Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Episode 5: The Proposals

If you haven't read the IntroductionEpisode 1Episode 2 , Episode 3 or Episode 4, you should do so now.

A man once stood before GOD his heart breaking from the pain and injustice in the world. "Dear GOD," he cried out, "look at all the suffering and anguish and distress in YOUR world. Why don't you send help?" GOD responded, "I did send help. I sent you."
- A Jewish Folk Tale

What do I want? I want a safer more civil society. We need to work on many things in order to achieve this but gun violence in one area that deserves special attention. I advocate for the steps below to be taken.

  • Remove laws that prevent government agencies from researching and advocating for effective ways to prevent gun deaths. There are too few facts about gun violence and we should not be beholden to laws created by the gun lobby to hobble us in this regard. The best data that can be found is biased and spun. We need real science. The shackles that exist on the very people we task with discovering the causes of injury and death must be removed. 
  • Appoint and approve a head of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and change the laws that restrict the BATF from creating effective regulations. How can we effectively enforce our gun laws if the agency charged with safeguarding us against the illegal use and trafficking of firearms has no leadership? The President gets his choice here. And they get to do their jobs; revoke the Tiahrt Amendment and other such nonsense.
  • Increase enforcement of existing laws. For example, while it is a felony to lie on a background check application, virtually no one is prosecuted for that felony. 80,000 people lied on background check applications in 2010, 44 were prosecuted.[1] Research has demonstrated that criminals who lie on a background check and are denied a firearm purchase are 28% more likely to commit a crime in the five years post denial than the five years before the denial. Ironically, those same criminals are 80% more likely to use a firearm in a crime after being denied than before.[2] Let's get them before they commit a crime. Fix this.
  • Create a National Firearms Permit that would be required for the purchase and ownership of firearms. Rules for firearms sales, firearms training and background checks must be standardized at the federal level -- the myriad of state laws creates gaps in regulation that criminals can drive a truck loaded with firearms through. This permit would also authorize holders to carried concealed weapons.
  • Eliminate private sales of firearms. All sales should require a background check and be a properly documented transaction between two parties who have a permit.
  • Criminalize the negligent storage of firearms. If you own a firearm, you need to lock it up. Just like I need an inspection of my plumbing when I renovate my bathroom, if you buy a firearm you have to demonstrate that it can be safely stored. If your weapon is stolen or harms someone because it wasn't locked up, you go to jail. For a long time. And you surrender your guns, cause you're now a felon.
  • Require the registration of all firearms. A centralized database of all firearms in the United States is required to ensure that when someone gets certified as mentally ill or commits a crime that causes them to lose gun ownership rights, we know how many guns they own and where they are. This database would not be subject to disclosure under Freedom of Information requests.

And finally, the most controversial:

  • Stop selling military grade weapon systems to individuals. Suffice to say, if our troops are using it on the Taliban you don't get to have one in your house.This will be the most difficult to define and the most difficult to swallow. But it's time to draw a new line on what's allowed for civilian ownership. I believe that civilian versions of military firearms, euphemistically referred to in the industry as "modern sporting rifles", should be restricted. We did it before, in 1934, and we need to do it again.

The first bullet is the most important. If we as a society cannot agree to study and understand gun violence then we back ourselves into the most extreme recommendation of all - the only way to curb gun violence is to eliminate all the guns. But that is a low road. It is one that we do not deserve. We are worthy of better.

I've sent these recommendations to my Congressman.

The ball is in your court now. You can sit on the sidelines and let the extremists duke it out or you can make your voice heard with your elected officials. Chose a side, even if it's your own side, and act. 

Thanks for tagging along over the past week. Thanks to you who have left thoughtful comments and to those who have tolerated this diversion. It's now back to fishing. As it should always have been.

Rest in peace, Charlotte.

