This is a proposal for a new approach to firearm regulation in the United States.
It is proposed that mutual consent within a small cooperative group be required for any member to possess a firearm.
The consenting members are liable if the firearm is used in a crime.
The groups are registered with their local law enforcement agency, must meet minimum regulatory standards and are periodically reviewed for compliance.
Without being compelled by law, groups seeking to minimize the risk of liability are free to impose extra mutually approved requirements on their membership.
Laws to regulate firearm ownership and use have historically focused on the relationship between the individual owner and various levels of government.
Regardless of the wording of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, the US Supreme Court has ruled (in McDonald and Heller) that individuals have the right to own firearms. This right is subject to regulation. This proposal is intended to be consistent with the US Constitution, as interpreted. Nine votes in this proposal title refers not to the number of the Supreme Court justices, but to the number of other members in a particular cooperative group.
Individuals jealously guard their right to keep the weapons of their choice. Many are convinced that this right protects them from tyranny – not necessarily from the current government, but from a future government with access to their records. Background checks are useful, but probably not sufficient, to keep weapons away from dangerous individuals. Responsible users of firearms chafe at the prospect of government intrusion required to assess the qualifications of the individual in sufficient detail to exclude the dangerous ones. Background checks may be the most intrusion which is constitutionally permitted, and which is politically achievable. But are they enough?
This proposal stipulates that the vast majority of firearm owners use them legally and responsibly.
The very people who most want widespread ownership of firearms must take personal responsibility for the behavior of other owners. There is currently no consequence for the gun owners who resist restrictive laws and allow the mentally ill to use guns maliciously. They can at no cost blame the government, society, and tangential factors for these events. Yet their own efforts to loosen regulations for their own benefit are the major reason that these weapons are available for inappropriate uses.
Government officials or mental health workers, in respect of individual rights, will bar individuals from firearm possession only in the most obvious cases. In any case, cause for such a bar requires a prior event to have come the their attention. Often, only people close to a person can really have sufficient knowledge of past and present behavior to predict future firearms related problems. It is rare for government or medical institutions to have that exposure to the individual in question.
This proposal restricts firearm possession to individuals who have a permit signed by a set number of members of a special type of firearm cooperative. Each and every signer will be subject to fines, imprisonment, or both if the permit holder uses the weapon in violation of any law.
The firearm cooperative will have its own bylaws, subject to minimum Federal requirements. The customized bylaws will be established by mutual consent of the members. The bylaws can and are likely to be far more restrictive than any government would contemplate. With such a high personal cost for misjudgment, members will wish to ensure that they are not signing for a reckless individual. They are motivated to sign so that they themselves can get signatures from the other members.
Many possible custom restrictions can be imagined, for example:
(1) Arms storage in the home must follow rules established and verified by the cooperative.
(2) Arms must be stored in a cooperative controlled area.
(3) Some types of arms and ammunition are excluded from the permit.
(4) Visits to the owners home are required, including interviews with all household members. Children in the household may reach an age or exhibit aspects of behavior which cause adults in the household to lose their permits.
(5) Permit holders are evaluated more frequently than the law requires.
The permits must be reviewed at least annually. The number of cooperative members can vary above a minimum, perhaps 10, established by law. Signatures are required by all other members of the minimum size group. If there is a larger membership, the law will establish what larger number of signatures are required, if any. In the example 10 member group, nine signatures are required on a valid permit.
By requiring multiple signatures, the public will have greater assurance that the permit holder has been approved by at least a small number of close associates, each highly motivated to make a conservative evaluation of the character of the permit holder. While individual character judgments might be too lax, the number of signatures required makes it more probable that at least some members of the cooperative will spot a problem and resist signing.
Signatures can be revoked at any time.
The permit, renewal, and any changes to the list of signers, must be promptly recorded with local law enforcement. Permits are temporarily suspended if the signature count drops below the lawful requirement. Signature revocation empowers law enforcement to investigate the circumstances. Under normal circumstances, the privacy of the membership is protected, including details of their personal lives and their gun ownership. Government intrusion is a rare event.
Cooperatives may lose members for various reasons. Permit suspension provides time for the remaining members to get back to the legal minimum roster while retaining possession but not use of their firearms. While the temporary situation exists, the loss of signatures is not considered revocation. Cooperatives may disband and merge with other cooperatives. In most cases, this need not disrupt the status of currently valid permits.
If permits are revoked, this could legally empower law enforcement to compel the cooperative to provide normally confidential records, or assist with the impounding of the regulated firearms. The actual list of firearms being regulated by the cooperative, and the location of the firearms, and to what extent these lists are made available to law enforcement, are all independently subject to government regulation. The intent of this proposal is to restrict who has access to firearms, independently of what those firearms are.
Individuals are free to pick the cooperative with bylaws and safeguards which they find to provide the level of benefits, intrusion, and exposure to liability which they can accept.
Revised from original version created on 20 December 2012.
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