A Modest Proposal to Curb Gun Violence Without Violating Gun Rights
All rights carry with them responsibilities. If you are unwilling to face the responsibility of a specific right, you are likely to lose it. Your right to freedom of action is tempered by the responsibility to refrain from doing damage to others. If your actions wind up doing damage to others, for instance your freedom to swing your fist fails to stop before the tip of your neighbor's nose, you will be punished for abuse of that freedom. Continue the abuse of that freedom and you will be put in jail, severely limiting your freedom of action. In the most extreme abuse of your freedom of action, the taking of the life of another, you stand to lose all rights by losing your right to life.
In America, gun ownership is a right. Like all rights it carries with it responsibilities. When you fire your gun, you are responsible for making sure the bullet that you send hurtling out of the barrel damages no one. If that bullet happens to hit someone, even accidentally, you are liable for that damage. The right to bear arms however goes further. Guns are inherently dangerous. They have no use other than to do damage to something. While an extremely skilled marksman might be able to drive a nail with a gun under the exact perfect conditions, the concept of using one to build a house is laughable. The stated and exclusive purpose of guns is to kill.
Arguably, the right to keep and bear arms in America is the most abused right in the developed world. As a result, there is currently a national discussion going on regarding how to best deal with guns so that instances like the Sandy Hook Elementary school massacre might be prevented. How can we keep guns out of the hands of those with a propensity to abuse the right without abrogating the rights of responsible gun owners?
The Second Amendment to the Constitution is the codification of the right to keep and bear arms. It reads; "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." Some people read this as stating that arms are only available to a well-regulated militia. I disagree. It is my opinion that the "well regulated militia" is the danger that the founders were attempting to mitigate, but that is a subject for another article. It is the right to keep and bear Arms that I'm going to address at this time.
I have already discussed that abused rights are soon lost, and few would argue that convicted felons or the mentally unstable should lose the right to keep and bear arms. To that end, background checks have been instituted for the purchase of guns from retail dealers. The problem is that those background checks are not used in all weapons transactions. The infamous "Gun Show Loophole." It also applies to private arms sales between for example, you and your neighbor. I am of the opinion that this holds the key to decreasing gun violence in America. Here's my suggestion:
All guns start out life being registered to the manufacturer. As the weapons are sold to a merchant, that registration is transferred to that merchant, and so on down the line. So far, not much different from the current system, but here's where it changes. If any weapon is used in a criminal act, the most recent registrant is responsible as an accessory to that crime.
What? Wait a minute; do I mean to say that you are responsible for the safe operation of that gun even after it is no longer in my possession? Yes. Gun ownership is an extraordinary right and with extraordinary rights come extraordinary responsibilities. If you choose exercise your right to own a gun, one of your responsibilities is to keep it out of the hands of irresponsible people. You can shed this responsibility by selling your weapon to another person who will then register it in his or her own name. And yes, registration requires a background check similar to the one you endured when you bought the gun in the first place.
What about theft? In the event your gun is stolen, you will have to prove that you took all reasonable precautions against that theft. Was it in a gun safe or was it in your car's glove compartment? If it was on your person, you had better have been wounded in the exchange. After all, you've got a gun. I have little problem with making it a crime to not only steal a gun, but to have it stolen from you under some circumstances as well.
The purpose of this type of approach is to impress upon would be gun owners that they are responsible for their actions even if they attempt to rid themselves of that responsibility. You take on the responsibility until you pass it on legally.
Under these circumstances, I would have no problem with private ownership of any type of gun. Under the requirement of particularly deep and invasive background checks I would even entertain the possibility of private ownership of more advanced weapons systems. But the desire to own an RPG might be enough to disqualify you from such ownership on grounds of mental instability.