Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Well Regulated Militia

So, I started writing about gun control about two weeks ago; The Thursday before last to be specific. I was going to talk about reasonable gun control. I was going to talk about mental healthcare. I was going to talk about the whole idea of gun ownership for defense, the statistical risks and all of that. 

I'm not going to do that now. After this most recent shooting, I've been talking to a lot of people. I've been discussing all of those issues at length, and now I'm going to step outside of my comfort zone. This is not going to be a philosophical exercise. It's not going to be ethics and stats and all the stuff I've been doing on this blog. This is a rough draft for legislation. An actual, honest to god, concrete idea. I need help with it though. I'm not a gun owner, nor a particular fan. There will almost certainly be some logistical, logical, and technical mistakes and flaws. Help me fix it, help me make it better. By god, let's do this thing.

So I'm a Merchant Mariner. Technically I am way way way way way Naval reserve. If thing got apocalyptically bad, I could get called up, most likely for supply duty. I only bring this up because it's the general basis for the idea. You see, to be a merchant mariner you have to get licensed by the coast guard. I'm not in the coast guard, but they license me. There is an entire rating structure that everyone who works commercially on boats is required to be a part of. You start out with your Merchant Mariners Document, which basically says "I can pass a drug test, a federal background check, a basic physical, and I like boats." From there it moves up. There are different directions you can go in your ratings. There are classes on basically everything you can think of in terms of the boating world, and different ratings require different combinations of classes, along with practical real world sea time. It's kind of complicated, but it actually makes a lot of sense.

I'm thinking we can do something similar with guns. Let me be clear here, I am in no way trying to ban guns. I am talking about limiting access to guns to people who lack training in safety and proper use of guns. I'm also talking about keeping better track of guns in this country, and adding layers of responsibility to gun ownership, particularly guns that are more dangerous due to capability, capacity, or ability to be concealed.

So now we get into the meat of it. Please help me with this, because this is all hypothetical to me. There is a lot that I don't know, and my theories on a lot of this may be off base. Help me make it better.

The way I figure it, you start at 12 being allowed to use a .22 rifle or a shotgun after completing a thorough safety course. At 12, you are required to have a parent with you whenever you are shooting. You are basically on their license, like a learners permit. At 16, after enough logged experience, another round of safety classes and exams, you get the option of using the .22 pistol and being able to shoot without an adult. At 18 the other stuff opens up.

the handgun tier would revolve specifically around using it for self defense. actual, practical training with regular refreshers on how to use a gun in defense. CCW will obviously be an endorsement in this tier.

the hunting tier, I don't entirely know. I imagine moving up to more and more powerful calibers. again, every five years needing to take a safety refresher.

the combat stuff.... I'm not a big fan of them in all reality but i think it's a compromise point. the second amendment talks about the well regulated militia, and I see this heading in that direction. tactical training, more powerful guns, three round bursts. regular training. with this stuff comes more thorough refreshers, psych evaluations, and a much higher expectation of training.

My big problem is that I don't know exactly how to set up the structure of those tiers. What I'm really asking for on that front, assuming you don't find the entire concept completely unpalatable, is what exactly are the skill sets that one learns as one becomes a better shooter, and how do we measure those skills.

Inherent in all of this is also a national registry. I don't think its unreasonable that the government should be able to know who has a gun, what kind of gun, and how well trained they are. If you want to fall back to the whole "we are all in the militia" argument with the second amendment, this would be critical information should the militia ever need to be called up to action.

Another critical piece to this, to prevent accidents and lessen theft, all guns should come with a trigger lock, and a good gun safe should be required. Now, it is my understanding that the trigger locks are cheap and fairly effective, but good gun safes are very expensive. I've also been told that cheap gun safes are pretty much worthless. So, to facilitate the gun safe issue, they should be subsidized. It is your right to have a gun, but in the interest of public safety, we demand that it be stored safely. To that end, in the public interest, we will help you pay for it.

