Before reading this essay, please read this preface, which I am writing about nine months later. Of all of the blog entries I've written, this is the only one that I'm not quite certain I can still stand by 100%. A lot of it is okay, but I would definitely change some things and make some revisions if I was to write about this topic today. I'm not quite happy with some of the things I said, and some of the wording. I'll be the first to admit that I am not a gun expert at all. In fact, I know virtually nothing about firearms or the buying process of them. I'm not qualified to write about this topic in any factual sense. Stephen Crowder, a conservative youtuber that I occasionally watch, once said that he believes the gun debate largely takes place between gun owners and the completely uninformed. I think that's probably spot on. I'd wager that many anti-gun activists have never purchased a firearm, and thus know little about them. I just wanted to give my opinions and brainstorm some suggestions about how to decrease gun violence. But I probably made some incorrect assumptions about guns and the buying process. I have had a bit of education since then, and I know I would change some things about this essay if I did it over again. But the thing of it is, I don't really have the time or the motivation to do that right now. Truth be told, I don't really want to write about this topic anymore. It's a conversation that needs to be had, for sure, but it's not something I enjoy thinking or writing about, and I want to move on to other things. I'm just being honest with you--I have not done the homework required to speak comprehensively about guns, and I'm probably not going to. So, make what you will of my opinions and suggestions. Some of them may not work. Some may be crap. That's okay. I'm just brainstorming. I'll repeat the very last thing I said in the debate following this essay--I just want to decrease the severity and frequency of mass shootings. I'll support whatever action(s) actually leads to that outcome.
I'll briefly say what my current ideas are to decrease gun violence: I still believe we should require some type of safety training courses for gun ownership. I believe we should put more money into the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, as well as de-stigmatize the taboos surrounding said illnesses. Lastly, we need to support a reformation of Islam. This is something that isn't talked about nearly enough due to rampant fears of racism and un-political correctness. Jihadism is a massive source of violence in our world, and it won't stop until Islam sees a similar transformation as Christianity in the west, such that Muslims cherry-pick their Qu'rans and don't follow the literal violent stuff. This can only happen from the inside. We need to support moderate Muslim reformers such as Maajid Nawaz who speak out against jihadism. A great place to start would be giving money and resources to the Quilliam Foundation, a group founded by Maajid to help fight Islamic extremism.
Those are my thoughts as of right now. All in all, it's a complex topic, and unlike most of what I write about, I don't feel that confident about it. I'm rather unsure of what the solution should be, and I remain largely agnostic about guns. Just wanted you to know that before going in. I did not want to make any changes/revisions to my main essay because I had a conversation/debate in the comments afterward, so I wanted to preserve the original essay as it was written. Changing it would be disgenuine and unfair to the people who responded to it. So, with that said, on with the show.] END EDIT.
I find it extremely troubling that, in the United States, we can't even have a conversation about guns without a certain section of the population flying off the handle, outraged at the very idea of regulating their guns at all. The US definitely has a unique love affair with guns that I find disturbing. Some people seem to want guns to work like candy bars; go into any store, buy any kind you want, as much as you want, no regulations, no questions asked. Some people seem to think that the second amendment gives them this right. However, the Second Amendment, like all of the Constitution, is, after all, just words written by men trying to come up with the best rules they could at the time. It's not the be-all, end-all, codex of ultimate wisdom. Even if you're a religious believer, I think we can all agree that the Constitution is not the word of any god. It did not come from the heavens on high, and yet, a certain variety of American often seems to talk about the second amendment as if it did. Well, guess what? Times have changed, the world has changed, our species has gained a lot of collective wisdom, and we are, in fact, capable of writing new words that work better today. Perhaps it is time to start thinking of guns a privilege, not an inborn right.
I have given a lot of thought to the problem of gun violence and mass shooting in the US, and the following is my suggestion on what to do about it. This is a three-part plan.
The first part is fairly simple: ban all assault-type weapons, bump stocks, high capacity mags, etc. These things only serve to make offense more effective, which is exactly what we don't want. In the hands of civilians, guns only ever need to be used for defense, and weapons and accessories that make it easier to mow down large crowds are never needed for defense. An assault rifle doesn't help one to take down the bad guy. These types of weapons and accessories have no place in our society. Also, we should raise the minimum age for all guns, across the board, to 21. That's pretty straightforward--I don't believe 18 is mature enough for firearms.
