There is a saying you hear often among certain segments of gun owners: The Second Amendment is in place to protect us from a tyrannical government.
But if the Second Amendment is really about individual defense against the government, then isn’t it time to start treating citizens like soldiers when it comes to armament? Not just anyone can join the military and handle a gun. Similarly, if We The People want to mount a proper defense against a tyrannical government, we need citizens who are properly trained, responsible, and mentally prepared to handle firearms – otherwise said citizens will prove to be liabilities instead of assets.
Freedoms have always come with responsibilities and qualifications (as they say, “freedom isn’t free”). First Amendment protections end with lying – thus why slander and libel are not protected forms of speech. The Second Amendment is the same: Protections should end where the inability to demonstrate responsible and clear-headed ownership of firepower begins. The Second Amendment itself states that armament be “well-regulated” – the Right To Bear Arms is not an unqualified free-for-all.
Well-Regulated Armed Citizenry
But what does a well-regulated armed citizenry look like? I propose five core regulations:
- Passing a comprehensive health/psych exam
- Addresses physical and mental ability to manage a weapon (averts gun deaths – especially those from suicide)
- Receiving 30 hours of gun safety and human ethics training
- Weeds out those who are not willing to put in the time to be properly trained with a gun (averts gun accidents)
- Encourages responsible gun ownership and can instill a sense of civic duty – giving renewed purpose to those considering crimes or suicide
- Passing a background check
- Helps keep guns out of the hands of criminals (averts gun crimes)
- Restricting manufacture and selling of large magazines and gun modifications
- Limits the ability of people to kill on a large scale (averts mass shootings)
- Re-evaluation every x-amount of years through a written test, background check, and health/psych exam
- Makes sure 1-4 are kept in check long-term
These regulations are easy enough that any responsible citizen will be able to properly arm themselves, while also providing actionable ways to reduce gun deaths across the board. Implementing these for all new weapon purchases, trades, and manufacturing immediately would make an impact – though it may take time to see considering the amount of unlicensed weapons already circulating in our country.
What About Weapons Already in Circulation?
Admittedly, trying to get tabs on all the weapons already out there in our country would be difficult if not impossible. That’s why I believe in a grandfathering clause for weapons already in the hands of gun owners. People would only need to get licensed if they purchase new weapons.
However, it would be good to try and get as many gun owners to turn over unlicensed weapons as possible. To that end, I believe we should provide trade-in incentives for those willing to exchange their older unlicensed weapons with newer licensed ones. We could also create penalties for the owners of unlicensed guns that are used in crimes (regardless of if the gun owner participated in or knew about the crime themselves) to further encourage people to voluntarily opt-in older weapons.
Ultimately however, we need to work on moving forward – even if the state of gun circulation we’re building out from is messy and imperfect. We need to understand though that because of the grandfathering clause it will take longer to see results. We may have to wait decades in order to see the fruits of our labors clearly (though I still believe there would be an immediate and observable change as well).
The final piece of this regulatory framework that I believe is really required to get backing from both ardent gun owners and the general populace is assuaging fears about the government regulating guns and stripping away rights. To that end, I believe an independent organization should be created to oversee gun licensing in the United States – one that is not tied to either the federal government or the gun industry. I would expect such an organization to be made up of Constitutional scholars, state governors, retired law enforcement officials, and former military leaders.
It is understandable for people to be fearful of something that could impact what they cherish – gun owners are no exception. But the evidence is strong that gun accidents and deaths are highly correlated with gun availability. I believe the framework above can bring gun owners and those worried about gun deaths together to a place where both are getting what they need.
EDIT: I’ve heard some people say that “‘well-regulated’ meant something different when the Constitution was written”. Well… maybe. It’s up for debate. I’m happy to admit that even the interpretation I used above could be wrong. That said, even in more conservative interpretations, the focus is on having well-trained, responsible individuals who are armed with both the knowledge and firepower to properly protect those around them while being independent from the federal government. I believe the framework I’ve outlined achieves just that.
Regardless of original intent or meaning, the Constitution was always meant to be a document that evolved with a changing society, not an archaic rulebook set in stone. We are supposed to amend and change it based on what we need now – that’s the very thing the Founding Fathers wanted when they built the Constitution’s framework.