Everyone has ideas about how we should control gun violence, from banning all gun ownership to putting armed guards in schools and public places. Here is a nine-part plan for managing gun ownership that would attempt to address issues like assault weapons, gun shows, illegal weapons, gun collecting, hunters and and hobbyists, and the rights of gun owners and victims of gun violence. No one will like every provision of the plan but it's worth debating. Otherwise we'll end up with whatever the government and the NRA gives us.
1. Owner Registration — Before purchasing a gun, an individual would have to obtain a gun owner registration by passing a background check certifying that they are over age 21, are a U.S. citizen, have passed an approved gun safety course, have no felony convictions on their record, and have no health issues that would make operating a firearm unsafe. Owner registrations would have to be renewed annually to account for changes in the individual’s arrest record and health conditions.
2. Weapon Registration — Each weapon would have to be registered by the owner with the State. The registrations would have to be renewed annually, similarly to automobiles.
3. Trigger locks — All weapons would be required to have a functioning trigger lock.
-- Manufacturers would be encouraged to develop built-in trigger locks, such as electronic proximity chips or fingerprint scanners, that could not be disabled and would prevent unauthorized individuals from firing the weapons. Like seat belts and air bags in cars, this requirement would be fought initially but over time evolve into manufacturers' selling points.
-- Weapons without a built-in lock would be required to have some kind of external trigger lock. This would allow gun ranges to own firearms with removable locks that could be rented for target practice. It would also be a way for parents to own firearms that they could use to teach their children how to hunt.
4. Firepower Rating — Manufacturers would be required to rate the firepower of combinations of their weapons and common ammunition, according to a standard mathematical model. The model would be developed by the government (e.g., NIST) in concert with industry representatives based on the physics and engineering of weaponry. Consumers would benefit because they could use the ratings as a basis for comparing firearms they might purchase. Manufacturers would benefit because they would be able to use the ratings as a selling point.
-- Individuals would be prohibited from owning functional weapons with a firepower rating above a certain limit. This requirement could be used as a way to control the proliferation of assault weapons.
-- Local governments would be allowed to set the limit at a lower but not higher rating.
5. Insurance — Gun owners would be required to carry liability insurance on each of their firearms in the event anyone is injured by use of the weapon, authorized or not. This requirement would add to the economy be creating a new industry for gun insurers.
-- The amount of insurance required would be based on, at a minimum, the firepower rating of the weapon and the effectiveness of the weapon’s locking mechanism.
-- Insurance companies could compete on the basis of other factors they deem relevant, just as car insurance companies do.
-- Victims of gun violence would be allowed to sue the owner of the gun for their losses.
6. Gun Collectors — Gun collectors would be exempt from the firepower, insurance, and trigger-lock requirements for the firearms they own that are permanently non-functional. Gun collectors would still have to maintain their gun ownership registration and agree to periodic inspections of their collections by local officials. For example, you could own an AK-47 and other assault weapons so long as they were not functional.
7. Firearm Sales — All firearm sales would be recorded in a national database containing information on the gun owner and the characteristics of the weapon that could be used in criminal investigations.
-- Owners of functional weapons could sell their firearms to other registered individuals through the State, just as is done with automobiles.
-- Businesses would have to register with the State as weapons sellers. They would be responsible for verifying owner registrations, maintaining records of all sales, issuing temporary gun registrations, and submitting the information to the State.
-- The State would be responsible for verifying the information, entering the data into the federal database, and sending the owner a permanent registration. These requirements would close gun show loopholes yet not prohibit gun shows.
8. Open Carry — Owners would be allowed to carry weapons of a limited firepower set by the Federal government openly. Local governments would be allowed to set the limit at a lower but not higher rating. Concealed carry of weapons would require special permits.
9. Law Enforcement — Federal, State, and local law enforcement would be allowed to conduct inspections of firearms, both being carried openly and held in collections. Weapons could be confiscated if they exceeded the legal firepower-rating limit, or if the owner lacked proof of owner registration, weapon registration, gun insurance, and effective trigger lock or method of making the weapon non-functional. Owners of confiscated weapons could be fined, and depending on the seriousness of the violations, be prohibited from owning any firearms for some future time period.