Full disclosure: although not an active supporter, I am a life member of the NRA.
There are – to use the cliche – two sides to the Gun Control issue, and in my view both sides are wrong. On the one hand, outright banning of weapons doesn’t have a great deal of effect on spur-of-the-moment crime (though I will hold up the Assault Weapon ban of the 90s as an exception to this rule), and on the other, allowing free access to anyone enables terrorists, nutters, and criminals to acquire weapons without any more effort than walking into a Cabelas, Bass Pro, or Dick’s with a couple hundred dollars and leaving with high-capacity semi-automatic weapons.
A suggestion I’d like to float is this:
Gun liability insurance. Just as you have to buy liability insurance for a car in case you are at fault in an accident, which is enforced by the state, you would have to purchase liability insurance for weapons you buy. For example, in North Carolina you can’t even get a driver’s license without proof of insurance. Just as with a vehicle, you’d get discounts for safe practices, long-term accident-free, purchase and use of safe storage / disabling devices, etc., while different varieties of weapon would be subject to different rates. (A high-cap semi-auto would jack your rate up a bit, while a limited-magazine shotgun would be considered a lower-risk.)
Concealed carry permits would amplify the premium, since the individual is increasing his/her risk of accidental shootings. Certified marksmanship would also potentially carry financial benefit to the individual in the form of reduced premiums, and would encourage people to get out and participate at ranges, instead of just buying a gun, letting it collect dust, and then blasting randomly when they actually need to use the weapon.
The purchase of a weapon today is a one-off thing – you buy it and there’s no further cost aside from ammunition and cleaning kit. Making an ongoing cost would remove the impulse buys and certainly reduce “gifting” of unnecessary weapons, so in the end you’d only have people buying them who really needed or wanted the particular gun, and you’d have legitimate cause for seizure or criminal penalty (fine or impound) of uninsured weapons.
Added bonus: you get the insurance industry on board to square off against the NRA, and because this practice makes good common sense, the majority of non-gun-owners and a good portion of responsible gun-owners would sign on (reluctantly, as it is an added expense, but still – I’d be proud of my responsibility). As a gun owner, I recognize the inherent danger that is represented by the use of my weapons, and I would feel a little better knowing I was financially protected against accidents.
Licensing is a second item I would introduce. Where I live, in the Czech Republic, there is also a gun licensing procedure that I think makes a lot of sense. It consists of three steps: the first is passing a written exam that demonstrates knowledge of the laws surrounding the possession and use of firearms, a practical test that demonstrates one’s ability to use a weapon (basically that you can hit what you aim at), and the third is a medical certification that you are physically and psychologically capable of assuming the responsibility. The medical part is required every few years when you renew. Once you have your license, you purchase your weapons and register them with the local police.
While the registration of the weapons is probably not something that would be acceptable in the US, the licensing certainly is a logical requirement. Again to use the parallel to the automobile – you have to prove you’re capable of operating the vehicle before you are legally allowed to drive one (though you can own one and operate it off-road). Demonstrating basic competence and familiarity with your responsibilities in gun ownership is something that owners should be happy to do – I know I am quite content in exercising such.
To put either or both of these requirements in place would do a great deal to neuter the rabid anti-gun lobby, and would also take a lot of the steam out of the constant fear-mongering that the NRA finds so profitable. As such, I would think both sides would probably find this solution distasteful and would fight it…and I consider that a good sign that it would be good legislation. A healthy compromise to bring both sides away from their radical fringe attitudes, and encourage all sides to get back to looking at the problems constructively.
During the Superbowl on Feb 5, 2012, this ad ran:
I’m glad to see I’m not the only one looking for sensible solutions to end the NRA’s brain cancer and restore some sanity to the debate.