[1] I could not find the original DOJ data for this. Quoted from NY Times Article, Both Sides in Gun Debate Agree: Punish Background-check Liars.
[2] Recidivism of Denied Prospective Firearms Purchasers


  1. Thanks for all of this the last few days Steve. Hopefully people will copy and paste today's bullet points into letters to their Congressmen.

    Getting people to act now is the hard part.

    As you said, back to fishing. Only, it's 13 degrees out while I type this. That violates my 32 degrees or better rule.

    1. Ten degrees here. It's so cold the snow squeaks when you walk on it.

  2. Once more-thank you. It is 0 in my bailiwick here in Northern Mi. I have caught some of my largest browns in Jan-Feb between 0 and 30 degrees. What I love most--almost no competition.

    1. My favorite time of the year to fish. Tight lines.

  3. Thanks for sharing all of your thoughts on this subject. It's been nice following along.
    I have to say, I think your last point may be the least controversial in the list... and maybe the easiest to actually achieve. Bullet points 4 - 7 seem far more unlikely to me... especially with an active gun lobby around. In the red state where I live, anything being nationalized (or "federalized" if you prefer) is going to be staunchly opposed. I live in the South... where the average citizen fear the federal "gubment."
    I don't necessarily disagree with those points, but I think they're pretty bold and would take a long time to get them fully implemented.
    Thanks again for sharing.

    1. I honestly don't think any of this will be easy. I have very low expectations. That said, it's worth a shot.

  4. I completely agree with your proposals. I also don't think that it's asking too much of a supposedly civil society to enact legislation that protects its citizens.

    1. Dang, we almost have ourselves a movement here.

  5. Thank you for the thought and the time you put into this, Steve. This is the kind of thing that can't be boiled down to sound-bites, and we're going to need to improve our collective attention span to deal with it. You've done a good job of speaking for a lot of people here.

  6. Thanks, Quill. It is complex. Sadly we've been either stunned or bullied into inaction on the subject. It's time to act.

  7. Came in from Johnny’s website. I’m glad I stumbled upon it.

    Rationalism, something we’ve lost as a Americans over the last 20 years. It’s refreshing to have found it.

    I am a male elementary school teacher just a few towns away from Newtown, a rare breed in the world of education. Sandy Hook has profoundly affected me as a father, husband, and proud teacher. The majority of my female colleagues want all guns banned from society and I find it difficult to argue with them. Their passion runs deep and I cannot blame them for their thinking. If the shooter didn’t have access to weapons, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    I am not a gun owner at this time. But, I am an outdoorsman and have always wanted to learn to hunt. I support hunting and the responsible ownership of guns even though I’m not a gun owner. I fear the gun crazies, the pry the gun from my cold dead hands types. They scare me. I fear them because they seem mentally unstable. I have a few friends in that boat and we’ve debated about the ownership of AKs and ARs. I have never saw the point of using a suppressive weapon as a hunting rifle. Yet they argue that the government is going to take over their lives, the zombies will come, and due to the end of civil society in the near future we will all need these types of weapons. I dislike arguing with them because they get so angry and hate filled.

    It is too difficult to debate with irrational folks with rational thought. They are always right and everyone else not in agreement is wrong and they argue to beat and destroy rather than reasonably convey their message. This is why I haven’t entered the fray of the gun control debate, until now.

    1. I suppose that's why I wrote this; the lack of rationalism. Thanks for stopping by. And don't forget to write that Congressperson.

  8. I will not sit on the sidelines and watch any longer. Time to fight for reasonable thought. I too want a better society, a better United States. Thank you for publishing your thoughts.

  9. Steve - Thanks for your series of posts. I saw them when you first put them up and have returned to them on several occasions. I have also taken the liberty of forwarding the links to several friends. I am leading a gun violence dialogue at my church and have tried to undertake some local initiatives. I find your comments some of the clearest, most moving and level-headed on the internet. If our leaders, and our fellow citizens, adopted your bulleted points, we'd be a long way toward a safer and saner society. And yes, I have called, written and petitioned my congress people.

    1. Jerald, you're quite welcome. And thanks for taking action.