This part is much more robust. Here is what I propose: form a governing body responsible for licensing to purchase firearms. This body will henceforth be known as the Department of Firearms, or the DF. In order to purchase a gun, one would need to obtain a license from the DF. Here is what that process would entail: A firearm license would require the user to pass a comprehensive safety and competence test. This would be administered by an examiner at a shooting range. Before the test can be taken, however, the user must take a training course, also given at the shooting range. This course would be comprehensive, covering firearm safety, usage, and maintenance (after all, a poorly maintained gun is an unsafe gun). After passing the course, the user would then have to log a certain number of hours of shooting at the range. The range would rent guns for this purpose, and shooting would only be done under trained supervision. An examiner or other official would keep track of your hours.
I propose the requirement of logging a certain number of hours spent shooting for the following reason: if one is allowed to buy a gun, then one should know how to use a gun. This is common sense to me. The last thing I want is guns in the hands of people who have never fired guns. This is incredibly dangerous. We know the statistics--people are more likely to shoot friends or family members than the bad guys. Guns in untrained hands are a hazard to everyone around. People should prove they can use a dangerous thing before being allowed to buy one. After all, you cannot buy a car without having proven that you know how to drive one. Now, one might argue that this will only serve to make the bad guys more efficient at killing the rest of us, but I don't think that that will be the effect. Bad guys likely won't go through the proper channels to purchase a gun, anyway. The licensing process would filter them out, and make it extremely difficult for them to acquire guns. The requirement of competence will only serve to make the good guys better at defending themselves, and less likely to shoot friends, family, and bystanders.
So, circling back, the user would need to log their required number of hours at the shooting range, under trained supervision. The number of hours needed is something that I would no nothing about. We'd need to assemble some of the most experienced gun experts around and have them discuss and agree upon the amount of time an average person would need in order to achieve safe competence. The names Jocko Willink and Scott Reitz come to mind. So, after passing the training course and logging the required number of hours, then, and only then, would the user be allowed to apply to take the exam. The exam would test everything they've learned: safety, usage, and maintenance. The test would also serve to filter out the mentally unstable. It would also include an eye exam, just like a driver's license. Upon successful completion of the exam, the user would be given documentation as proof, which they would then take to the DF. There would be a DF facility in every major city. The DF would look very similar to the DMV inside. No firearms would be allowed inside the DF. It would not be a place for shooting--only a department for the licensing. The user would present their test completion documents at the DF. The DF would then run a full background check. If all checks out, then the user would be photographed and given a temporary license. Their permanent license would be mailed to them later. The user could then walk up to any gun counter in any sporting goods store, ask to buy, and the clerk would say "license, please,". They'd hand over the card, and if it's valid, then they'd get to buy their gun.
So, that's it. A rigorous process that would surely be much to the chagrin of many gun enthusiasts, but to that I say: boo hoo. Too bad. With great power comes great responsibility, and guns are a great power, indeed. They should require rigorous licensing standards. It would be a pain, but we put up with stuff like that throughout our lives. Going to the DMV probably makes everyone's top 5 list of the most miserable things to do, right up there with root canal and dinner with the in-laws. But we do it anyway. We put up with it, because we understand that it's necessary. Guns should be no different.
But wait....there's more. The firearm license would have an expiration date. I don't know how long this would be. Again, the experts would have to determine that. Upon expiration, the user would need to renew. In order to do this, they would need to retake the exam at the shooting range. If they pass, they would simply mail in their certificate of completion, and the DF would mail them their new license. If the user fails, they would be required to retake the training course, after which they could apply to take the exam again. If they fail again, they would need to wait a designated period of time (perhaps three months or so) before taking the training course again, and then the exam. After a third fail, they would need to wait a year before being able to try again. I would imagine that ownership of firearms with respect to licensing would work like cars: if you own a gun(s), but you do not possess a valid license, then you can still own the gun, but you may not use it. Just like a car--you can still keep it, but you can't drive it. You wouldn't be allowed to take the gun to a shooting range, or hunting, etc. Now, no one can really stop people from using their guns inside their own house, so even without a valid license, one could probably still keep the gun for home defense. I don't foresee law enforcement kicking in doors to confiscate guns.
I should also note that when taking your own firearm to a range, you'd have to present your license. If you're caught with a gun and an invalid license, you'd be arrested. Also, just like a car, only licensed users would be allowed to fire the gun. I.e. A licensed user cannot bring their son or friend to the range and let them shoot, just as you cannot let your unlicensed friend or son drive your car. Also--and this should go without saying--but if you ever commit a violent crime, even once, you're banned for life from ever obtaining a firearm license. Period.
