Gun control. You like the idea. That’s great. Me too. But it isn’t really as simple as you think. There are a lot of guns. Many different types. Lots of existing rules in place. I am often frustrated reading about gun control from either:
- The guy (pretty rarely a lady) who is legitimately planning what he would do to overthrow the government in the instance they turn evil or form a dictatorship, or if the zombies come, or some gang decides to randomly lay siege to his home. His knowledge of constitutional law ends about 60 words into the Bill of Rights.
- The guy (or lady) who only sees people dying by guns, and equates guns with evil, and thinks America will change overnight to become a bunch of hippies who ban guns and give homeless people jobs planting trees or something. His or her knowledge of firearms is primarily based on films and stereotypes.
Now most people aren’t these people, but the dumbest voices get the loudest and I’m on more than one gun-related subreddit so that isn’t helping. So here it goes: I own guns. More than one. I like guns. I know the difference between a clip and a magazine. It annoys me when you do not. I grew up in a state (Vermont) full of guns. There is no gun control. There are very few homicides. How is this possible? Well it is sparsely populated, incredibly homogeneous and generally better educated than some other areas of the United States (Thanks, Act 60!), with relatively little gang activity and everyone is wicked high like all the time. It has nothing to do with more guns making people safer. Sorry, gun bros.
But I’ve lived around the country and not all places or populations are the same. Cities are different from rural areas, and stoney Vermonters are different from the bible-thumpers of my new home in the Confederacy. We’re a big fucking country, so we have to compromise. A federalist would say we can leave gun laws to the states. That is ill-advised, because unless we put up a border fence between all the states to prevent Vermont’s guns from sliding down to Boston, or D.C. or Chicago, it doesn’t work. It has never worked. D.C. has strict gun laws, so they buy guns in Virginia, or Pennsylvania, or North Carolina and drive them back into a very un-walled city. So we have to compromise on a NATIONAL law. I’ve been thinking about how to do this for a while, and I think I’ve got something that could work out alright, if everyone stops screaming at each other. It doesn’t take away anyone’s guns (except fully automatic weapons – but come on), unless they fail to follow the regulations or pass a background check. It doesn’t regulate based on appearance like the assault weapons bans of the past. It doesn’t prevent the sale of AR-15s (sorry, hardcore anti-gunners). But it is a series of steps in the right direction, so check it out, I guess:
The biggest issue with gun control is probably that we have at least one gun per person in the United States. Some of those guns will never go away, and shouldn’t – pump, break, bolt and lever action hunting rifles and shotguns are an important part of life in a lot of America. Farmers protecting livestock from predators like coyotes, licensed hunters taking deer or elk home for delicious jerky. These firearms are the most useful and the least good at killing a bunch of people quickly, so we shouldn’t worry about them as much. Sure, they can still kill people, but a lot of stuff can kill people. The really good killing guns are coming up next, and we’ll deal with them. These should be subject to regular background checks, via NICS, like we do now. No loopholes, no private sales. Background check, get the gun day-of purchase, all is well. Go shoot something (not someone).
Research and records on guns in the US has been intentionally hobbled, both in access to data and funding, so I don’t have an accurate number, but for the exercise’s sake – let’s say those relatively innocent Elmer Fudd shotguns and deer rifles account for 50% of all firearms…
…so now we’ve got around 150 million (once again, not an accurate number) semi-automatic and automatic (yes you can legally own an automatic weapon in a number of states with the proper NFA tax stamp and a more stringent background check which usually takes months) weapons. Semi-automatic and automatic firearms fire shots in rapid succession, which is great for killing a lot of things quickly. It is also great for: fun times at the range; sport shooting competitions. Fun doesn’t outweigh human life, so the main points of regulation will be on these firearms.
Handguns are the easier target, since they are responsible for the majority of gun homicides and suicides. So they get heavily regulated. Big background checks (much like you need for an automatic weapon), annual registration (like your car), a tax to pay for the registry, perhaps for some sort of victim’s fund for the victims of gun violence as well, and strict storage regulations (many other countries require safes for firearms). What good is background checking purchases if shit just constantly gets stolen? Let’s say that’s half of all semi and auto weapons. So 75 million handguns now have to be registered and taxed, surrendered to the state or sold to a licensed dealer. Some are untraceable, for sure, so they’ll float around, but all that paperwork and the fees will definitely limit the amount of handguns in private homes and the amount sold each year.
It won’t be instant, but the number will shrink as older weapons become unserviceable, and unregistered weapons are discovered by law enforcement, and people get tired of registering and paying an annual tax on something they may rarely use. Maybe in 10 years we’re down to 40 million handguns, the majority of which are registered and stored in safes in the homes of people who have underwent thorough background checks. And, probably (and importantly), a lot of those people would be responsible firearms enthusiasts with hours of experience and training – not just people who bought a handgun on a whim at Bass Pro. That’d be some solid improvement. But once again, due to a distinct lack of research funding, these are guesses.
