Gun Control. Those two words have the ability to push some otherwise rational citizens into a Constitutional frenzy. The fear of the government trampling our gun rights is all too real for a large segment of our American society. I was raised around guns. I own a firearm. I know all too well the heated talking points from both sides of the debate. But in light of recent tragedies involving gun violence, it is beyond time to discuss what we can do about this as a society.
It should be stressed that the Second Amendment to our Constitution isn’t going to change. It was important enough to our founding fathers that they included it immediately following the freedom of speech. But we know that free speech has limitations, which means there is constitutional justification to place limits on gun ownership. Limits that reach a compromise with responsible gun owners across the country.
There is no quick fix to the ever-increasing epidemic of gun violence. No one magic thing that can be done to put us on a safer path. What I propose is a 13-part concept that could help curb the threat of gun violence in our country, while simultaneously improving upon other social issues.
1. Get Money Out Of Politics. While a vast majority of citizens, including gun owners, support common sense gun reform, our lawmakers are still beholden to big donors like those in the gun lobby. Gun manufacturers pay big money to make sure laws are kept in their favor, to maximize profits, even in the aftermath of gun-related tragedies. Eliminating the corporate stranglehold that donors have on our leaders in Washington would make this debate more rational at the federal level. It would also help make it possible to throw out the Protection of Lawful Commerce In Arms Act, passed by Congress in 2005, which protects the firearm industry from the sort of product liability and nuisance litigation that helped reigned in the unfettered dangers of the tobacco industry as well as others.
2. Medicare For All. A true universal health care system in the United States, including for mental health, is desperately needed. People should be able to see a therapist for any psychological issues they are dealing with, for free. There should be a social push to destigmatize mental health issues, so that individuals will not feel ashamed for their issues and will be more likely to seek the necessary help they require.
3. Livable Wages. A minimum wage increase across the board, and comparative increases in other jobs, would help get our citizens to a more manageable life. People need to feel like they can survive in this country, even when starting at the bottom of the totem pole. $15 an hour has proven to be a great start in communities throughout the country, with increases tied to inflation over time. This will help eliminate the stress that people feel working paycheck to paycheck, which would help with some of the aforementioned psychological issues.
4. Education. We need a public education system overhaul. We need pay increases for teachers. More help to school systems, particularly inner city schools in areas that seem to struggle with crime and disenfranchisement in the community. Better education, hands-on job training, more incentives to not choose the easy way out, will go a long way to helping more people not fall through the cracks leading to unfortunate lives of crime. We need better counseling programs in public schools to help guide at-risk youth, free from the stigma of such help. Free college education for those who meet the basic requirements will further help people to integrate into a more productive society that benefits us all.
5. Well-Regulated. Anyone wishing to own firearms should first be required to take a gun safety class and obtain a license (after age 18). The license would have to be renewed every few years, like a driver’s license, pending checks into the person’s recent legal history, or database flags from health professionals and security agencies. These licenses will allow for any legal firearm purchases within any state (out of state purchases may require longer waiting periods for background checks). Longtime gun owners will have the opportunity to be grandfathered in, getting a permit in lieu of license, if they choose, pending background checks. Anyone under the age of 18 will be required to take a gun safety course in order to obtain a permit, allowing for hunting or sport shooting under the supervision of a licensed parent or guardian, who are ultimately responsible for the youth and firearm.
6. Worth The Wait. Increase the waiting period and make background checks more rigorous for each purchase. You never know when someone may have bought a gun, got in trouble legally, and the system didn’t catch it properly.
7. Keep It Simple. Banning and criminalizing the possession of automatic and semi-automatic weapons. I’m going to lose some of you with this one, I know. These weapons serve no purpose other than hobby gun sportsmanship, and shooting a paper target with a high capacity firearm is a bit of a stretch to call a “sport.” This could actually be handled at the state level, with states allowing the possession of these guns if they choose, but then crossing state lines to purchase these guns (if your home state does not allow them) should then be a federal crime.
8. Offline Purchases. Ban the purchase of firearms and ammunition over the internet. Allowing online purchases in-state, through reputable certified dealers, and picking up in person could be allowable.
9. Close The Gun Show Loopholes. More regulation on gun show purchases. Stringent background checks might be inconvenient for the come-and-go weekend gun shows and conventions, but I’m sure certain pre-checks could be arranged, allowing for temporary purchase permits at these shows.
10. No Private Arsenals. Limit the number of firearms any individual can purchase within a given period of time. If a person is a collector, or has a legitimate reason for requiring more than the allowed number of firearms, a particular license could be available (with requirements met) to allow for more firearm possessions.
11. Bullet Regulation. Ban and criminalize the purchase and possession of armor piercing and hollow-tip bullets. Once again, they serve no greater purpose to the general public, and put our brave men and women in blue at greater risk.
12. Carry On. States can continue to regulate their own concealed or open-carry permits. Gun owners who carry should have the permit with them whenever they carry. Failure to provide documentation can result in suspension of firearm license and fines pending checks.
13. Database System. A national database of gun owners, similar to car ownership. When you buy a gun, you will be automatically registered as the owner. If the gun is a gift, or simply passed down in family, then it should be easy to register at the owner’s convenience. Should a gun be stolen and used in a crime, tracing it back to its owner can be useful in solving the crime, and in returning it to its proper owner after court proceedings (or after a waiting period, should no arrests be made). The database does not necessarily have to be federal. It can be maintained by individual states that allow gun ownership. The system should be easily accessed by other states for their own needs, such as background checks.
PAID FOR BY THE COMMITTEE TO ELECT CHARLES METCALF JR