Forget “Gun” Control—How About “People” Control?

—December 3, 2015

With every mass shooting that happens in America gun control proponents amass more ammunition in their ongoing struggle to ban or otherwise restrict gun ownership and usage in the country. And yet, they keep shooting blanks….

I would posit that a large part of their problem lies with their emphasis on controlling guns rather than the people who use guns. It’s an inconvenient truth but: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Two AR-15 semiautomatic rifles didn’t walk into the San Bernardino, California Inland Regional Center on their own accord yesterday and start shooting people. No, two obviously deranged people walked into that center for people with disabilities and shot up the place using AR-15 semiautomatic rifles.

Guess what? The two AR-15 semiautomatic rifles are not to blame. And yet that is what gun control proponents will fixate on, all but ignoring the people who actually fired those guns and slaughtered 14 innocent people.

Another inconvenient truth: “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” Take Washington, DC, which had the strictest gun control laws in the nation in the 1980s and early 1990s, and yet had among the highest gun violence per capita in the nation during that time. For quite a few years it was known as the nation’s “murder capital,” with handguns being the primary murder weapon of choice.  And gee, how could that be possible as Washington, DC had an outright prohibition (since annulled as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court) on the ownership of handguns? Guess the criminals weren’t too worried about the five-year prison sentence for possession of a handgun.

So, again I ask, why the emphasis on controlling “guns” rather than people? Here in my adopted country of Canada, the government in the late 1990s enhanced its already stringent control on guns with something known as the “long gun registry.” It turned into a billion-dollar boondoggle in which efficient bureaucrats (pardon the oxymoron) milked the taxpayer teat at a rate of about $255 (and continually rising) per registered gun.

The program, which was scrapped in 2013, was never proven to reduce gun violence. Canada’s auditor general, in reviewing the government’s performance report on the registry, determined that the report did not show how the registry minimized “risks to public safety with evidence-based outcomes such as reduced deaths, injuries and threats from firearms.” Law enforcement users of the registry were mixed in their feelings about its usefulness, with many departments believing the program to be ineffective in deterring gun violence, but useful for determining whether guns might be present in particular homes that they might be called to or were otherwise investigating.

A quick question: Which deadly weapon kills more Americans every year than guns?

Give up?

Automobiles.

Have you ever heard anyone talk about “automobile control?” No, and that’s because the emphasis isn’t on automobiles, but on the people who drive them. If someone wants to drive a car in America they have to be trained and licensed. There are different classes of license depending upon vehicles driven, and the license can be revoked if a driver fails to follow the rules of the road.

Why shouldn’t the use and ownership of guns be treated in a similar fashion? If someone wants to own or use a gun, he or she should be required to possess a valid license, based on passing a gun usage and safety class, not having any criminal convictions involving firearms, and not having any medical or psychological conditions that might preclude or limit the safe use of a firearm. A basic license would allow for the use or ownership of a standard rifle or shotgun, while other classes of the license would allow for use or ownership of handguns and/or semiautomatic rifles, based on even more stringent training and requirements.

Failure to have a license could result in impoundment of firearms, fines and other penalties; and criminals committing gun crimes without a valid firearms license would be subject to enhanced penalties such as extended prison terms.

Overall, the entire program could be modelled on state automobile licensing programs, and even be operated under their auspices, as they have existing infrastructure in place to operate such a program. State governments would just need to add new computer software and hire division of firearms officers to perform all the tasks that need to be done in the issuance of a license.

To ease the transition into the new licensing scheme, long-time, law-abiding gun owners could be grandfathered in without the need for the safety/training class, and the requirements to become licensed could be phased in over several years on an age-based process.

And those states reluctant to adopt firearms licensing programs could receive encouragement from the federal government, which can threaten appropriation of state highway funds or enact other encouraging measures.

So all you gun control proponents, think about it: why control the guns when you should be controlling the people who use them?

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