So, firearm regulation is a major topic here in the United States as of late, and is a political minefield.
Myself, I feel that additional regulation of the availability of firearms is required to maintain societal stability, but it can be done without banning any classes of firearm – no, not even “assault weapons”, although they’re not even the biggest problem.
I have some ideas for how firearm regulation could work in this country, while still allowing people to own firearms for personal defense, hunting, and other shooting sports. (Yes, I’m aware of the argument that the purpose of the 2nd Amendment is to allow armed insurrection. I’ll simply reply with this video.)
The first thing that needs to be done is to look at what weapons are actually used in firearm violence – knowing what’s actually used when criminals choose to use a firearm to commit a crime is important in determining which weapons are most dangerous. And, the majority of gun violence is committed using handguns, not assault weapons (although little data was available for that report). While the media focuses on “assault weapons” – or, military-inspired semi-automatic rifles – because of their use in mass shootings, they’re nowhere near the biggest problem.
With that in mind, here’s my ideas for a structure for regulation of firearms in the US.
Myself, I would create a multiple tier structure – lower tiers would allow for less rigorous security practices, less intense background checks, and less (or no) mandatory training. My tier structure would be based on capabilities of the weapon moreso than features, to avoid firearm manufacturers working around the laws with different implementations of features. Some capabilities would only be accessible to higher tiers, and some capabilities in combination would bump a weapon up a tier.
The first tier would be basic firearms – the kind of weapons that many gun owners let their children learn on. This tier would include weapons with relatively low muzzle energy (let’s say 1000 J, for the sake of argument – so, pistol calibers are included), relatively low rate of fire (think along the lines of a bolt action firearm – definitely not anything semi-automatic), maximum 5 round magazine, relatively slow rate of reloading (no dropping the magazine and popping another one in, that’s for sure – and, why that wording? En bloc clips, moon clips, etc., etc. all speed up reloading significantly), and relatively large size (rifles and shotguns, essentially). This tier would simply require a background check, to ensure that the purchaser had not been convicted of a felony.
The second tier would allow two of the following features: Medium muzzle energy (5000 J, maybe? Rather high, but for hunting and home defense purposes, you’d want more energy), rate of fire typical of a semi-automatic firearm, maximum 10 round magazine (still not quickly reloadable), and medium size (not sure where to draw this line, as it kinda lands right in the middle of SBR/SBS territory. Maybe draw the line at large (not easily concealed) pistols, or remove the SBR/SBS categories). Requirements would be a felony and mental health background check and mandatory firearms training. Weapons with more than 2 of those features would be promoted to the third tier.
The third tier would be the most heavily restricted tier (well, below things like fully automatic weapons and destructive devices, anyway). High muzzle energy (not sure where to set this – 15,000-20,000 J is the ballpark, it’s basically deciding whether .50 BMG is OK or not, and I’m inclined to allow it in this class, because it’s WAY too expensive to use in crime), high ammunition capacity and/or quick reloading (restrictions on high capacity magazines are pointless when you can drop the magazine and swap in another one quickly, which is why that’s in this category), and compact size would be features that would push a weapon into this tier. Requirements for this tier would be significantly more strict – extensive background checks (felony, mental health, and maybe even misdemeanor in the past 5 years), extensive mandatory training on the particular combination of features of the firearm in question (maybe using an endorsement system for each feature), and analysis of storage practices (which could be bypassed by storing the weapon with a firearms club or shooting range that was already certified as a safe storage location), which if the weapon is stored at home, would include background checks of all residents of the home. I’m inclined to also require registration of individual weapons for this tier.
Another thing to consider is mandatory firearm insurance – own a firearm, carry insurance on it against its theft and use in a crime. Mandatory insurance has been validated by the Supreme Court (that’s another topic, though, that I think I covered in the past), so please don’t use the “but it’s a second amendment right, they can’t make me buy insurance to exercise it” argument.
I’ll note that this would take a very long time to effectively implement – right now, it’d be insane to try to restrict handguns to that extent, for instance. But, I feel that we should move in that direction, to ensure that weapons don’t fall into the wrong hands. (And, many of the weapons used in crime are stolen, so controlling the proliferation and security of highly dangerous weapons is very useful for reducing gun violence.) It’ll need to be implemented on the supply side first – restrictions on purchasing new weapons unless you meet certain requirements appropriate to the weapon, for instance, but buying used weapons would be treated as it is today – and gradually phased in. A buyback program would be handy, too.
Oh, and a couple other points. You’ll notice how I mentioned mental health background checks. Gun control isn’t the whole answer, either – mental health treatment is something that the US sucks at big time. We really, REALLY need to strengthen that (as well as physical health treatment, for that matter). And, a significant portion of gun violence in the US (and knife violence in the UK, before someone brings that up – and knife violence is far less deadly than gun violence) is partially due to the war on drugs, and massive disparities in wealth – fix those problems, and I think we’ll have a much better place to live.