How A Simple License Could Help Solve America’s Gun Problem

by Michael John Scott

America has a gun problem, and politicians, at least those willing to admit it, are scratching their heads wondering what to do about it and still manage to keep NRA money flowing into their re-election coffers.

Well, there’s a rather straightforward answer to the gun problem and it should please both aggressive gun control reformers and gun rights loyalists as well as perhaps preventing a lot of unnecessary deaths.

Think about it for just a moment:  as the Supreme Court has made clear, the Bill of Rights gives Americans a personal, individual right to bear arms. The exercise of that right, however, can and should be regulated.

Do you want to own a gun? OK!  No problem, BUT it should be contingent on not only preliminary but continuous training and background check requirements. That shouldn’t be too much to ask.

Naturally, such requirements would vary from state to state, but they should include serious background checks, including a psychiatric evaluation. To buy a gun, you would have to go through rigorous training in shooting, firearm security, and perhaps first aid and crisis response — in other words, something like a driver’s license for guns. More importantly, you would have to pass a basic proficiency test at least once a year.

America should also consider mandating that gun owner obtain membership in a properly licensed gun club. The idea isn’t just that it would ensure better training and proficiency, but also that somebody in danger of going off the rails might be noticed by a fellow shooter, who might report something.

The ideal model here would be Switzerland, where around two million firearms — more than one for every three residents —are privately owned, and yet gun violence is practically nonexistent.

In Switzerland, military reservists can keep their service weapon— that is, fully-automatic assault rifles of the kind that are absolutely illegal in the U.S.— in their home, provided they keep up with their reserve requirements, which includes yearly training. Most reservists also belong to gun clubs, which are often subsidized by the army.

You don’t hear much about Switzerland in the American public debate, and that’s quite telling.  Conservatives don’t like to admit that the way to square that circle would be requirements that would make Second Amendment absolutists scream. Progressives, on the other hand, hate to admit that there might not be such a direct correlation between the number of guns and violence.

The fact is if everyone could just see past their own ideological blind spots, however, they might be able to recognize that this is a good compromise, and provides something for everyone.

Conservatives would have real recognition of the individual right to bear arms that is part of the American social contract, whereas progressives would have real limitations that would prevent violence.  The added benefit is everyone should see a reduction in such violence.


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Posted by on March 12, 2018. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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15 Responses to How A Simple License Could Help Solve America’s Gun Problem

  1. Jaime Da Silva Reply

    March 12, 2018 at 11:09 am

    Guns or No Guns

    “When a government fears the constituency, its first action is to disarm them. When faced with this action, the constituency’s duty is to arm itself even further.”

    This has probably the most pointless discussion people can have. The issue is so emotional that no one is going to be moved from their beliefs by anything anyone else says.

    The main thing that I have noticed is that the people who are known to me to be the most knowledgeable on the subject have been very quiet. I suspect that is because, if they are carrying weapons, they do not wish to advertise the fact. If they are not, they don’t need to shout about that, either.

    With all the considerable rhetoric I’ve seen, I have yet to read one simple truth. Owning a firearm is a responsibility that demands you become, and stay, proficient. To do this requires more time, effort, and money than most people, even gun owners, are willing to invest. Even then, no amount of proficiency will prepare you to take a life when face-to-face with the situation. Winning target matches is not preparation for defending your life. Paper targets and clay pigeons do not shoot back.

    I spent many years as a martial arts instructor and saw several instances where tournament champions were assaulted and, in one case killed, by people not fit to shine their shoes. Why? Perhaps on that day and time, the assailant was luckier. More likely, because the martial artist was not mentally prepared to take the instant and brutal action necessary to survive. That decision has to be made long before the need arises and most people never give it serious consideration.

    If you think you need a firearm for protection, then be prepared to invest what it takes to be ready if you need it. Also be prepared for the financial, legal, and emotional burden of using it. In fact, these can apply even if you never use it. If you’re not ready for that, do not have a firearm no matter where you stand on the question.