But the last thing, and this is the tricky one, is the semi-automatic rifle. I’m assuming we should just get rid of automatic firearms altogether – because truly they serve no purpose other than being super fun or killing a bunch of people. The semi-auto is a different beast, however. The Ruger 10/22, for example, is a semi-automatic rifle chambered for the ubiquitous, tiny .22LR cartridge. This is a rifle a lot of kids learn to shoot on because of the cheap ammo, light recoil, and small size of the firearm. It can look like this:
Or it can look like this:
They are the same gun. That is why previous “assault weapons” bans, based primarily on cosmetic differences in firearms, have been largely ineffective – they don’t account for the actual nature of the weapon. A little bit of black plastic and something becomes infinitely scarier, but the only increased capability of this weapon is its larger magazine – which would fit in the wood-stocked version just as easily. What you probably know about the American man, who is the largest purchaser of guns, is he loves cool shit. Black plastic stocks with pistol grips and flashlights and lasers are cool as fuck, and he wants them. You anger him by taking away his ability to buy cool plastic shit. Plastic shit doesn’t kill people, the action of the firearm does – the mechanical parts that do all the shooting and bullety-type stuff (for you laymen). Illegalizing specific types of rifle furniture (the parts that are typically wooden) would be like illegalizing spoilers because they make cars faster. Your Honda Civic is still slow, your Mossberg 500 is still just a pump-action shotgun, you just bought a bunch of useless accessories to look cool. That’s what American is about – useless consumerism – don’t try to change that.
The Browning BAR is another great example of a classic semi-automatic rifle. Chambered in a number of big-game cartridges, it generally holds 4-6 rounds in its magazine, although they can be modified (by a gunsmith or handy gun bro) to accept larger capacity detachable magazines. But usually it isn’t modified. It just shoots deer or elk or bear, or most likely sits in a safe somewhere in your grandpa’s house until you inherit it, then it sits in a safe in your house.
This is why magazine capacity legislation is far more significant than appearance-based “Assault Rifle” legislation. A pistol grip or foldable stock does not directly inform the ability of a weapon to kill multiple people in quick succession, nor does a semi-automatic action. I would argue a pump-action rifle with a 30-round magazine is far faster than this BAR semi-auto with 5 rounds per mag. Also, the term “assault weapon” is ill-defined and entrenches both sides of the issue. Important as well is distinguishing types of magazines: detachable magazines, ala an AR-15 are different than integrated magazines, like a semi-automatic shotgun with a tube magazine. It would take a second or two per round to reload a 8-shot Mossberg 930 shotgun, but only a couple seconds total to reload that 5 shot BAR above, or an AR-15 type weapon, if you had an extra, pre-loaded magazine.
When it comes to limits ten rounds seems to be the number adopted by a number of states, and it is easy to remember, so why not ten rounds per weapon? That’s it. Ten is enough to have an IDPA-style sport-shooting competition with those highly regulated pistols (a lot of people love using 1911s, which only hold 7 rounds anyway!), it is more than enough to hunt anything in the United States (most states have magazine capacity hunting laws anyway), and if I have to defend my home from some armed madman, I better not be firing more than 10 shots, because that means a lot of them aren’t hitting their target and are flying through my walls and windows and into places I can’t see. Every good firearms enthusiast can tell you that violates a key rule of gun safety “be sure of your target and what is behind it.”
But what about all the magazines out there more than 10 rounds? Good question. Voluntary buybacks would be great to start, but that wouldn’t get rid of all of them. Much like with the illegal handguns, they will be seized during regular law enforcement actions, and break down over time. Also, the appeal of having a high capacity magazine is lowered when you can’t take that magazine to the range because it is illegal. I suppose people will hoard them for the apocalypse, but having most of the high-capacity magazines hidden in bunkers is better than available for purchase at chain stores and online retailers. I’m not going to say we should raid houses to take tiny plastic boxes with springs in them. That’s ridiculous, and people will just start 3d printing them or something anyway. We can’t just make this shit vanish overnight.
Another problem here is the Marlin Model 60. Almost as ubiquitous as the Ruger 10/22, it is a .22LR semi-automatic rifle with a high-capacity tube magazine. Tube magazines are not detachable, though, and as the owner of a Marlin Model 60, I can tell you it is slow as hell to reload that thing.
Rimfire long guns below a certain caliber (let’s say .30) with non-detachable magazines could be exempt from the magazine capacity rule. No need to alienate thousands of people because their childhood rifle is now outlawed. Compromise.
And that’s it. Sure there are some really deep legal details to work out about who manages the background check database and revising police reporting procedures and FFL licenses for dealers and all that, but mostly the infrastructure is in place. The NFA background checks happen every day for Title II firearms, they just need to be expanded. Firearm registration exists in many states, it just needs to be federalized. And you get to keep your guns. Pretty much all of them. Shhh…it’ll be ok. It isn’t a slippery slope. This tiny bit of reform would probably be the most rocky, craggy, uphill slope of all time. And hopefully less people will get shot.
- Universal background checks – no more private sales, no gun show loopholes, etc.
- 10 Round Magazine maximum.
- NFA Title 2-type background checks for handguns.
- Mandatory annual registration and taxation of handguns, just like a car.
- Mandatory storage requirements for handguns – specifics are up for debate, but locked up somehow.
- You can put whatever cool-ass, mall-ninja, tactical shit on your firearm you want. Rails and lights and lasers and grips to your heart’s content.
- You can own guns. Really easily. See, no one was going to take away your guns – unless you have automatic guns, in which case uhhh, sorry, gun bro, you don’t need a machine gun. Maybe buy a sweet laser sight for your other guns?
If you like this, I’d be happy to also rant on concealed carry, “castle doctrine” and the secret desire all American males have to be the hero this city needs, and/or some version of Daryl from The Walking Dead. Man, that guy is cool. Crossbows will remain unregulated under this plan.