Then there is the issue of illegal guns. This one's tough. So, the higher you go in the license structure, the more responsible I think you should be. For everyone, if a gun is stolen there is an investigation. If any negligence on the part of the gun owner is found, penalties start to happen. If you're at the basic level and your gun gets stolen, you lose your license for a year. As you move up, you're dealing with more powerful guns, and we have instilled more trust in you, so fines start getting levied. If after you get your license back, you have another gun stolen, you lose your license for life. (this point i could certainly negotiate on, but I'm trying to avoid people buying guns to give to criminals that can't buy them on their own). If no negligence is found, the first time is a free pass. After that the same process starts up. If a gun registered to you is involved in a crime, and you didn't report it stolen, you have a legal and civil liability, and the level of liability is again tied to your level of training and responsibility. Same goes for someone caught with your gun.

And speaking of that, if you are caught with a gun that is not registered to you while in the commission of a crime, mandatory 20 years; no parole, no plea bargain. If police catch a drug dealer, and he is illegally in possession of a gun, 20 years, no question. If the gun has been somehow modified to make it harder to trace, 40 years. This, admittedly, does nothing about the kinds of mass killings that we have seen lately, bringing the whole discussion back up. It would, however, have some impact on the cartels, gangs, and other organized crime. They are, at the end of the day, business people. Let's make it more difficult for them to do their business by taking their soldiers and dealers off the street in a meaningful way. Couple that with some serious prison reform and we can do some damage.

A quick tangent, running on the whole "dealing with the cartels thing" because that is a whole lot of the gun crime. We need to legalize pot. The writing is on the wall, it's going to happen. Let's do it now, and tax it. More money coming in, money not going to the gangs, and less non violent criminals taking up cells. That makes room for the influx of people who will be locked up for a long time due to gun possession.

We also need to deal with gun sales. First off, every gun sale needs to include a background check and a waiting period. I understand that it's inconvenient, but if you need the gun "right now" you're probably need it for the wrong reason. Also, if a dealer is found to be bypassing that law to sell to a legal, licensed gun owner loses their right to sell guns. A dealer knowingly selling to people who can't legally have a gun goes to jail.

So that's the general outline. It's also worth noting that there is nothing in here about mental healthcare other than the psych evaluations for the more military style training. I absolutely think we need a serious overhaul of the mental healthcare system. That is a separate, related issue, and needs fair, solid treatment done to it as well. I'm already biting off more than I actually can chew here, which is why I need help with it. If someone wants to work on that stuff, go for it.

Now, I'm well aware that there are some problems here, and a lot of room for clarification and details. I'm asking for help here. Let's put aside the bickering, the trolling and the hyperbole and try to actually get something reasonable here. No "the blood is on your hands" or "you're trying to take away all our guns just like Hitler." We can be reasonable people.


  1. I suppose the first question that comes to mind is who regulates the licensing and evaluation, states or feds, and where the money to pay for it comes from.

    I think a program like this would be best handled by the individual state governments. Keep the bureaucracies smallish and well away from lobbyists.

    The funds could be allocated from a new sales taxes levied on the sale of firearms.

  2. The problem with doing it at a state level is that then we run into issues like we have now. Does a license carry from state to state? How do reciprocities work?

    As for funding, I'm basing this a lot on my own licensing for the Merchant Mariner stuff. There is a small fee that I pay to the coast guard to get a license. Generally upgrading a license costs about $150, with some variance for a few different things. I don't know exactly what all the expenses on their end come from, but it's the coast guad, so I'm assuming, along with the fees they get their pay from the defense department. I would propose that this program would probably fall under the national guard, and would be a similar situation.

    The classes are paid out of pocket by us sailors. The vast majority of the schools are private schools that are accredited by the coast guard, for lack of a better word.

