but a reader for whom I have a lot of respect writes in response to my posts on gun culture post-Newtown and I thought it fair to give him a soapbox:
I’ve really appreciated reading your posts on guns and violence recently. Like everyone, I’m sick beyond describing at these events. I think your posts are asking good, fundamental questions that should be reexamined continuously. Back in the late 80s / early 90s, Newseek did a special on gun control. (For those who are young, this was back in the day when news magazines like Newsweek were important. Now, I’m happy to say, fewer Americans get their news from Newsweek than from any other source). Anyhow, in the special issue Newsweek’s editorial board proclaimed that the time for debating gun control had ended. I hate that. The time for debate never ends, nor should it. As a lifelong gun owner, contributor to NRA-ILA, father of a 10-year-old who attends public schools, police officer, prosecuting attorney, and defense counsel, I thought I’d offer some measures which I’d be happy to discuss (recognizing this is a state-by-state issue):
I don’t see why people with criminal records should be allowed to own guns. Presently, anyone with a felony conviction who possesses a firearm is subject to a mandatory 10-year sentence for a violation of 18 U.S.C 922. That statute was amended back in the 1990s to include people with misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence. (Oddly enough, prosecutions for those crimes plummet under anti-gun administrations like the Clinton and Obama administrations. That’s not a coincidence, but I digress). That is a federal statute, but I would encourage states (which do 99% of all criminal law enforcement in the United States) to have the same laws. I would go further in my own state and consider a law that would prohibit anyone with a juvenile-delinquency adjudication or misdemeanor conviction from possessing a firearm; after five years, I would consider allowing them to petition for a restoration of their franchise provided 1) that the adjudication or conviction did not involve a firearm; and 2) the decision was made by a judge in a proceeding at which the petitioner and prosecuting attorney argued and presented evidence about the persons fitness to own a deadly weapon. I would further consider expanding that list to include other categories of personal irresponsibility — if a guy gets his drivers’ license suspended on points, why the hell is he responsible enough to own a shotgun? You have to work at getting suspended on points; one or two speeding tickets won’t do it, you have to drive like a one-man demolition derby. Is it unfair to make Tina forfeit her second amendment rights because she threatened to beat up her teacher 20 years ago? No, it’s not, particularly if the little dirtball hasn’t cleaned up her act in the meantime.
I would also consider persons within a certain degree of affinity (relatives) and/or prosecuting attorneys to petition for orders barring individuals from possesing firearms for a period of time on proof of dangerousness, and impose the same 5-year/lifetime ban on persons who are subject to protective orders and mental-health commitments. I realize that entry of protective orders is routine, and often has no real basis in fact (they are favorites of bitter spouses and girl/boyfriends). Tough. You shouldn’t have married/dated that person to begin with and I’m not crying for you. On the other hand, if you’re a wife/husband beater I don’t want you sullying my second amendment franchise anyhow.
I would consider requiring at least 16 hours’ training in firearms safety and self-defense law in order to lawfully possess a firearm. The anti-gun crowd hates these laws because they think it’s blessing private violence and training Americans to be killers. They’d prefer to demonize gun owners as irresponsible nutcases (the inevitabilty of evil, dontcha’ know).
I would consider making it a crime to fail to report a threat of violence. If the state can prove that you read Tim’s facebook page where he threatens to shoot up a school and don’t report it, then you’re guilty (or a delinquent as a juvenile) and subject to the same 5-year ban as misdemeanants. If you hear some guy at a bar threatening to kick someone’s ass, you report that too. Threats are not protected speech.
I would reinstitute the common-law crime of assault. At common law, assault is conduct that would place a reasonable person in fear of bodily injury. I’d do away with my state’s ridiculously-complicated “stalking” statutes, which don’t punish stalking unless some ridiculous criteria are satisfied (such as proof the defendant personally, subjectively, “in his heart” intended to frighten someone, or disproving any possible “legitimate communicative intent”). It’s pretty simple to know if someone’s engaged in conduct that would place a reasonable person in fear of bodily injury, and I’d rather go that route that clutter up statute books with stalking statutes, or statutes making it a misdemeanor to threaten a school employee performing his or her school duties on on school grounds on a school day and nonsense like that.
