#guncontrol  #centrism  #debate  
Issue 7
December 16, 2018
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“…when James Madison penned the 2nd Amendment, machine guns, military grade assault rifles & bump stocks – which effectively turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons - did not exist. Hence, we must apply common sense and rationality when applying text written in 1791 to the present.” – TQC

The United States is facing an ideological chasm. We have collectively lost the ability to empathize with anyone other than “our own.” Few issues are more indicative of this and divisive than, the debate about guns in America. The sensible middle where compromise is often discovered has been relegated to irrelevance.

Nobody at The Quintessential Centrist is a gun owner nor do we hunt, shoot skeet, or targets for practice. We do not have any reason to carry weapons for self-defense, though after publishing this article, we might. To have a better appreciation for the plight of gun owners, we interviewed a sampling of them. Some were city dwellers who carried handguns primarily for self-defense and / or target practice. Others were long gun (shotgun / rifle) owners whose primary use was for hunting wild game. We also talked to people who thought guns should be outlawed.

Most gun owners do actually support thoughtful regulation and consistent licensing procedures regarding the purchase, sale and usage of firearms; this was the most surprising thing we garnered from our due diligence . Many are in a moral quagmire, stuck between what they support – thoughtful rules and regulation – and the legitimate worry that any new law that curbs gun rights will set off a cascade of ever more restrictive legislation; with the end game being an outright ban on private firearm ownership.

A minority of staunch gun rights advocates are incorrigible and unwilling to entertain even the most benign ideas pertaining to gun control. This includes weapons that have no practical purpose other than for illicit activities. Most in this camp argue that any new law put in place that regulates and imposes common sense restrictions on gun ownership is a non-starter. Like-minded individuals rebuff any constructive criticism or pushback by labeling their critics “elitists” and other terms purposefully so universal that anybody who wants to, can easily identify with them.

Unsurprisingly, the most ardent, uncompromising pro-gun activists live in rural and sparsely populated suburban areas. In our view, many in this group are neither sensitive enough nor do not properly consider that most violent crimes where a firearm is used are committed in cities. Moreover, that many city dwellers live in fear of violent crime, mass shootings, and terrorist attacks with semi-automatic weapons that can cause large-scale casualties.

Certain anti-gun activists are equally as unreasonable. They refuse to consider anything but a blanket ban on both the sale and possession of all firearms. Arguments are usually general, lack substance and buoyed by misguided statements such as “just get rid of guns” or “there should be no guns.” Many supporters of blanket gun bans are members of the far-left, who claim they are the voice of openness and inclusivity. They argue for social freedoms and ideas - but too often only those ideas that are commensurate with their own - while dismissing their critics as backwards, regressive and even intellectually inferior.

The strongest advocates of blanket gun bans live in cities. In our view, many urbanites are oblivious to the fact that not only do most gun owners use their firearms for hunting and leisure shooting but also that they use it as a bonding experience. Rural citizens’ relationship with the outdoors - hunting and guns included - is an integral part of their family life, passed down to each subsequent generation.

The Quintessential Centrist believes that U.S. citizens should maintain the right to purchase and utilize firearms. The right to bear arms is a fundamental right protected by the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. However, when James Madison penned the 2nd Amendment, machine guns, military grade assault rifles & bump stocks – which effectively turn semi-automatic weapons into automatic weapons - did not exist. Hence, we must apply common sense and rationality when applying text written in 1791 to the present.

The following common sense rules and regulations would make our streets and countryside safer while not putting overly onerous demands on gun owning, law abiding citizens. Furthermore, these reasonable restrictions would satisfy almost all hunters, target / skeet shooters, hobbyists, and owners of firearms for self-defense:

• Require any individual who purchases a firearm for the 1st time to undergo a psychological exam. The overwhelming majority of people who buy guns are mentally fit to own them. However, individuals who suffer from mental illness perpetrate a disproportionate number of crimes where a firearm is used. The plethora of societal problems that are contributing factors to the rising rates of serious psychological problems go well beyond the scope of this article. That said, if used incorrectly or handled by mentally unstable people, guns are extremely dangerous. A psychological exam to help determine mental stability is prudent and responsible.