Here's where things get more theoretical. I propose the creation of a research and development department with a single goal: the invention of a Star Trek phaser. I do not believe this goal to be outside of the realm of possibility. I believe that if we made it priority one, the technology would be only decades away, not centuries. The goal would be to create a laser-beam type weapon that has perfect accuracy, light speed, and longer range than any bullet, but is only capable of stunning. This would be the perfect, non-lethal defense weapon. Small, light, accurate, point it at the target, press the button, and the target instantly goes down, unconscious for several hours, but otherwise unharmed. Licensing would be required for the purchase of phasers as well; even though they would be non-lethal, it would not be a good idea to have instant knock-out power in the wrong hands. Once phaser costs come down a comparable level to guns and have completely permeated the market, then all guns and ammunition would be completely banned except for police and military. Period. Again, I wouldn't foresee law enforcement kicking in doors to confiscate guns at this point, but with all ammunition banned, it wouldn't take too long for guns to become nothing more than clubs and paperweights.
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And that ends my three part plan. Unrealistic? I'm sure. But I strongly believe that this is what we should do, unless I hear a better idea. So far, the extent of our actions to end gun violence has been thoughts and prayers. Yup. That's really done the trick all right. Now, I realize that the third part of my plan would undoubtedly suck for good, responsible gun owners who love hunting as a sport. In response I say: find a new sport. Isn't that a fair price to end gun violence forever? But actually, it doesn't have to come to that, either. You could still hunt. Here's what you do: stun the animal with a phaser, then kill it with a knife. Or use a bow and arrows. Either way would be far more badass than a gun. You'd have to adapt, but those are the breaks. I think the payoff would be worth it. But even if we just implemented parts I and II of my plan, it would improve things a heck of a lot.
It's also worth noting that my plan would be extremely expensive, even without part III. It is, in my opinion, a necessary expense, however. My dad suggested a great way to save money--combine the DMV and the DF. The Department of Motor Vehicles and Firearms. The DMVF Since the DF would only be the licensing department, not involved in actually shooting or testing, the departments needn't be separated. A DMV employee would already be equally qualified to look at a firearm test certificate, take a photo, and mail some stuff. And you'd already have the facilities. No need to construct new buildings. The majority of the cost would come from expanding shooting ranges and hiring and training the staff to teach the training courses and administer the exams and so forth. I do have one idea of where we could get some of this money from. We could....just throwing this out there....we could....I don't know....say....use the money that's going to be spent on this border wall....perhaps? Since....y'know...the border wall is just like flushing money down a giant toilet. Just an idea.
I could add a forth part to the plan, but it wouldn't be as directly related to firearms. I propose increasing funding for the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. This would just be a good thing to do all-around, and could only have benefits, one of them being to reduce the number of firearms in the wrong hands.
Before I close, I feel I should address one last thing--a counter argument I've seen from gun activists. Inb4 "But a knife can kill people. Should we have training courses and licensing to buy a fricking kitchen knife?" This argument is a reductio ad absurdum. Anything can be a weapon. I could stick a pencil in a table and then ram someone's head down onto it, lodging the pencil in their brain and killing them. (That would be quite the magic trick, eh?) Should we require licenses for pencils, then too? We obviously can't, shouldn't, wouldn't, needn't, and won't start regulating anything that could be used to hurt someone. We'd be left with nothing but marshmallows. This is a case of common sense. No, I don't think we should regulate kitchen knives. Yes, I do think we should regulate guns. There's a big difference. A gun is a highly-lethal weapon designed to kill targets swiftly and instantly from extreme distance. Such weapons must be treated differently from a knife or a baseball bat. People will throw statistics around such as the fact that there are more deaths from knives than guns. This seems to me to be dodging the issue. There's more deaths from knives because there are many, many more knives, being used inside homes, in domestic disputes, and the like. There's also more deaths from a lot of things, but again, we can't ban everything but marshmallows. The point is that a lone knifeman can't kill dozens of school students, or movie goers, or concert goers, or night club goers, or church goers. Common sense, dude.
The bottom line is this: I want gun violence to end, but I'm not trying to leave good, responsible people defenseless, I'm not trying to take away your rights, and I realize that outright banning all guns would solve nothing at the moment. The goal of my plan is to allow intelligent, responsible, law-abiding people to buy guns, while making it extremely difficult for bad guys to get through the licensing process. The net result should be to decrease the number of guns in the wrong hands, while leaving the good hands relatively untouched. I think it's time to stop thinking of guns as an inborn right, and start thinking of them as a privilege that must be earned.