  3. In large part most of the regulations you propose are to some extent already in place. The back ground checks, the training prior to purchase, the waiting periods all exist today. I grant you due to the way they've been implemented there are large loop holes in the way they are administered (in large part due to the interference of the NRA). In Florida to obtain a concealed carry permit, you must submit to a back ground check that includes checks all the way to the federal level. You must also complete a certified gun safety course (unless you’re an active member of the military or a veteran with a clean DD-214). An example of one of these loop holes: I have a carry permit and didn't have to take a gun safety course, I used my DD-214 which is more than 40 years old. Another of the big problems I see is that there are already so many unregistered weapons floating around I don’t see any possible way to get them all registered and linked to an individual. I tend to think the better approach is to regulate the sale of all ammunition and items used to make or reload ordinance (not very effective to start with but in the long run it would give you some control of how you could use a weapon). I applaud your efforts and I wish you success in your quest.

    1. I think I'm talking about a more involved level of regulation. I don't know about the current system, honestly, but as another comparison to what I do. I just took my basic safety training course, including survival in the water, first aid, and firefighting. I need to take a refresher course every five yearsIt's the upgrading and refreshing that I think is different.

      As for the unregistered weapon issue... over time, with the more agressive punishments for posession of an unregistered gun will slowly, but i suspect steadily, cut that number down.

  4. There is reciprocity on a state by state basis, much like drivers licenses. The fee for a carry permit in Florida is $125.00 and is valid for 7 years.

  5. What Mike said. A lot of this stuff is theoretically in place. The "tiered" system is interesting and unique. It would be good to centralize and streamline a lot of regulations, because right now the laws from state to state -- not to mention from place to place: most places of work don't allow any guns at all, some universities only in designated gun lockers, none at all on school yards. It'd be good to have some kind of unified code, and then enforce it.

    That said, none of this would have prevented the Sandy Hook shooting. But it could help cut down on gun violence and illegal trade of weapons.

    1. If the guns were stowed better, it might have been different.

      That said, mass killings are not the entirety, or even statistically the bigger part of the problem.

  6. Let the Federal ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) department do the licensing and registration. The program(s) could be funded by registration and program fees so they're minimally susceptible to Congressional interference.

    Require fully licensed gun owners to have liability insurance as well just as car owners do.

  7. I dig the system. Not only would this create jobs for people who must now license and test people but it would also offer up opportunities for folks in private security, or to get a private security position. The training you describe is much like what is required for private security individuals to get their license. You have to qualify with each caliber you intend to carry and if you are caught without that permit, jail time. I can see the argument going from federal to state regulations, but that's already a big problem. What if you move? Do you then have to pass a refresher course to qualify for similar permits in your new home state or do you have to start from scratch. It's better if the regulations are federal, in my opinion, yet, should you move, you are required to register your guns and training no less than 30 days after being in your new residence (just like a driver's license).

    You've got a good start, Cap.

  8. I posted a long section on a friend's facebook about a solution for stolen guns. I could run it by you if you want me to. Also what is up with having to use a livejournal to log into this? Over 4 years since I updated.

    1. Absolutely, throw it up here. I'd love to see it.

      You should be able to log in with a gmail account?

  9. Long one and no TLDR option. Deal with it.

    X-posted from where I dropped this entry off on my friend's facebook wall:
    That right there, gun control that would help. Want to leave your gun lying around the house loaded? Sure go ahead, just get an RFID lock on it first. This would have prevented the connecticut gun tragedy recently (not the most recent one, as there was that one in Pennsylvania I don't know the details of yet.)

    Plan: Require gun manufacturers to lock guns with an RFID that can be coded to them. When you get your license (you are getting a license right?) you get an RFID coded to the gun. That would result in only the licensed owner of the gun being able to fire the gun. This is how it already works in an ideal situation (the reality of it is less than ideal).
    Anti tampering measures I would suggest: 1. Attempts to bypass the rfid alert the local precinct (we already can do this for cars) or 2. Would slag the firing pin of the gun (more controversial due to Wargarble my guns!) bear in mind that for option 2 someone is trying to use your gun to kill you. do you really want it working?