• In conjunction with a psychological exam, require a 3 day waiting or “cooling off” period between purchasing a firearm and taking delivery of it. The overwhelming majority of people who purchase a firearm do not do so impulsively, in response to being irate at a friend, lover or a political movement. However, a disproportionate amount of people who do purchase a firearm for this reason use it to commit a crime. Imposing a mandatory 3 day “cooling off” period could mitigate a few dangerous situations.

• Require all firearms be kept in a locked safe or deposit type box if children under the age of 18 reside in the home. Very few accidents happen as the result of children playing with guns. However, a disproportionate number of accidents caused by children who get their hands on firearms in the home is the result of a gun not being safely stored. Requiring that firearms are safely secured if children are present is sensible.

• Legislate & Regulate at the Federal level. Inconsistent rules and regulations make compliance difficult, burdensome, and ineffective. Uniform requirements across the 50 states will streamline the process for training courses, licensure, background checks, etc. Federal regulation is materially more efficient and effective than a patchwork of inconsistent, unwieldy rules that deviate widely from state to state and even intra state.

• Make illegal all accessories that modify guns to fire more rapidly. There is little if any practical reason to modify a firearm to shoot faster. Hunting laws do not allow it. The vast majority of gun owners do not modify their weapons this way. However, a disproportionate number of people who commit mass shootings do so with semi-automatic weapons that have been modified to inflict the maximum amount of damage. We realize this ban will only have a limited effect; one can buy modified weapons on the secondary market. However, a common sense rule that could make mass shootings more difficult to facilitate is worth implementing.

• Prohibit rifles or shotguns that hold more than three shells between the chamber and the magazine (the part of weapon that holds most of the ammunition). Some states already limit how many bullets a hunting gun can hold. Three shots before re-loading is sufficient for most types of hunting. Typically, skeet shooters use a “double barrel” shotgun, with one bullet in each chamber. Although mass shootings and other random acts of violence are – despite what we see on TV and read in the newspaper – extraordinarily rare - in almost all of these unfortunate events, the weapon of choice is a semi-automatic weapon with an over-sized magazine. A large magazine enables the shooter to fire more ammunition without having to stop and reload. Like our suggestion on modification, we realize this restriction will only have a limited effect because of the number of modified guns already in circulation. That said, we do think its useful, prudent and a measure worth effecting.

• Pistols should also have limits on the amount of ammunition they will hold. However, because handguns are used primarily for target practice and self-defense, the magazine should allow for more ammunition than long guns. Its overly cumbersome to re-load a pistol during target practice after only three shots.

• Outlaw military grade assault rifles. These weapons have no place in society except for law enforcement and the military. They serve one primary purpose - to hurt and kill people. These weapons are not useful or needed to hunt, shoot skeet or for target practice. They should not be available to private citizens. Indeed, in 2008 as part of the District of Columbia v. Heller, The Supreme Court found “support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.”

• Allow firearm sales by licensed and registered dealers only; who conduct a background check, ensure that the buyer is properly licensed and determine the gun is not illegally modified. We received conflicting information about gun shows so did not feel it was appropriate to opine on whether that venue was an appropriate one to consummate a transaction. Private sales should be allowed but regulated and entered into a central database.

Subject to these – and other - reasonable restrictions, TQC advocates for the continued right of law-abiding private citizens to purchase firearms for hunting, sport, self-defense or as hobbyists. We understand that these recommendations are certainly not a panacea. Nevertheless, we do think that at the margins they can make a difference and satisfy reasonable gun control advocates; while not placing onerous demands on law-abiding gun owners.

News stories are newsworthy because they do not happen very often. Random acts of gun violence are exceedingly rare. Mass shootings, even rarer. Last year, guns killed ~ 40,000 Americans. Taken out of context, that seems like an awful lot. However, given a population of ~325 million and close to 400 million guns in circulation, only .0001% of guns in the United States were used to kill somebody. Furthermore, of the ~40,000 individuals slayed by guns in 2017, ~60% were suicides. Excluding people who kill themselves, the numbers are infinitesimal. Only .000035% of firearms in the United States were used in homicides. Of course, anything greater than 0% is too much for the victims and families who have been afflicted by gun violence. We are very sensitive to that, hence our position on sensible rules, regulations and compliance. However, we must continue to respect the constitutional right of American citizens to keep firearms and the 99.99% of them who enjoy their guns responsibly.