First, let me say I am in favor of the 2nd Amendment. I am not, however in favor of paranoia on the part of weapon owners. This diary is inspired by the reaction to comments I made on another thread about registration of firearms. It is more than that, however, because I think I have a rather unique position to comment upon the issue.
I am an Englishman living in MN. I have owned firearms in the past, on both sides of the pond. Although I do not own one at present, as a former teacher of martial arts involving edged and pointed weapons it would be quite incorrect to describe my household as "unarmed"
Follow me beyond the orange swirl of gunsmoke for my thoughts on the matter...
"The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Seems simple, doesn't it? You are allowed to arm yourself and your loved ones for many purposes, including the protection of your other rights. That's the fundamental essence of the second amendment boiled down in to a nutshell. It is your right to choose to be armed for whatever reason or to choose not to be.
Let's take that as a given. Let's look objectively at the situation and accept, whether one is for or against this fact, that a constitutional amendment doing away with the 2nd is just not going to happen. Ever. Uniquely among all the nations of the world, the population of the USA has a fundamental right, explicitly stated in the highest law of the land rather than simply the absence of restriction, to be armed. (deliberately discounting the few nations where mandatory membership in a reserve force requires possession of a properly issued service weapon - the circumstances there are very different.) This is not going to change and nor would I advocate that it should.
The only grey areas here are how it is appropriate for the general population to be armed, if they so wish, and what duties and responsibilities an individual must take on in order to exercise that right.
"Duties and responsibilities?" I hear you ask? Yes. Rights carry such things as inescapable baggage. IF you choose to exercise your right to be armed, you have a DUTY to act responsibly with regard to to your weapons. Wave your legally-owned gun around in the high street and see how fast the cops are drawing a bead on you and encouraging you to "Put the weapon down, Sir..." Hell, they'd do that to me if I unsheathed my katana in the high street too, and with just as much reason.
I absolutely agree with those that have advocated enforcing existing laws and potentially closing the loopholes that currently exist in them. (The irony that a "loophole" is an opening in a defensive barrier for the purpose of firing through is not lost on me.) However, there is one additional legislative step that seems to me to make sense and to not infringe any rights.
Let us assume, dear reader, that you are one of the responsible and law-abiding gun owners that makes up the vast majority of the firearm-owning population. It doesn't matter what type of weapon you own or for what purpose, simply that you legally own it. You, with that weapon in your possession, are not a danger to the general public. So what danger, if any, does the weapon inherently present?
"Bad Stuff" can happen with guns and all too often does. Accidents involving inadvertant discharge of the weapon or theft of the weapon by or for an individual who does present a danger in how they will use it are two big categories. I explicitly include within "inadvertant discharge" the firing of any shot that you, as the weapons owner, did not intend to occur - whether it's your finger on the trigger or not.
How would we address this in law without placing any additional limit on who may legally own what kind of weapon beyond those that already exist?
First, let's say that when not under the supervision of a "responsible person" a firearm must be securely stored. This means that when that "responsible person" is not present on the premises that firearm must be locked in a gun cabinet that meets certain minimum standards of security. The "responsible person" is a person who could legally own the weapon themselves, either you as the weapons actual owner or somebody you lent it to. If you live in a rough neighborhood and keep a revolver and a speedloader in your nightstand, that's fine but you either lock it away or take it with you if you leave the house. This would not be something that a cop could legitimately enter your place to enforce, but if they are in there for any other reason and see a firearm outside a locked gun cabinet they could ask "Who is responsible for this weapon?" and if the person holding that responsibility is not there to say "I am" then they get a ticket for "negligent storage of a firearm." and that ticket gets a lot nastier if any of the "Bad Stuff" happens as a result. The weapon will be removed and returned when the ticket is paid. Just like getting too many traffic tickets can get your drivers license suspended for a while, too many of these and if you have a carry permit that can be suspended for a while too. Obviously this has to be rational - if somebody takes a cutting torch to your gun cabinet or steals the keys from you and gets away with the contents that way that's not your fault. On the other hand leaving the keys on a hook in the kitchen plainly labelled "gun safe" is. I can hear the complaint already about folks that cannot afford or for other reasons cannot install a gun cabinet in their home, but lets face it this is the USA and if a market exists somebody will sell into it. I can see gun dealers and shooting ranges offering secure storage for a moderate price.
That takes care of when you're not around, but what about when you are? Well, if any of the "Bad Stuff" happens while you are the "responsible person" for supervising a given firearm, or you knowingly lend it to somebody who would not legally be allowed to own it that's a different kind of ticket - "negligent supervision of a firearm." Obviously this would be more of a grey area than negligent storage, because reasonable efforts to keep your weapon safe when under your supervision (ie following proper firearms safety practices, teaching the same rules to your kid before teaching them to shoot with your .22 rifle, keeping the rounds for your nightstand revolver in a speedloader not in the cylinder etc etc...) would be quite valid defenses even if the "Bad Stuff" happened anyway.
And all you need to do in order to never ever get any of either kind of ticket is to continue to be the responsible and law-abiding gun owner that you already are. This would only impact the idiots that are already giving the rest a bad name.