As a total fantasy, because none of this is going to happen given our current Congress, let’s play a game of: how would Chuck Wendig do gun control? Like, if I had magical control over all governmental processes, how would I, a humble dipshit, control guns?
Let’s throw up some caveats, though, first.
First, I grew up around guns. My father operated a gun store and also was a gunsmith in his spare time. I reloaded ammo for him. We hunted. I still hunt. I wouldn’t call myself an expert, but I am no amateur. When I say I grew up around guns, I mean it — every room had at least one. The gunshop had a couple hundred. I got a new gun or knife damn near every Christmas. (Note: we never had any military-style “black rifles” around our house. My father didn’t like them, and he passed that feeling down to me.)
Second, let’s all gather around and remember that the Constitution is a living document. Not literally — it won’t fly around the room like a haunted specter, howling the Bill of Rights into your ear. I mean, it is a document meant to change — not easily, no, but it is doable. The Constitution is just a thing we made up. It isn’t a divinely-inspired document. God did not make America. Men did. Old, white guys from a couple centuries back. Jesus did not shit the Constitution into existence. Further, the Second Amendment isn’t an aperture that’s all-the-way open. That word, “well-regulated,” has (arguable) meaning. You can slippery slope it all you like, claiming that any regulations or restrictions on firearms is a restriction on the second amendment, but it’s too late. We already have restricted weapons. You cannot easily go buy an automatic weapon. (Contrary to popular belief, you can actually buy one. It just takes 6-9 months to get approved.) If any restrictions or regulations are in place on any firearm, then the slope is already slippery. It already happened. Barn door’s open. Horse is out. (Also note, Supreme Court declined to reconsider an assault rifle ban in CT.)
Third, banning individual weapons is a fraught path. You can ban certain models, but then there will just be new models. You can ban so-called “assault rifles,” but recognize that definition is more political than technical. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not on the train that anybody “needs” an AR-15. Sure, I know people like them for hunting, but I’m a little old school — you need an AR-15 for hunting, I’d suggest you learn to be a better hunter. (I have opinions about home defense, too, and I still don’t think you need one of those guns.) Just the same, the irony of regulating assault rifles is that they’re a small portion of the problem. You want to regulate them, but nobody says “boo” about handguns, which are the real problem. They’re concealable, semi-auto, and hold enough bullets to kill a bunch of people. A Glock 17 has 17 rounds in its magazine, and you can carry a bunch of magazines on you — okay, sure, it doesn’t afford the accuracy or stability that a semi-automatic rifle would, nor as many accessories, but you do earn the ability to easily conceal. Roughly 75% of gun homicides are committed with handguns.
Fourth, the folks who think “banning all guns” is the answer are, I fear, living in a unicorn world. Nearly 200 million firearms are out there. Somewhere between 40-50% of all households in America own a gun. We are a culture of gun owners. It’s in our pop culture, too. We all have a little Wild West blood in our veins. We’re all cowboys and scoundrels, all soldiers and cops. I know! It worked in Australia. It worked in the UK. And yet, those are relatively small countries comparatively. Plus, the United States is practically 50 little countries stapled together.
Fifth, I’m not sure insurance is the way to go — I’ve seen that a lot and I’ve posited it myself. I’m ignorant of how insurance works, but I have to imagine that insurance on weaponry is also a fraught path. Would an insurance company even have interest in that risk? Would the risk and the cost be so high that it would be a sneaky sideways ban on firearms? Maybe.
Sixth and finally, let’s get shut of the talk surrounding the terrorist watchlist. It’s a problematic list that contains a few thousand American names for reasons unknown.
Oh, and hey, one more: let’s also get shut of the paranoid delusion that we need our guns to revolt against our government. I appreciate that you think this is a good idea, but it is a child’s fantasy. Sure, maybe there will be some kind of apocalypse — some climate change ruination, some pandemic, some whatever — but I’d rather not legislate based on doomsday scenarios. We already have people dying in this country right now due to firearms. How about we worry about the problem in front of us rather than the imaginary zombies we fear will come clawing at our door? (Oh, and for the people who want to battle their own government, I’d argue that you should train less with guns and train more with computers. The government can outmatch you on the guns, son, but you could probably hack the shit out of their systems.)
