It didn’t take the massacre at Newtown for “we the people” to know that there’s a serious gun problem in America. Let me point one thing out, however. Guns wouldn’t be a problem (at least not at THIS magnitude) if they weren’t reliably being put in the hands of crazy people and fucking idiots by people who are out to make money on a commodity regardless of consequence (I’m looking at you gun shows, and Wal-Mart). On some level, a gun is like an egg. It’s a thing not a person. It can be sold and resold. However, the chances of a bunch of innocent people getting killed by an egg are slim to none. Guns, in the marketplace, aren’t the equivalent of any other goods (not even knives, hatchets, or chainsaws). The closest possible item that you can readily buy that runs even close to the risk of being as deadly as a gun is America’s friend the automobile. Let’s think about what it takes to buy a car: at the very least you need a valid driver’s license and insurance to drive a car off of a lot at a dealership. You could, of course, buy a car off of craigslist without either, BUT if you get caught driving that car without a license or insurance, you face a stiff penalty. It’s a lot like gun ownership, right? You’re cool if you have an unregistered, unlicensed weapon as long as you never USE it (either to commit a crime or defend yourself). Frankly, you’re a lot more likely to be caught driving a car unlicensed than you are to be busted for having an illegal firearm. Why? Because cars are dangerous, because we’re concerned about traffic control (ironically, especially around schools), because you’re driving unlicensed on public property, and because insurance companies and the government have a monetarily vested interest in catching people who don’t follow the rules.
I have been torn about this issue. I grew up around guns. My father owns guns. I’ve owned guns. I grew up shooting, as did my brother. We both completed hunter safety courses, and had copious training from both my Dad and his best friend. My brother got his first air rifle at age 11. When I was trapped in my small town high school, it wasn’t unusual to see three or four pickup trucks in the parking lot with loaded gun racks (we’re talking high powered deer rifles or shot guns here). No one thought anything of it. Guns were a part of our lives. Additionally, two of the four original members of the Rubber Chicken Society are ex-military. I’ve seen that guns, when used properly and with respect, aren’t BOLUSES OF TERROR. One cannot ignore, however, what happens when guns aren’t handled correctly. Whether it’s someone getting shot in the ass during a cleaning accident, or some douchecanoe having a nuclear level shit fit at an elementary school, the fact has to be faced that guns can be dangerous. This danger comes in a really specific form, too. You can take out a lot more people with an assault rifle than you can with a fork. I don’t want people not to be able to have guns, although I think that as time progresses the argument that guns aren’t predominantly used for killing people or threatening to kill people becomes more and more inane. I’m aware that the vast majority of gun owners are sane, rational, responsible people. However, a significant amount of people who possess firearms are abject fucking imbeciles. They wrecked it for everyone. Because of them (the mouth breathing bastards) there now has to be a stricter system in place for controlling guns and ammunition. No matter what legislation you hammer through Congress, there’s no way people are ever going to get any LESS stupid or crazy. The best we can hope for is that we can somehow make them a little less dangerous.
Here’s the actual text of the Second Amendment: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” It’s pretty obvious to me that what the founding fathers thought of as “arms” is very different than what we’re debating right now. I don’t know this for a fact, but I’m relatively sure that if you showed Thomas Jefferson what an AR-15 could do to a middle school, he’d say something like, “Yeah, fuck that noise.”
Additionally, if you extend the definition of “arms” to mean anything that one could use to defend oneself, anthrax and other elements of biological terrorism could be pretty damned effective. As could other substances that enjoy federal controls. It may seem illogical to expand the post-colonial idea of “arms” this far, but isn’t it equally ludicrous to equate a musket with an automatic weapon? The idea of infringement (to infringe, if you don’t know, means something like to violate, trespass, encroach or transgress) is the big concept here. The NRA is claiming that additional background checks (at gun shows and sales through private owners) somehow infringe the “God given” right to bear arms. And they’re right — background checks prevent some people from owning guns: PEOPLE WHO HAVE ALREADY LOST THEIR RIGHT TO POSESS FIREARMS BECAUSE THEY FUCKED IT UP. The only thing that requiring background checks “infringes” is the right of people to make money on selling guns. Why would the NRA have a problem with this? They’re one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington. Who do you think pays them the big bucks? Gun and ammunition sellers and manufacturers keep NRA lobbyists in fancy calfskin loafers and handsome suits. If sales are cut, the fat cats lose out. This isn’t about your rights or infringement – this is about (like pretty much everything else) doll’a doll’a bills, y’all. It’s important to remember that when you’re weighing your right to own an assault rifle vs. someone else’s life
Here’s what I propose (and I hate myself for saying this, but (due to the vast reserves of idiots in this country, what else can we do):
1) A background check and waiting period are required for the sale of ALL firearms. If a seller refuses to perform a background check and is caught selling firearms without one, the seller will be charged with a class C felony, his license to sell weapons will be revoked into perpetuity, and he can be fined up to $500,000.
2) If you own a gun in the United States, you will be required to have a permit for ownership. Licensure will consist of 1) a background check. 2) a completed course on weapons safety (course will be provided free of charge).
3) Unlicensed gun ownership will be regarded as a Class C felony. If convicted, all the person’s guns will be confiscated. The convicted will be barred from future gun ownership, and if convicted of further possession will be charged with an additional felony and fined up to $50,000.
4) All privately owned firearms in the United States must be registered.
5) All gun owners are required to carry firearms insurance on all weapons. Insurance rates are based on the responsibility of the owner, and will decrease over time.
6) Assault rifles and ammunition will be illegal to possess/manufacture in the United States. Sales of weapons or ammunition are felonies, and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law up to an including incarceration, rehabilitation, and hefty fines.
I know many of you are balking at the idea of firearms insurance, and I hate it, too. The idea, though, is to keep people safe, and (in my experience) the only way to do that is to threaten them financially. Think of it this way, if you own guns and you’re safe (you have trigger locks, you don’t keep loaded weapons in the house, etc), your insurance rate should be super cheap (I’m thinking like 30 dollars a year for all your weapons), but if you do something unsafe or stupid that results in an injury, then (if you manage not to get your license revoked) you’re going to have to pay more to keep your guns. I’m sorry. I hate it, too. At least this way there could be SOME kind of compensation for people whose lives have been affected by gun violence. This is one of the reasons we have to have insurance when we drive. We have to be able to pay for what we’ve done – even if the cause is neglect or stupidity. It’s time we extend this idea to other areas. Believe me, I hate this. The last thing I want to do is enable insurance companies to further do what they’re best at – making money off of the potential for human tragedy.
Bad guys are still going to be out there. There still will be unlicensed weapons in the world, no matter what we do. Think, if you will, about people like Guy Fawkes, one of the gentlemen who plotted to blow up Parliament by stockpiling a cache of gunpowder under The House of Lords. Fawkes was captured in 1605. The point is that we need to make it much more difficult to be simultaneously crazy, stupid, and in possession of a gun. More laws won’t entirely solve the problem, but they might help mitigate it. Frankly, even the merest chance that the lives of one of my tiny nephews or niece might be saved because some idiot found it too difficult to navigate the system is worth any inconvenience it might cause anyone else. As Dave Wheeler, whose son Benjamin died at Sandy Hook Elementary on Dec. 14, said (quoting a founding father at a public hearing in Newtown, Conn), “Thomas Jefferson described our inalienable rights as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I do not think the order of those important words was haphazard and casual. The liberty of any person to own a military assault weapon and high-capacity magazine and to keep them in their home is second to the right of my son to his life.”