Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Taking a Bead

Okay, so I'm about to open a large can of worms. Unfortunately, I'm not the first one to do so and I have the feeling I will not be the last.

Something needs to be done about gun violence.

I understand the arguments in favour of owning guns - I am a prospective gun owner myself and I am very interested in the personal safety of my family. I also understand the cost-effective supplement that hunting provides to the family food budget. I even understand and appreciate the right to bear arms, both for personal security and as insurance against the government attempting to oppress its citizens through force and, to the latter effect, the opposition of many gun owners to a federal registry, making gun owners "targets" if "$#!+ hits the fan".

That being said, let's take a look at the statistics

In 2016 alone, so far, there have been:

  • 23 518 reported gun-related incidents in the US
    • 6 031 deaths; 12 359 injuries
      • 258 children (0-11) killed/injured
      • 1 289 teenagers (12-17) killed/injured
    • 138 were reported mass shootings
    • 519 were reported officer-involved incidents
      • 147 officers shot/killed
      • 372 perpetrators shot/killed
    • 988 were reported home invasions
    • 725 reported were of defensive use
    • 1 050 were reported accidental shootings
Unfortunately, I have no suicide data for 2016, but there were 21 334 gun-related suicides in 2014, with the numbers climbing from '99 to '14

Of course, the first, knee-jerk reaction is to declare all guns evil and protest for their complete and severe restriction. Before we do that, however, let's take a quick look at some of the current laws in the US

Owning
  • 18 to own shotguns and rifles
  • 21 to own all other gun types
  • May not own if there is a history or likelihood of family violence
    • May be denied sale or have guns seized
  • No civilian register/licensing records
  • Open and concealed carry laws vary by state
    • With or without a permit
  • Restrictions
    • Long guns (rifles/shotguns): regulated
    • Automatic: Subject to federal licensing, regulation
    • Handguns: permitted without a license
    • Semiautomatic: permitted without a license
    • Banned: sawn-off long guns, machine guns, silencers, armour-piercing rounds
      • Subject to appropriate registration
Buying
  • No set waiting period for lawful firearm purchase
  • Possession of a concealed carry waived background checks
Selling

  • Private sales are permitted
  • Private sellers need no background check
  • Dealers must carry a dealer's license
  • Dealers must pass a background check


Registration
  • Firearm dealers and manufacturers are required to keep records of gun and ammunition sales and manufacture
Storage
  • There are laws specifying safe storage of firearms
Marking/Tracing
  • All firearms sold in the US are marked and can be traced/tracked
Unlawful possession
  • Punishable by 10 years in prison
So, looking at the laws shows that there is some control already in place. Honestly, I'm fairly satisfied with what is in paper. 

So, then, what needs to change?

Well, for one, enforcement needs to step up. If sales and background checks are better enforced, then we would see, in general, guns being more in the hands of responsible owners. That, unfortunately, is a bit of a wishful dream at this point.

That being said, I am a proponent of a basic gun license for owners. I hold that prospective gun owners should prove themselves capable of the responsible ownership of a gun (maintenance, storage, responsible use) and aware of state & federal gun laws. We have established such a process for driving a vehicle, so why not a similar vetting process for firearms? Such a license (let's call it the new open carry license), would ensure more responsible ownership and that, coupled with a background check with a moderate waiting period, can help ensure more responsible dealer sales. The incentive for private sales to be responsible is the threat of losing that right; having a license just makes it easier to establish rapport. Additionally, the presence of gun licenses allows for easier law enforcement. Are you carrying? Do you have your license on you? If your answers are "yes" and "no" respectively, then you are subject to the law.

So, I've taken a look at the current statistics and I've taken a peek at the law. I've given you my perspective. Let's all become well-informed citizens and arrive at a safer, yet still free, environment for ourselves and our children.

Sources:
http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/
http://www.gunpolicy.org/firearms/region/united-states