    Rights you would give up: 1. The right to have your kid steal your gun and kill themselves, their friends, you. 2. You would also give up the right to worry about your gun being stolen and used against you. 3. In court cases it could devolve into Accused: I didn't do it. Prosecution: Hey you were the only person on the planet who could have fired it.

    Potential gains in this: 1. Significantly diminished rate of gun violence. 2. Significantly diminished rate of illegal weapons sales.
    Things this would not be able to fix: people stealing antique firearms and going on rampages with a musket. Personally though I would much rather find out about "1 dead in blunderbuss rampage, as killer is tackled and beaten during 2 minute reload"

    Results: Everyone gets to have their big pile of guns, arms manufacturers still get to sell the United states a gun for every living person. The NRA can stop worrying about their guns getting taken away just because they happen to kill kids, and focus on the real threat, that president who has been the kindest to gun owners in ~30 years (but has a suspicious skin color). Children are safer.

    Tell the Nobel committee to send my check to Lyon-Martin health clinic.

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. You get punished for .0035% of the population that has been alive during your generation, generously calculated in the "anti-gun" fanatic's favor.That's the dumbest ratio/% I've ever seen.
      When you're done, take 15 minutes to read the Bill of Rights. Remember what few laws made your current life successful/unbearable and weigh it with what this country was supposed to be. It still can be if we all focus on love, community, family, truth and action.If the avg. Joe, mother, alt. life-stylists, fellow veterans; if we want to change this world from the lower/middle class out we have to do it ourselves. Turn your TV off, go meet a neighbor. Read a book. Get along with your fellow man a little; stop idolizing and enabling Hollywood to run this country. If any TRUE change will ever come, we, the REAL Americans, will have to, at some time, oust all government, simplify it and run it from a concerned local level where we could all care with hearts open to communities. So distracted globally, we've forgotten our own friends/family/community with digital media. So complain all you want but change only happens within the heart first, then the community.It's very basic. Big Gov. trying to scare us, blame all 300M+; not the few psychos. Recently a Chinese man wounded 20+ in a random stabbing. I don't think this was a "Semi-Automatic Ka-Bar Combat KNIFE with a 30-rd 5.56 Magazine."
      For the benefit of the doubt, 15K murders a year, 70 years in a capable gun owner's generation; one person, in his/her generation will see 70yrsx15K=1.05M murders in their lifetime. US population = 300M+ Americans, not Democrats/Republicans/Libertarians, but AMERICANS. Not enemies, please let us not be divided. 300M+ Americans divided by 1.05M murders in your lifetime means you getting punished for .0035% of the population that has been alive during your generation.
      All currently involved in politics from 1900AD/earlier blood-lines would need to be removed and local farmers, investors, machinists, truckers, mothers, nurses, etc. who are currently un-involved outside of work/home would make a more concerned political infrastructure. Our current political system needs replaced. It's broken. Long live the United States of America and our few, remaining unalienable rights.
      1.05M / 300M = 0.0035%%
      Let's say I am mot being generous; quick adjustment;
      x600% up to 6M / 300M = 0.02%% ; HAHAHA; still...need I show more.
      By the way, the more that the anti-gun lobbyists push for bans, the increased sales/immediate push in sales resulting in just as many guns that would have been out in the next 5-10 years. Sweet.
      Congrats! The US has bought enough guns by the end of 2012 to have more than 1 gun/person (appx. 300M+ guns in America, 156M sales in the last 14 years (1M-3M in 11/12-01/13). As an owner/enthusiast, have been unable to get my hands on the much-valued AR-15 platform since Obama tried to spook us. All he did was make us buy a gun instead of worthless Christmas presents.
      15K'ish murders/yr with guns;40K include suicide (again, mentality of the person, not the SINGLE 12 ga. shell it took, rule these high-capacity 1-shot suicides out of consideration, appx. 25K+ deaths/year); 300K+ deaths from automobile accidents/year.
      The math is simple. There's a reason this right is only 2nd to the right to our freedom from big government. Our right to bear arms should not make it difficult by being filtered THROUGH the gov., when the reason the right was written in the first place was so that your avg. Joe could rise up and protect his family first, neighborhood second, and lastly nation, against ALL enemies, foreign, domestic and government.
      A few shootings by wackos who had access to weapons for years; not gone out and bought that day/72-hrs before. Planned attacks by wackos. The 30-rd magazines didn't just grow legs, jump in to the AR-15, grow a demonic personality and walk it's happy ass to the shootout! A few commit crimes, regulate 300+ Million? God Bless America.

