Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Combating firearm violence

Responsible Gun Ownership and Combating Firearm Violence

Decreasing gun violence has become a primary concern for me.  As a combat veteran and gun owner, I am concerned about the rising level of gun violence in our society.  Nothing in me is willing to accept this level of carnage, terror, and pain.  The rest of the world shows us this level of killing is not necessary as a price for "freedom" or any rights.  The wholly-to-be-expected-public-concern about this, if it continues to be met by implacable opposition to even the most reasonable efforts to diminish the threat, may   threatens  Here are some thoughts on a strategy for promoting public safety.

1.  I think it is critical for those hoping to decrease gun violence to publicly support the right to firearms for home defense and hunting.  The ability and determination to protect one’s family and obtain food through one’s own efforts far predate both governments and society.  Indeed, it's probably true that society grew out of efforts to protect families.  Acknowledging this right also undercuts the major objection to most gun control measures.

2.  Relentlessly publicize the fact that any/every use of firearms carries the risk of unintended death or injury to innocent bystanders and/or the user.  Thus event the private use of a firearm in the home or outside it inherently creates a risk to PUBLIC safety.  This is the sole basis of efforts by gun control advocates to restrict the caliber, capacity, action, range, etc., of firearms used in home defense and hunting.  It is not a "slippery slope" to siezing all guns, just an attempt to protect us all from the unintended consequences of gun use.

3.  It is also important to publicize the fact that the mere possession of a firearm also creates a threat to public safety.  Because of its lethal power, it is desirable to persons other than the owner for purposes other than intended.  This again constitutes a threat to public safety and is the basis for regulations on how weapons are stored in the home, their design (safeties, etc.), and their traceability.  

Since a firearm is an inherently dangerous device, it should be stored appropriately to prevent unauthorized use and theft.  This is the obvious responsibility of every gun owner.  Unfortunately, the deaths of many toddlers who access guns is grim testimony to the fact that not all gun owners take their responsibilities seriously.  These failures, just like other failures of parenting, authorize public intervention into private matters.  Requiring "smart" guns is one obvious solution.  Gun owners' insurance would also be useful.

Once a firearm is stolen, it becomes a new threat to public safety.  Laws specifying storage, unauthorized use preventing features (smart guns), insurance, and reporting requirements are clearly in the public interest and do not infringe second amendment rights to possess firearms.
4.  We need to develop and publicize objective method of comparing the lethality of various weapons.  This could show how fundamentally different an assault rifle is from a breech-loading musket as well as from knives, etc. But more importantly, it would provide a rational basis for policy decisions on what we do and do not want think is appropriate weapons for different uses.  To state the obvious, a high power rifle useful for hunting big game is not useful for home defense.

I don’t know if a method of calculating lethality of a weapon exists, but I don’t see why it couldn’t be calculated.  For example, imagine a school room filled with manikins representing people.  How many of them could be “killed” in a set time, say 15 minutes, by someone using a knife?  A breech loader?  An assault weapon?  Gathering and using such data puts the arguments on weapons restrictions on a much firmer basis.  Even if absolute comparisons between kinds of weapons is not possible, it is surely possible to quantify relative differences in the lethality of firearms based on their caliber, muzzle velocity, rate of fire, action, projectile weight, etc.  This data could be used to devise standards for specifying acceptable and unacceptable firearms for home protection and hunting.

5.  Recognizing that any possession and/or use of a firearm creates a risk to public health frames the debate regarding concealed and open carry.  In the interest of public safety, concealed carry should be limited to those who have some justifiable need and who can demonstrate they

6. Fund research/advocacy/legal efforts to overturn the idea that “the need for a well regulated militia” constitutes a basis for owning military firearms AND justifies gun ownership to prevent government “tyranny.”  Such an effort is needed to counter the fact that this interpretation is in fact the result of a NRA supported effort to CREATE that interpretation.
Thoughts/comments in support of the above.
1.     Recognizing the right to own arms for specific purposes respects responsible gun ownership, alleviates their fears and makes it far more difficult to portray gun control advocates as “taking away our guns."
2.     Developing data showing the death/injury caused unintentionally by gun usage is absolutely vital.  Document all the injury resulting from accidental discharge, killing/wounding bystanders while hunting, engaged in home defense, firing on firing ranges, showing off, etc.  This is vitally important because this threat to public safety, my safety, our safety, is the sole legitimate basis for our restricting the characteristics of acceptable weapons for home defense and hunting.  It is the basis for prohibiting both 50 cal machine guns and assault weapons.
3.     Publicize all the death/injury caused by unauthorized/illegal/(not sure best word here) use of weapons, i.e., that caused by someone who used a firearm that they wouldn't have been able to obtain if weapons were stored in a manner consistent with their dangerousness.  Think of Sandy Hook:  If guns were required to be stored in an impeccably safe manner, had a user-only safety, or a GPS chip to disable it when removed by other than owner, etc. then many such tragedies could be avoided.  Publicize both owner and non-owner suicides, gun thefts (which puts lethal power in the hands of someone who obviously shouldn’t have it), and injuries/deaths caused by family members/others who used firearms they should not have had access to. Again, this is the fundamental basis for regulations designed to ensure the public safety from this device with extraordinary power by requiring firearms to be safely stored and used.

4.  We must continually highlight how many crimes are committed with illegal firearm, whether bought illegally, or bought legally but transported to places they are illegal, or bought with sham purchasers, or sold by gun stores in violation of state and/or federal law.  At present, efforts to stem the flow of such weapons is hampered by multiple difficulties such as limitations on gun store record keeping, interstate differences in laws, lack of gun registries, etc.