In yesterday’s blog post I stated that I think before discussing possible solutions to tragedies like what happened in Las Vegas, that we should agree that investing time in thoughtfully discussing the opportunities for minimizing the loss of life was of value. If you disagree and think we should do nothing more than shrug our shoulders, build a memorial, and use the phrase #<insertcitynamehere>Strong for while then please read no further.
Too often in discussions like this we assume others have extreme positions and we fail to have an honest and thoughtful dialog where we really listen, compromise, and leverage our common ground. So for the purposes of any responses to this post, please resist your urge make assumptions, call names, and behave like an idiot. I will moderate comments if needed. My friend Mike made a Facebook comment on my blog from yesterday about how he thinks open air events like the one in Las Vegas should be eliminated due to the inability to protect attendees from a vertical threat and how those wishing to do harm and commit mass casualties are paying attention. As opposed to knee jerking and assuming here is another guy who does not want to change anything with guns, lets recognize that Mike makes a very valid point. The landscape has changed and we need to adapt our safety protocols and update our thought process because somewhere out there right now there is someone planning to set a new “record”. Physical security is a lot like computer security, we do our best to patch and be secure from the beginning but when something is exploited we need to update our defenses and mitigate for future variants. Our approach going forward needs to be more comprehensive than just dealing with a weapon problem. As an example, look around at your neighborhood school at how they have adapted their entrances and security protocols, and how kids now have practice code red drills and so on. Sure, it is a sad that these are needed, but in reality those types of things save lives. Sadly now we need to think differently about open air event gatherings and vertical threats. I guess my point is that if you are still reading this, you would like to minimize the loss of life like what recently happened in Las Vegas and that is common with anyone else who may comment or offer an opinion so please be respectful.
I am not a gun owner but I would say it is not out of the realm of possibility that I will be someday. I am not an expert on the second amendment, I am not a lawyer, I am not an extremist who wants to take everyone’s guns away; I am a self-defined tree hugger and my only political agenda is to get a revenue neutral Fee and Dividend policy implemented so the true costs of emissions are recognized and our planet has an opportunity to improve its health. As it relates to this issue, my core belief is that we can do better, that we can find common ground and both “sides” can realize they are less far apart than they think and compromise. I choose to use the following as a baseline for my thoughts on this topic:
The focus of any legal changes as it relates to weapons should focus on the problem. The problem is not the hunter or sportsman, the problem is not the gun collector who has hundreds of guns, the problem is not the enthusiast who likes to shoot a variety of high powered and unique weapons in an appropriate place, the problem is not the person at the grocery store who you never knew had a permit for his/her concealed handgun; the problem we are trying to solve is people who thoughtfully plan mass murders.
There is no solution that will prevent every scenario and the goal of any new policy should be to increase the potential for preventing and minimizing the loss of life. This is incredibly important to not lose sight of.
States should be allowed to add their own additional laws if they desire but there should be an updated baseline federal law. If we leave this to the states it will only lead to a scenario similar to fireworks where I can simply drive to Wisconsin and get “real fireworks” and numerous other issues.
Given that, here are my current thoughts on a path forward in order from least to most complicated:
Bump stocks should be made illegal. I had never heard of them before this week but my generic understanding is that they crudely make a semi-automatic rifle behave more like an automatic rifle. Given that they are an accessory and not a weapon themselves, an argument could be made that legal changes to their status is not really protected under the second amendment. Regardless, it appears as though this notion already has momentum so getting more specific on a path forward is in order. The end goal of any legal changes to bump stocks should have a focus on making them more difficult to obtain. I see a few options:
High capacity magazines are reviewed. Again, I am not an expert in this area but I think minimizing the amount of ammunition a weapon can fire without needing to be reloaded would increase the probability of saving lives in situations like this. I am uncertain what a reasonable amount of ammunition is to have in a single magazine but my opinion is that for the average gun enthusiast and owner, this is not a huge inconvenience as long as the capacity compromise is reasonable. Like bump stocks, a decision could be made to make them illegal to purchase or sell going forward or make them illegal and introduce some sort of buyback or similar to encourage a reduction in the current circulation.
Criminal background checks should be required for all firearms sales and they should be tracked. Today licensed firearms dealers require an ID and leverage NICS but this does not cover other scenarios. Today, if I were to go buy Sudafed I would need to swipe my drivers license. If I were to drive to a dozen pharmacies and buy one box at each, some sort of alarm would go off somewhere and I would need to get an exception or follow a more rigid process to purchase in bulk. I think a similar program could exist with firearms so that if someone were purchasing dozens of high powered rifles in a short period of time, a few questions would be asked to vet the person, their intent, and legitimize the purchases as appropriate. The goal of the program would NOT be to eliminate the right to make bulk or consistent purchases, it would simply be to ensure those who were making the purchases were vetted and determined not to be an imminent threat much like with Sudafed where the goal is to ensure I am not a meth dealer. This one would require some real compromise to accomplish.
It is an easy argument to make that if a bad person wants to do harm, they will find a way. That is absolutely true but if we go back to my baseline statement that the goal of any new policy should be to increase the potential for minimizing the loss of life then this holds weight. If someone has to jump through a few extra hoops or do unconventional things, then they are more likely to be caught or have the amount of damage they do diminished. In turn, if law abiding citizens need to step through an extra hoop for the greater good, then so be it, we do it every day in many other scenarios. Another common argument is that implementing anything like this leads down a slippery slope and that it will be the start of numerous other actions against gun owners. I wonder if there is a way we can write something in to law to mitigate that fear or perhaps through thoughtful dialog that focuses on the areas most people find common ground, we can move past it.
That is it, those are my thoughts today. I welcome your respectful ones and am genuinely interested in protecting the rights of gun owners while trying to add some common sense ways to decrease unnecessary bloodshed.