Let me start by saying that I support the Second Amendment. I believe in the right of law-abiding citizens to own firearms. But I do not believe that it is an absolute right. Just as you cannot exercise your First Amendment right by shouting "fire" when there is no fire or by slandering people, you cannot exercise your Second Amendment right by parading around in crowded places with loaded automatic weapons. There have to be controls, and it is the responsibility of citizens to decide what controls are necessary to protect society.
Just as we license automobile drivers, contractors, beauticians, etc., I believe that we should license gun owners—all of them. Just as we register cars, boats, airplanes, etc., I believe that we should register guns—all of them. Every gun owner in America should be licensed, and every gun in America should be registered to a licensed gun owner. You should not be able to possess a gun, buy a gun, or buy ammunition for a gun unless you have a license. If the police find any gun that is not registered to a licensed gun owner, they should confiscate it and destroy it immediately.
I see licensing as follows:
An "A" license would allow you to possess non-semi-automatic rifles (bolt action, lever-action, single-shot, pump, etc.), shotguns, rim-fire guns (.22 caliber), and revolvers. To get an "A" license, you would have to be a certain age, pass a background check, take a "hunter safety" type course, and pass a written test.
A "B" license would allow you to own semi-automatic rifles and pistols. These guns are in the spotlight because they are, repeatedly, the guns used in criminal activity and horrific mass shootings. Not surprisingly, a majority of Americans are demanding tighter controls over these weapons. A "B" license should be hard to get. You'd have to pass an extensive background check, and you would have to have some training on the range with a licensed instructor. You would have to pass both a written test and a proficiency test. There would be limits as to how many "B" type weapons you could own, and reporting requirements would be strict. If you feel like you need to own these types of weapons, you should have to demonstrate that you are sane, qualified, and responsible enough to do so.
Every gun you own would be registered to you. You would be personally responsible for each gun. If it gets lost or stolen, you would need to report that immediately. If you buy a gun, it goes on your license. If you sell a gun, it goes off your license and onto somebody else's. A licensed gun owner would be able to sell a gun to another licensed gun owner without going through a dealer as long as both parties report the sale immediately—transferring the weapon accordingly. Possessing a gun that is not registered to you or that is unregistered would be a crime, the gun subject to confiscation, and you subject to losing your license. Exceptions could be made for a licensed gun owner loaning a gun to another licensed gun owner. Anybody possessing a gun who does not have license would be in deep ... . Well, you know what they'd be in: Jail time, fines, restrictions on one's ability to ever get a license, etc.
As for concealed carry permits: I think that it should be the responsibility of county sheriffs to issue concealed carry permits to licensed (and trained) gun owners when the sheriff deems it appropriate. County sheriffs need to know who in their county is carrying a gun. Attitudes about guns vary from county to county, and elected sheriffs are answerable to those who elect them. Let them figure out what works best for their county.
Let me suggest that the guy waving around his AR-15 and his American flag at the shopping mall is not helping gun owners. He is just frightening folks. Like it or not, stricter gun regulations are coming. Reasonable, sane gun owners (i.e., the majority of gun owners) could and should have a say in how those regulations get written. But if gun owners are just obstructionists, then somebody else is going to write those regulations—somebody who doesn't own guns—and we'll end up with a bunch of stupid and irritating gun laws that you won't like at all.
This proposal may not be the end all/be all solution, but it may be a good place to start a rational debate. Remember those? I don't expect gun-totin' patriots and yoga mat-totin' vegans to see eye to eye on the issue of guns, but I do expect adults to be able to have a civilized conversation about what controls are necessary to protect our communities and our children from gun violence while still respecting Constitutional rights. Δ
Pat Veesart advocates for civil rights and gun rights from Santa Margarita. Send comments through the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org write a letter and send it to the editor at