We once again find ourselves glued to a looped TV newsreel, edited ever so perfectly around a freshly orchestrated studio soundtrack with tragic overtones and a slew of parents, teachers, students, local politicians and first responders, all willing participants in this pageant of hypocrisy.
With the revolving door conversation from both sides no closer to a solution and the next episode of gun violence looming, the notion that nothing can be done to end this systemic failure is unacceptable. To honor those who have lost their lives to gun violence and all those who will, we should set aside our differences and focus on a real action plan. With 32 years of private security and law enforcement experience, I believe I possess the right balance and perspective to address gun ownership. The mandatory background check/waiting period agenda, while important, is simply mollifying and distracting the country from what is not being discussed: accountability.
We must begin the gun control conversation by identifying how to effectively control gun ownership, not how to protect an ad-hoc, broken system, which creates loopholes and access for criminals to purchase firearms through an underground market. We have reached a critical point where the damage to our citizens and the national psyche caused by unrestricted gun ownership is outweighed by any of its freedoms and benefits. It is true that people kill people, not guns; however, if we take away the guns, fewer people are likely to die or be injured. Take Japan, which is historically known for being a violent country. With stringent gun ownership regulations, they are almost completely gun free and experience practically no gun violence.
By embracing some of Japan’s ownership laws, we could begin to legitimize gun ownership with fundamental mandates such as: training, registration, licensing, insurance, and annual inspections requirements. A national database would allow us to track firearms from gun manufacturer to gun retailer to licensed gun owner. Anomalies in this transaction chain would trigger alarms, giving enforcement authorities like the ATF actionable reason to investigate. This would help prevent a firearm from reaching the underground market.
The new system of gun ownership would define which weapons our citizens have a right to own. High caliber, high capacity and high-speed, assault-grade firearms and ammo would no longer be available for purchase. A common sense standard to justify this restriction would now apply. For example, when a police officer uses deadly physical force to prevent or stop a crime, the rule is to stop and immobilize the perpetrator—remove the threat—not kill. Using this standard to protect one’s home, our citizens would have access to weapons and ammo that “stop” a predator, rather than penetrate walls and doors with the potential for collateral damage to innocent parties. Using this standard, we could create a class of firearm that never exceeds the personal safety of others. This would be followed by an actual firearm limit, per licensee and household.
We would then frame an ownership program with a mandated age requirement of 21. Young adults seeking to own a firearm could apply on their 20th birthday with an application, background check, mandatory gun safety course and written exam. A practical firearms exam at an authorized gun range would follow.
Once an individual has been approved to own a firearm, passed both written and practical exams, they would be required to purchase liability insurance. With credentials in hand, the individual would now be able to purchase a firearm from an authorized dealer.
Within 48 hours of purchasing a firearm, it would need to be physically inspected and photographed by a local police department. Electronic fingerprints would be taken to validate ownership and complete the registration process. The firearm would be secured with the owner and not authorized for use until the owner’s registration card had been received.
Firearm ownership for private citizens would be permitted for at-home protection, hunting, or use at an authorized gun range for target practice. Additional rules and procedures for transporting firearms would apply, and owners would be required to carry their firearm license, registration, and insurance while transporting the weapon.
A universal, state-mandated database to collect all ownership data would be developed to manage this new gun ownership program, and access to the database would be given to every local police agency. Gun owners would be mandated to contact their local police agency regarding all changes in ownership such as: the desire to sell, trade or gift a firearm; a medical condition that prevents the owner from safely discharging or securing the firearm; a change of address, etc.
Gun ownership would then become a renewable, annual process for the licensed gun owner. A practical firearms competency exam under this system would be mandatory every two years at a qualified gun range, and an alert system would ensure compliance, including provisions which trigger an alert for arrests for violent crimes, domestic crimes, and reports of workplace violence. The system would also notify physicians and mental health professionals during a medical intake that the patient they are treating is a licensed firearm holder thereby allowing the local police an opportunity to interact with the firearm owner or his/her family to evaluate if those firearms could still be safely possessed. The new gun ownership program would be a fee-based program, and fees would go toward supporting the system, firearm safety education and relief funds for victims and survivors of gun violence.
The result would be a modern-day solution with absolutely no breach in our second amendment right to bear arms. Whether or not you agree with the dynamics of the proposed solution, it is a solution nonetheless and a road map to controlling gun ownership. For those who are not disciplined or responsible enough or economically capable of navigating through the process to own a firearm, there are many other ways to feel secure in oneself and one’s home, such as martial arts and self-defense training and, for the hobbyists, many other sports and hobbies from which to choose.