On Guns – Part 2: A Compromise Most of Us Could Live With?

I recommend that you first see Part I of this series in my previous post

RevolverI personally believe in non-violence, and don’t own any guns at all. I can also see why others feel it is important to have them. I can understand that concerns for security, safety and freedom motivate  both gun rights and gun control proponents. What I can’t understand is that we continue to avoid finding a reasonable solution that is acceptable to most people.

After some thought, I believe that all the interpretations of the second amendment, that I covered in Part I, offer value to Society. So often compromise was intended by our founding fathers, which, I think, is why this amendment was written as it was, including all 3 clauses. Then as now, there were many different groups of stakeholders, who each needed to be satisfied.

Now as was then, compromise can serve us well. Interpretations 1 and 2 while well-argued and well-intentioned, are too extreme for my taste. The 1st, Well Regulated Militia, approach would deny guns to everyone except the military and police. That is very scary to me. The 2nd, Right to Bear Arms Shall Not Be Infringed, position would allow anyone to have anything he was willing and able to buy, borrow or steal. Theoretically, if Bill Gates wanted to buy a nuclear arsenal he could have as many such weapons as he could afford. This interpretation also scares me.

I think a more reasonable approach is to accept that all 3 clauses have importance – that is why they were included in the amendment in the first place. I believe Interpretation 3 ‘The Security of a Free State’ could be the basis of a thoughtful and balanced compromise, and then we could work in the best insights from the other two interpretations.

The need to preserve the Freedom within the Free State makes a sensible basis. The trouble is it is much harder now to accomplish this. Also keep in mind that the present strength of our military is in communications, mobility, coordination and logistics as much as weapons. A bunch of exceptionally-well armed citizens, with the same weapons as the army, could not defeat it because of the difference in skills, support and coordination. It would play out very similarly to the 2 wars against Iraq, where the US army was able to win easily. Now that the military is equipped with Predator drones, they could just take out the thinkers and leaders of any protest long before anyone got armed or organized. (By the way I hear the government is recording the GPS coordinates of everyone’s house in the upcoming census).

So now we have a standing army of such strength that a well armed citizenry is not a sure means to check the government. So what we need is, in addition to gun rights, another additional check on the government and we needed it 9 years ago. What should that be? What would be an effective, politically moderate and non-violent check?  At a minimum, it should involve all Americans owning and practicing with their guns – instead of just the far-right.

Once one allows that there is a public good to be had in keeping the capital P people armed, then you can allow that certain individuals, may be denied guns, by due process of law. For example, I can’t think of any reason why a convicted violent-criminal would need a gun ownership right. Requiring safety precautions for storage of guns and ammunition, certainly does not interfere with the right to check the government, as long as the government has no ability to prevent the gun owner from taking the arms and ammunition out of storage. It certainly should not interfere with pistols, shotguns and hunting rifles and so on that are kept in the home or on the person for purposes of sport or self defense.

Also, requiring large caliber weapons with explosive ordinance and or high rates of fire to be kept only at gun clubs, would certainly go a long way towards satisfying gun control advocates, without taking too much away from everyone else. I wouldn’t imagine most people would want such weapons and ordinance in their house with their family – even though they might want to access it at a shooting range. It might also be reasonable to require gun stores and ranges to provide an extensive anonymous, accredited course of training, safety and ethics to anyone who buys a gun. Such training would also be an effective waiting requirement. Finally it might be useful to revoke operating licenses for those gun ranges and stores who’s guns and/or customers are found to be frequently involved in crimes.

Once one allows for the possibility of safety requirements for guns, then one also allows for ownership of much heavier weapons than current law permits. If one can safely store and use an artillery piece and its ammunition (only) at a properly accredited gun range, then there is no reason it should not be allowed. Perhaps the government should even fund some portion of this and/or donate old surplus equipment.

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