficult for prohibited persons? How do we go around these prohibitionist groups?
I wish I had a simple answer, but if there was a simple answer, I suspect that it would have been offered long ago.
The best I can offer is a dreaded “compromise.”
Yes, I know that I just used the “c-word” so often used by gun control cultists when they desire to infringe upon natural human rights in their long march towards gnu prohibition, while giving up nothing in return. I mean actual compromise, which even my friend in the “no compromise” gun lobby would probably support. Maybe.
So here is my simplified, idealistic, broad-brush idea, which I will encourage you to pick it apart, and offer constructive criticism.
Start With A Clean Slate
Using the theory that “that which governs best is that which governs least,” and attempting to comply with spirit behind and language of the Second Amendment, I would propose that the first step to fixing our problem is the repeal of all prior federal firearms laws and regulations as the first part of firearms law reform.
We’re currently saddled with a patchwork of executive orders, legislation, and agency-level regulations that is often contradictory. Let’s agree that we cannot hope to have a uniform, easily applied, easily understood law unless we start from zero. We have to agree to wipe the slate clean to push forward.
Focus On Identifying “Prohibited Persons”
As we noted previously, prohibitionist groups focus on the “what,” “where,” and “when” in their attempts to undermine the basic human right to armed self-defense. That approach is based on hoping to nickel-and-dime your liberties away.
Instead, we need to recognize that all citizens are created equal in the eyes of the law, and that the basic human right to armed self-defense is the most cherished of all rights. After all, if you cannot defend your life, no other rights matter.
We must take the default view that this most basic right is only to be revoked due to either disqualifying behavior or inherent defects. Prohibited persons would be loosely defined as:
- violent felons/drug traffickers/gang members/terrorists (professional bad guys)
- domestic abusers, the dangerously mentally incompetent, (those with impulse control/competency issues)
- unsupervised children
You’ll note that the examples we’ve used of prohibited persons are based in disqualifying behavior (violent felons/drug traffickers/gang members/terrorists/domestic abusers) or inherent defects (the dangerously mentally ill, really stupid people).
Unsupervised children are a special case. The have done nothing wrong, but lack the maturity and experience to exercise their rights fully. I’ll leave it to others to work out this detail.
Provide Broad Access, To The Well-Regulated, Without Infringement
One of the more curious aspects of the Second Amendment is that there is some sort of an ideological barrier that seems to prevent a lot of people from being able to read and understand all of it at once.
It doesn’t seem that hard, but they keep screwing this up.
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
The prohibitionists seize on the “well-regulated militia” clause (and get its meaning consistently wrong), while many gun rights supporters get hung up on “shall not be infringed” (ignoring what the Founders meant by “well-regulated”).
Few seem to be willing to think about the Second Amendment as a whole, as it was intended. Let’s provide that much needed context.
Our Founding Fathers was an exceptionally well-educated group of men, with a far better grasp of world history and civics than almost any of us alive today. They’d just emerged as one of the victors of a world war against a tyrannical British Empire, and were forming a nation based on them revolutionary ideas.
One of those ideas seen nowhere else in the world is that they wanted to ensure that the citizens of this new nation would always retain access to arms and accouterments of contemporary military utility, and that they would practice and maintain proficiency with the those arms and be able to employ them tactically as militia when called upon to serve. They wanted and needed the citizens of this new Republic to be able to defend themselves against enemies foreign or domestic.
In their day and age, that meant proficiency in loading, aiming, and firing rifles and muskets for the majority, while others also developed proficiency with handguns and edged weapons still in fashion. They would drill in small unit tactics as well. When basic marksmanship training and basic tactics meshed together to make them fighting men, they were “well-regulated,” a phrase of the time that meant “in proper working order.” A “well-regulated militia” is one that was armed and trained to fight, and had nothing at all to do with “regulations” in terms of denying ownership, which would have contradicted the entirety of the rest of the Second Amendment.
I provided all that historical context to note that the Founders did not want unfettered access to arms for any nimrod without purpose, reason, or training. The Second Amendment has a purpose behind it, the security of a free State. It isn’t about Cletus blowing up 400 lbs of binary explosives with a .50 BMG just for laughs.