SO, OKAY, with all that said, what do I, humble dipshit, do?
1.) Close up the secondary market loopholes. Right now, anybody can sell a gun to anybody and it isn’t tracked, nobody knows, it’s just a fluid de facto black market. You can go to a gun show and walk out with a gun because that person doesn’t need a license to sell and you don’t need a license to buy. And have you been to a gun show? Oh, you should go. You will see so much KKK and Nazi propaganda, it’s like a history lesson in horrible human beings. (I also grew up around gun shows, and once upon a time, they were not this way. But I’ve been to a couple since Obama has been elected and ha ha oh shit.) If I sell a car, I have to have the title (though there are ways to wriggle around that). A car is a less lethal, more functional device than a gun, and so suggesting that gun sales be tracked and titled — not really that extreme.
2.) Track all gun sales. All of them. Track all the guns. ALL OF THEM. Oh, I know, I know, you precious dears don’t want to be on “a list.” But you’re already on a bunch of them. You’re not ronin ninja sneaking in the dark-net off the grid, buddy. Got a social security number? A driver’s license? Any bank or credit card statements? You pay your taxes? You’re already on a buncha lists. And maybe, just maybe, you can stop clenching your sphincter about the gun list. The government is not going to use it to come and take away your guns. If you get all blustery about being on that list — a legal, above-board, non-criminal list — then I actually start to worry you’re going to kill somebody with that gun. You know who doesn’t worry about their name being on lists? Normal, run-of-the-mill, non-killery gun owners.
3.) Keep rifles and shotguns easy to procure, as in Canada. Also as in Canada, make it harder to get handguns and higher-capacity semi-auto rifles. They basically have, what, three categories in Canada? Non-restricted, restricted, and prohibited. For purposes of AMERICAN FREEDOM !!11! let’s get rid of “prohibited” here and simply create classes of restrictedness — you could, say, bump handguns and semi-auto rifles up to Title II, make them much harder to procure. I know, someone out there has a real itchy butthole that they might need to wait six months to buy a pistol or an AR-15, but some hunting licenses take a while to get, and if OMG I NEED A PISTOL TODAY TODAY TODAY it’s probably a good bet you’re raring to shoot someone. If you can say, “Yeah, I can wait six months to get that high-powered lead-spitting shooty-shooty death device,” I think I trust you a whole lot more than the guy who needs it holy shit right now.
4.) Wanna own a firearm? You need a firearm license. It’s like a driver’s license. It’s like a hunting license. It’s like a fishing license — oh, and let that sink in. You need a license to wiggle a worm in the water to catch a trout, but you don’t need a license to buy a machine that can push a projectile through someone’s face at 1100 feet-per-second. Yes, some of that has to do with conservation, but I’d go out on a limb and say we need to consider the conservation of human lives, too.
5.) A firearms license would be like a driver’s license — getting your license the first time would be subject to both training and testing. If it is reasonable to ask that people be trained when operating a vehicle, it is reasonable to ask that people be trained when operating a firearm. This is a win-win for everyone, by the way. The NRA is the one who does most of the training in this country, and would benefit. It would create new jobs. It would ensure that people with guns were trained with them — and would likely offer some training regarding defense with a gun, too. (The fact the NRA does not support training enforcement is to me the clearest indication they support gun manufacturers more than its members. Training helps everybody but the manufacturers.)
6.) Owning firearms of different restricted classes would not only require longer wait times but also more training and, I dunno, a stamp on your license.
7.) Universal background checks — but that could be tied into the licensing, too.
