Another day, another mass shooting. Depending upon when you read this, you’ll likely be aware of a recent shooting. As of the writing of this opinion 2829 persons have been murdered in 543 mass shootings. According to the database published by USA Today, a mass shooting is defined as the killing of four or more persons (excluding the killer) within a 24 hour period with any weapon Mass killing database: Revealing trends, details and anguish of every US event since 2006
What is the response? The Left, currently led by Joe Biden wants to ban “assault rifles,” and limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds on pistols. The Right upholds to the 2nd Amendment, or the interpretation of it, that all guns should be legal and accessible to law abiding citizens. The Left blames guns. The Right blames criminals who wield them. Is there a solution? I have an idea, but it will likely make neither side happy.
Guns don’t commit murder on their own. A killer does. In order to do this, the killer must obtain a gun (or other weapon). Thus, it makes sense that a sane society find ways to limit the availability of weapons to those who are most likely to commit violence. There are laws currently that, if properly enforced, will do exactly that. However, a criminal—by definition— doesn’t obey laws. So, what do we do? Wring our hands? Ban all guns? Before I offer my solution, let me ask a question. How many mass shootings have been committed by someone wielding a fully automatic machine gun? Answer: none. Why? A law-abiding citizen may legally own a machine gun, but it requires a special permit, and they are not readily available. Can you imagine the body count if a mass shooter used a fully automatic weapon?
The largest victim count in a mass shooting is 60 dead and 867 injured. This was perpetrated by Stephen Paddock from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. He used semi-automatic AR-15 rifles equipped with “bump stocks.” A bump stock permits rapid fire, similar to the full auto function available on the military M-16. This resulted in a ban on bump stocks by the US Department of Justice. It is clear that higher capacity magazines and guns that may be fired rapidly permit mass shooters to kill more people.
So, here’s my solution. This will not stop people from killing, but it will limit who has access to firearms. The 2nd Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear arms, but that doesn’t mean without limit or qualification. For example, it is illegal for a felon to own a firearm. We must find a way to remove guns from the hands of criminals, those with a history of violence and the mentally unstable. How? I propose a federal law that requires a citizen to obtain a license to own and carry any firearm. I am thinking of the Texas License to Carry permit as a model for this. In order to get an LTC in Texas, a law abiding citizen must take a class, qualify on the range with the pistol they intend to carry, get a background check, and be fingerprinted. If pulled over by police, the LTC holder should identify himself/herself by presenting both driver’s license and LTC permit (indicating where their firearm is located in the vehicle).
There are too many gun owners who have limited or no training and experience with their firearm. And watching John Wick movies or playing first person shooter video games doesn’t count. There should be a basic license that includes what the Texas LTC requires, and adds a basic psychological test. Then you must qualify with the firearm you intend to buy. If you want to an AR-15, then you must have the basic license and qualify with one on the range. You want a shotgun, hunting rifle or pistol? Qualify on the range with one. If you have no experience with that firearm, then take a class prior to qualification.
You have to have a driver’s license. If you want to ride a motorcycle, then you have to qualify. If you want to drive a bus, or an 18 wheeler, then you have to qualify. You have to have a pilot’s license to fly. It stands to reason that there be a license to own and operate a firearm.
In the same way that we license the availability of fully automatic weapons, we must with all guns. This will give police a tool to remove firearms from the hands of those who refuse or don’t qualify to own them. Further, it will ensure that those who are licensed are trained to use their firearms. If someone is licensed to own, then they are automatically licensed to carry, in any state. To stop an active shooter requires a good guy with a gun, who is trained and unafraid to use it. Ideally, that is law enforcement. However, too many times there is no LEO there to do the job.
Now, I understand the arguments from the Right in opposition to licensure. It permits the government to limit or remove firearms from citizens. In a situation where the government seeks to control citizens they will disarm them first. The reality is, we are in danger of that happening right now because of the gross misuse of firearms. All the AR-15s in America will not stop a military state from forcibly taking the guns of citizens. Elect people to office who respect the rights of citizens.
There is a way to help ensure that the federal (or state or local) government doesn’t abuse the licensing of firearms. Privatize training and qualification. There are experienced and well trained persons who could become licensed instructors. Again, I am thinking of the Texas model, wherein private citizens and organizations run the classes and range qualification. Further, the Second Amendment itself ensures that firearms may not be prohibited to law abiding citizens.
The days of the wild west are long gone. There was a time when fathers taught their sons and daughters how to shoot. Some schools even taught gun safety. Now? Go buy a gun at Wal-Mart and have at it. The last time I went to our local indoor gun range I determined I wouldn’t return. It seemed unsafe due to the recklessness of other shooters. We must take steps to change gun culture in our country. Guns are not toys. They must be respected as tools. They are potentially dangerous, but they are necessary in a world where there are bad people.