  11. A comment first about the 2d Amendment ranters. While the Supreme Court has reasoned that this is an individual right, the language of the Constitution is clear in its reference to the need for a well ordered militia. To wit, we need a militia to protect the government. The ironic twist is that the motivation of the most strident 2d Amendment advocates, some of them anarchists, is to protect themselves FROM government. That is, they are anti-government. And that has nothing to do with a "well ordered militia".
    Then there is the confusion about "assault weapons". Ask a non-owner on the street and they will provide some vague description based upon watching the movies and some reference to a lot of bullets being fired. My personal experience, by the way, runs from 105mm and 155mm tank rounds, to .50 cal machine gun, to .30 co-ax machine gun, to M-1 Garand to M-14 to M-16, to M1911 .45 cal pistol, Model 94 30-30 Winchester and the odd shotguns and .22 cal rifles. Some of these are single round, some fully automatic and some semi-automatic. Some of these load multiple rounds, some single rounds, some are belt fed, ONE uses a clip and some use a magazine. (A "clip" is a simple cartridge that is not spring loaded, while a magazine is spring loaded.)
    So let's make it simple for the non-owner and non-user. Automatic fire weapons are not legal in the U.S. When you hold down the trigger on an automatic weapon, bullets keep coming until the belt or magazine are empty or the weapon jams. NONE of the tragedies of recent years involved automatic weapons. There was no "spraying" of bullets.
    Most "modern" guns are semi-automatic. That is, each time you pull the trigger, one round fires. You may fire rounds as fast as you pull the trigger until the magazine is empty. The mass shooting we know of involved semi-automatic weapons, both rifle configuration and hand guns. Either one can fire rounds just as fast, with the same result, until the magazine is empty. Therefore, the distinction made between "assault weapons" and "other" guns is improper. In fact, many modern "hunting" rifles have many of the same physical features as so-called "assault weapons" such as a pistol grip or collapsable stock. If there is anything that distinguishes an "assault weapon" it is light weight and shorter barrel length. What is perhaps problematic about "assault weapons" is that they can be more or less concealed under a long coat and they are easy to point in confined spaces.
    So semi-automatic hands guns can fire as many bullets as fast as semi-automatic rifles, whether small and light tactical weapons or long barreled hunting rifles. The relevant distinction becomes "how often" or "how fast" you can reload the weapon. And that brings us to large capacity magazines. No legitimate hunter can claim the need for a 30 round magazine. You get one shot at a deer at a distance. Either the deer is down or it's running. If you could accurately fire multiple rounds at a deer, you will have ruined your lunch -- broken brones and ruptured organs would make the animal useless as food. What a waste.
    So, if you are serious about gun regulation, here's some summary pointers:
    - The problem is not "assault weapons", it's "semi-automatic weapons with large capactiy magazines" -- that may include hand guns.
    - Magazines and clips are not the same thing -- you want to sound knowledgable to gun owners.
    - Size does matter -- smaller weapons are concealable, yet we encourage and license concealment which facilitates entry to places of assembly. Why don't we require open carry?
    For another time, there is the matter of "accountability" for weapons owned, gun licensing loopholes, the matter of access to mental health treatment (why are all of the shooters relatively young men?) and a culture of gratuitous violence.