5 easy common-sense ways to fix gun control … and one that will actually work.
Watching Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate finally put their feet down to try to vote on gun control has been thrilling and inspiring — but the laws up for discussion aren't perfect.
One of the things they want to vote on is the so-called "No Fly, No Buy" bill, which would ban the sales of guns to people suspected of terrorism on the government’s “no-fly” list.
The American Civil Liberties Union has already pointed out that the no-fly list is an egregious overreach that can infringe on the rights of innocent people, including actual babies.
Logistically, we're never going to be able to ban guns outright (also, the idea of only police and the military having access to firearms might scare me more than our current predicament.). But clearly something needs to be done about gun violence in America, right?
Fortunately, I have a license to carry in a state with some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, and it's taught me five easy common-sense ways we could reform our gun laws without impeding on the rights of lawful gun owners — or anyone else:
1. Limit all magazines to 10 bullets or less.
There tends to be a lot of confusion when it comes to what constitutes an "assault rifle." Unfortunately, "That gun looks scary, and I don't like it" and "Some people have used it to kill people," aren't really good criteria for legislation.
But if we just limited magazines to 10 bullets or less, we could seriously hinder anyone intent on the mass destruction of people. Besides, anyone who needs more than 10 bullets in a magazine to take down a hog or shoot a piece of paper should probably spend a little more time at the target range.
Oh, and if you already have a gun with a large magazine? No one is taking it away. You should be able to keep it if you register it. Easy enough, right?
2. Enhance mandatory background check requirements and standardize them across all states, including for private sales.
This is something people have been demanding for a while now, and there's no reason it shouldn't be able to happen.But if we were to actually standardize and adhere to the bare minimum ATF background check that's currently on the books, anyone with a history of substance abuse, domestic violence, or other violent crimes would already be disqualified from purchasing a new gun.
Of course, we could make the existing background checks more robust too.
But in order to do this without punishing people who haven't committed a crime or discriminating against, for example, people with psychiatric conditions or former military personnel who received other than honorable or bad conduct discharges, we would also need to establish a fair and efficient appeals process that could evaluate each individual on a case-by-case basis. And that's a lot of work, which brings me to my next point...
3. We should make sure the National Instant Criminal Background Check System is built for confidence, instead of speed.
In states that do adhere to the very-very-very basic requirements of the FBI's instant background check system, 90% of them come back immediately with a positive result. But thanks to something called the "default proceed" loophole, if a background check throws any red flags, the FBI has three days to resolve those question marks or a person can buy the gun anyway. And if it turns out they weren't supposed to have access to one? The ATF has to actively seek out and reclaim the weapon that was already purchased. You know, because that's a practical solution.
This "compromise" that a bipartisan group of Republican and Democratic senators recently offered on the "No Fly, No Buy" bill also invoked this three-day rule. But here's the thing: In 2015, nearly 16,000 ineligible gun owners were able to acquire firearms through the "default proceed" law — including Dylann Roof, who then went on to kill nine people in Charleston, South Carolina.
Look, I get it. Bureaucratic holdups are totally annoying. But maybe it's worth taking more than three days to look into these things if it might save lives?
4. We could treat firearms like cars — with licensing, registration, and mandatory insurance.
This has already been attempted with pretty clear results. As Vox reported, "After Connecticut passed a law requiring gun purchasers to first obtain a license, gun homicides fell by 40 percent and suicides fell by 15.4 percent. When Missouri repealed a similar law, gun homicides increased by 23 percent and suicides increased by 16.1 percent."
We could also require every firearm to be registered with a physical deed to accompany transfers as a written record of the gun's previous ownership. (Admittedly, privacy advocates do have some valid arguments against this, but it's a process that could still add value.)
In addition, what if we required mandatory gun insurance so that every gun owner has financial protection in the case of theft, unintentional discharge, or, you know, any of the other things that could possibly go wrong?
This would be good for the economy, too — let the market decide the insurance rate for each different type of gun in each different geographic area. For example, an AR-15 would probably be comparable to a red sports car, but that .38 revolver you keep around "just in case" would have a pretty low insurance rate. And costs would probably be higher in dense populations.
5. Empower the government to actually collect and study information about trends in gun violence.
Imagine if the Centers for Disease Control wasn't allowed to collect data on cancer or the Zika virus, and we didn't have a centralized database for tracking epidemics. How can you make an informed decision to stop a crisis if you don't have any information on it?
That's what happened to the CDC thanks to the NRA, which began fighting those efforts in 1996. To this day, the CDC is essentially throttled for funding into gun research because — as the NRA admits themselves — gun enthusiasts oppose biased research. Which certainly makes some sense. Except ... isn't the NRA biased as well?
And that's the crux of it: We're never going to get anywhere on common-sense gun reform as long as more than 200 members of Congress are in the pocket of the NRA.
Whether you're a staunch pacifist or hardcore antique gun collector, people not murdering other people is something that most of us can agree on. And there are plenty of options for ways we could make our country safer.
But all you have to do is follow the money — and the sales boost that seems to happen every time another mass shooting hits the news — and it becomes pretty clear why we keep allowing these same awful tragedies to happen over and over and over again.
So here's the only guaranteed way for our country to take action on gun reform: If your senator or representative is on this list, then vote them out of office.
Doing that might not make the change happen right away, but until the majority of the government is no longer funded by the NRA, these other changes aren't likely to happen either.