8.) Israel restricts the number of weapons you can have — it’s pretty strict, if I recall. One of each type, essentially, and only if you can show you belong in certain roles. That won’t fly here to that degree, and I can speak to the fact that hunters do in fact use more than one type of gun. Around here, you can’t use rifles to kill much of anything, so that means a 12 gauge for deer, a 20 gauge for birds, a .410 for squirrels. But, some limits could be reasonable on the number of firearms you can own in each class and at each restriction level — you have some ‘splainin’ to do if you need like, 20 handguns. Restricting the number potentially undercuts and identifies people who are hoarding arsenals.
9.) Tax ammunition — casings, bullets, powder, too. I know, you don’t wanna pay more for ammo, but newsflash: any time gun control measures come up for even the whisperiest whisper of debate, prices go up because of price gouging. You’re already paying more thanks to people selling them to you. I was at a gun show just after Obama got elected, and many of the sellers had warnings up at their stalls about how Obama was coming to take their guns (spoiler alert: he wasn’t), and the prices at those tables were jacked up to exorbitant levels.
10.) Restrict certain accessories. We already restrict some, so it’s not strange to want to make sure people can’t buy a drum mag for a rifle — if you need 100 bullets immediately accessible? No.
11.) Make sure all this works nationwide, not just state-to-state. Certainly states could increase the severity of the restrictions if the constituents so demand, but gun control really only works well when it crosses state borders. Also, help the CDC study gun violence. (The restriction against it is no longer in place, but the money for those studies is also not in place. We need to study gun violence and it is perfectly reasonable to do so. Science and data can save us if we let it.)
And that’s it. It’s a start. It’s common sense. It’s nothing particularly revolutionary — for the most part, it assumes if you’re a responsible, law-abiding gun owner, nothing really changes for you except for the interjection of bureaucracy. (And I know bureaucracy is a bad word, but effective bureaucracy is valuable, and far greater than chaos and gun death.) Yes, it makes it harder to get a gun. It should be be harder to get a gun. There’s nothing wrong with it being difficult to procure a weapon that can kill several people in the span of minutes — and let’s remember, firearms have one primary purpose, and that purpose is death and injury. Target shooting is just a proxy for shooting at living targets. Hunting and defense are both part of that equation, and hunting and defense are based on death and injury. (I don’t magically shoot meat out of a turkey and he gobbles merrily and runs on while I collect my bullet-harvested roast. This isn’t Minecraft.) So, if we are to assume that the role of a firearm is to throw metal really fast through flesh in order to injure, incapacitate or kill, then it is probably also safe to assume that there should be a few speedbumps and cross-checks for people wanting that ability.
For those folks who think this is either:
a) not enough
b) too much
I have this to say:
Political process is founded on compromise. What I’ve outlined is exactly that. It is middle-ground, common sense regulation — nothing particularly dramatic. Just meant to tighten things up — once upon a time, even someone like Reagan was on board with common sense controls. The NRA was, too. That’s all changed with the increased rhetoric in this country, and we need to cut that off at the knees — but you also have to recognize we can’t just snap our fingers and make the problem go away. Guns aren’t going to go to vapor. Gun culture isn’t going to just disintegrate, either. Any changes we make will have to be sensible and moderate.
But don’t worry, it doesn’t matter anyway. Nothing’s going to change and nobody’s going to do anything and the only needle that’s moving is the one marking the number of people killed.
I’ll also finish up with this:
Vote in November. You want to see change, that’s the only way to get it.
And don’t just vote this November.
Vote every November. Vote actively, eagerly, and every time you have the chance. Owning a gun is a freedom we’re so keen to protect, fine. We also must recognize that voting is a vital freedom, too, and we should be not only keen to protect that right — but also desperate to engage with the political process, because that’s the only way your voice is measured and heard. Not just through tweets, not through petitions, not through changed avatars. But voting.
Comments are on, but moderated.
Don’t get fighty. Don’t be a jerk. I will boot you into the spam oubliette because this is my house and I don’t mind hearing you squawk down there in the dark.