Could We Prevent Some of These National Tragedies?

1. Improve the gun-buying background check process

This is a complex issue with many ideas for improvements. But I think there are some basic guidelines which could gain broad support. Individuals convicted of any violent crime — such as a felony or domestic abuse — should probably be denied the right to buy or own a firearm, at least for many years after the conviction. Then every gun sale, whether by a company or an individual, could be accompanied by a background check. Those background checks would need to give sufficient time for law enforcement to thoroughly investigate the individual’s record.

2. Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines

I realize the term “assault weapon” is a loaded term. I’ll use a definition basically in line with the 1994–2004 federal assault weapons ban: any gun, manufactured or modified, which can accept detachable magazines and fire multiple rounds per second. As for high-capacity magazine, let’s assume that any magazine which fits more than ten rounds to be “high-capacity.” If we banned private ownership of these two things, a shooter in a public place would — under most circumstances — only be able to fire ten relatively slow rounds before reloading or switching guns. This would give police, security forces, or brave bystanders significantly greater opportunities to stop the killing.

3. Require gun-related supervision for young adults under 21

This is an idea I’m particularly interested to hear feedback about. Many of the most heartbreaking mass shootings, including the recent one in Florida as well as Columbine and Sandy Hook, were perpetrated by people under 21. At such young ages, emotions are powerful and science indicates that the section of the brain regulating judgment is still maturing. Those are major reasons why we forbid people from drinking before 21 years old. What if we required any gun buyer under 21 to have an adult “co-sign” the purchase with them? That co-signature, like on a loan, would imply full legal responsibility for any misuse of the gun. If the kid kills someone with the gun, heaven forbid, then the adult co-signer would go to jail as well. I realize that a parent could just buy a gun in their own name and give it to a child, so perhaps this wouldn’t be a significant hurdle, but perhaps it would make parents/guardians think twice about getting the gun. Thoughts?



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Abe Collier

Abe Collier

“I do not understand one thing in this world. Not one.” — Marilynne Robinson, ‘Gilead’