I would establish a Congressional commission to examine any and all instances of federal law enforcement keeping permanent records of gun owners through examinations of Form 4473s and by preserving electronic records under the present instant-background-check system. Officials who authorized or participated in the compliation of such lists are to be fired without pension or retirement. The lists are to be destroyed. I would make it a federal felony to participate in creating or posessing such lists. I would also repeal the 1986 machine-gun ban. NFA ’34 safeguards are sufficient to protect the public from the irresponsible use of such firearms. I don’t like the individual-registration and inspection provisions of the ’34 act, but I’ll live with them if I can realize my dream of owning an MG34 or M249 (Google them, they’re way cool). I would also outlaw placing gun-ownership questions on census forms (completed under pains of perjury, by the way).
On a larger scale, we need to shift our law-enforcement emphasis from drugs to irresponsible weapons’ use and/or violence. You have a better chance of going to jail or prison for possessing a quarter-kilo of marijuana than you do for the offense of pointing a firearm. In my state, incarceration is mandatory for a second OWI conviction, but not for a first-time domestic-battery conviction. That’s bullshit. Sure, drugs fuel violence — but only violence is violence. I’m not saying we should legalize drugs. I am saying that anyone who thinks a third-time drug dealer should get 40 years in prison instead of a first-time armed robber is crazy, but that’s how crazy we’ve become. Violence is the greatest threat to civil society. Mandatory sentencing laws should be refocused on violent behavior.
I don’t have as much experience on the mental-health side. But here’s what I think preliminarily. We live in a society which has forgotten Christ. Therefore it stands to reason lots of Americans are as crazy as out-house rats. Mental health services are not Christ or grace. But I know for a fact they are nonetheless helpful, and often change and save lives (even Jesus will send you a shrink just like He makes EMTs and surgeons, too). The mental-health community should focus on despair, power fantasies, and things of that nature. I hate Ted Kennedy and will stand as far away from him as I can in the unlikely event we both end up in Heaven. But he did a good thing in forcing employers’ insurance plans to cover mental-health treatment.
The problem, however, with crazy and disturbed people is that they generally don’t realize they’re crazy and disturbed. Or if they do, they tend to sink into a slough of despond and their whole world contracts to foreclose options and hope. It’s part of Satan’s strategy — he makes someone alone, then turn them into loners, and then tries to do what he can through them. I don;t know how to solve that problem. I don’t like giving the state authority to conduct mental-health surveillance. And anyway people who are forced to receive such services are far less likely to benefit from them. Maybe your readers will have more and better suggestions on these lines.
I think the things these solutions have in common is realizing that private ownership of guns, including military firearms, is an important part of American life. Gun ownership reduces crime. It is also a bulwark against tyrrany. Of course, we have to realize that if we’re really organizing into cells and shooting at the third infantry division, it’s not as though the founders’ hopes for the United States have been realized). I also think you’re a bit hard on the “gun lobby.” In the 1990s, when the Brady Campaign and related groups were pushing for national waiting periods and assault-weapon bans (that didn’t ban anything), they opposed the NRA’s idea of requiring instant background checks for gun buyers instead of waiting periods. It was more important to the Brady Campain and the rest that guns be seen as something only irrational people wanted (hence the “cooling off” period) than actually verifying if the guy buying the gun was a convicted felon. You’ll find that most gun-control advocates (Charles Schumer, Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, the Brady Campaign, etc. etc.) are all about “reasonable” regulations so long as they establish the principle that gun ownership is at best a distasteful vice and that gun owners are threats to society. The holy grail of that bunch is national gun registration, so that gun owners can be harassed and, eventually, that guns can be confiscated either outright or by increasingly-harsh “violence taxes.” They are soft fascists who believe that any significant social function must be monopolized by the state. They, too, have their own tape loop of ridiculous and demagogic posturing that directs every real concern about crime and violence into momentum toward that goal. When they achieve it, the sort of crimes they dream of committing will come to pass. But that’s enough for now.
I’ve got a lot of work on my plate this week so I’m going to leave it to youse guys to *civilly* hash this out. Be good.