Towards that end, all adults who are not “prohibited persons” classified above should have access to a wide range of modern firearms and accouterments, without restrictions on action type, barrel length, magazine capacity, sighting systems, or restrictions on suppressors, once they have become “well-regulated” in terms of training and proficiency as the Founders intended.
So how would we write laws to deal with the historical reality of what our Founding Fathers intended and desired, meshing them with modern firearms technology?
I’m going to get pushback from both sides on this, but I’m going to suggest that my understanding of the founder’s intent is that they would probably be content with a multi-tiered approach, allowing nearly unfettered access to basic firearms for any non-prohibited adult, and access to true modern military weapons with proof of militia training on the more advanced small-arms weapon systems modern militia would use.
If you want a Glock semi-automatic pistol, short-barrel shotgun, or short-barrel rifle with a suppressor for home and community defense, it should be as simple as passing a background check to bring one home that day. If you want a machine gun, you should be able to demonstrate that you have passed proficiency tests and can use them in the militia context before you can take them home.
For those of you who are going to ask, I don’t think the Founders would require permits for concealed or open-carried weapons either as a federal matter. I think they’d be appalled that we’ve bogged down with reciprocity, when the majority rather clearly seem to be of the opinion that they should be able to carry their firearms wherever they decided to go.
Build A Better Prohibited Persons Check System
One of the biggest contemporary Second Amendment battles is over so-called “universal background checks.” Prohibitionists would like to implement a nationwide system that would record and log every firearms transfer, from dealer to end user, and among end users. They have legislated this in such a way as to be able to track individual firearms to individual users, which is a form of individual gun/owner tracking and de facto registration without calling it such.
They would like to be able to have such systems in place so that when they impose additional restrictions upon certain kinds of firearms they will know exactly who to throw in jail if people refuse to turn them over. They began pushing this gun/owner tracking scheme after imposing gun registration requirements in various states, then realizing that 90-percent or more of citizens were refusing it register the newly-banned guns.
We neither want nor need this gun/owner tracking and registration scheme they call “universal background checks.”
What this nation needs is a robust but simple prohibited persons check system that allows anyone to access it for commercial and private firearms transfers.
Currently, people hoping to buy firearms from a gun dealer much provide a photo ID and fill out a ATF Form 4473, then undergo a NICS background check on that data. Private sales have no requirements at all, because private citizens are not allowed to submit data to NICS to see if the buyer is a prohibited person. How asinine is that?
The “universal background checks” pushed into law in several states merely aggravates the issue, and serves to criminalize private transfers if they aren’t forced to go through a FFL. People simply ignore this, as it is a laughably unenforceable system.
One way to do a much better job of ensuring more people conduct background checks is to make it open and easy to use for everyone.
I’ll let technology folks work on how that would be implemented, but the it is clear that opening up NICS (or its successor) to everyone to conduct on their own is going to result in it being used more. Is it a perfect system? Of course not.
But adults realize that there are no perfect systems, and they don’t let pursuit of the perfect impede the good. Something as simple as a transfer app that let’s a seller scan the buyer’s government-issued photo ID would go a long way towards convincing people to check for prohibited persons.
Threats simply don’t work. If they did, 95% of New Yorkers wouldn’t have ignored the “assault weapons” registration requirement of the NY SAFE Act last year.
Provide And Enforce Stiff Mandatory Sentences for Weapon Crimes
Despite all the executive orders, laws, and regulations on the books, federal gun crimes are almost never prosecuted. The Department of Justice must be held to account when prohibited persons engage in gun crimes. Prosecutorial discretion needs to be closely scrutinized, federal gun changes must be brought when applicable, and they must be prosecuted with vigor, and with harsh penalties.
A significant number of violent crimes involving weapons are committed by prohibited persons, often against other prohibited persons. Mandatory prosecutions and mandatory sentences for prohibited persons might require us to build more prisons, but it would also quickly incarcerate the relatively small number of serial criminals who commit the majority of violent crime.
That is, after all, our goal, isn’t it?
We want a nation where law-abiding, well-regulated citizens may bear arms as the Founders intended them to bear arms for the security of the free State without infringement, where those who violate that security know that they will face swift and certain justice for their transgressions.
It all makes perfect sense to me.
Tell me where I’m wrong.