    Both pro and anti-gun people make good arguments for their respective sides. In the end, the decision has to be a personal one and no one can or should make it for you, either way. The issue of defending yourself and your family is something each of us has to consider whether we ever leave our home or not. Whether you use a firearm, flare gun, or baseball bat, you must still be prepared to perform a harsh and often fatal act to another human being. It’s a lot more difficult than you can imagine. It isn’t like movies, where you waste the bad guy and move on without another thought.

    Ask any police officer who’s been there, you think about it for a long time afterward. Anyone that says you don’t either doesn’t know anything about the subject or is a very sorry excuse for a human being.

    As far as gun ownership, perhaps it too easy for unqualified people to own a firearm? After all, you have to have a license and proof of at least minimal competency to drive a car, fly a plane, and in some areas, operate a boat. Why shouldn’t you have to show that you understand the care and maintenance of firearms and safety issues involved and are able to take all the correct actions. This would include an understanding of self-defense ordinances in your area as well as any laws concerning when and where you may or may not be armed.

    Then you would be issued a license to own a firearm. Having the license would not be evidence that you did own a gun, but were qualified to do so. This would be the same as having a driver’s or pilot’s license would not prove you owned a car or plane, but that you could if you chose.

    Naturally, none of this would keep guns away from criminals, no law can do that. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons they are criminals? Here in Brazil, for example, it is almost impossible for private citizens to legally possess a firearm. Yet, criminals frequently have more firepower than the police. In a country where private guns are very rare, criminals seem to be able to get all they want. That seems to be the case in most countries with restrictive gun laws. So much for “gun control.”

    • Glenn R. Geist Reply

      March 12, 2018 at 11:31 am

      I think I agree with you here, Jaime. The hackneyed phrase “when you outlaw guns, only outlaws will have guns” is true even if one gets attacked for saying it.

      I don’t want to outlaw guns and I’m licensed to carry although I really do not do that. I did, in the process, read the gun laws and they are complex enough that it deters me from using my license. Telling someone you have a gun can get you in serious trouble and displaying it is far worse. And of course it’s unlikely to help me against someone with a gun in his hand if mine is in a pocket. You’re very right – it’s not like the movies.

      When I was young, I studied Tae Kwan Do and I recall my instructor telling me that this was a marshal art and was not going to be very useful in a bar fight. There are Americas who feel a gun will allow them to oppose or overthrow the government and the same applies. If you think your AK will stand up against the marines, you’re not actually thinking.

    • Jaime Da Silva Reply

      March 12, 2018 at 3:01 pm

      An addendum to my own post. Almost all of the mass shooters in at least the last 30 years have acquired their weapons legally. All of the gun-buying regulations did no good at all.

      • Glenn R. Geist Reply

        March 13, 2018 at 9:32 am

        Indeed and you’re right about discussion being pointless too. 🙂

    • Michael John Scott Reply

      March 12, 2018 at 7:01 pm

      As a career police officer and firearms trainer, I can vouch for every single word you say here.

  2. Glenn R. Geist Reply

    March 12, 2018 at 11:17 am

    Somewhere I have a photo of a Geneva hardware story with an H&K full-auto assault rifle in the window. “Letzte Verlieferung” said the sign – latest delivery. I was amazed at the militarism in a country where shooting sports are the national passtime, at least for men.

    But as you say, universal conscription means nearly everyone is trained and belongs to a gun club and gets lots of practice.

    Personally, I prefer our more casual attitude toward guns and I well remember when you would buy yours at the local Western Auto Store or a Department store sporting goods section, but more importantly I can accept and live with requirements like you talk about here.

    There have been attempts to get to that point – Illinois in particular, but the failure there has been that it’s not national and that the databases and the requirement to report to them is inadequate. We seem to like laws that have holes in them because we do it all the time and we don’t want to be bothered with hearing about details. I’ve tried to explain why the late “assault weapon ban” didn’t actually ban most of them, but people get hysterical and call me names. Pass it and forget it is the attitude. As long as it’s a gun law, it’s a good law.

    But I think, actually that if the purpose of Amendment 2 is to have a well regulated militia, regular training fits and that it would indeed help filter out the marginal and the irresponsible to a large extent.

  3. Bobbie Peel Reply

    March 12, 2018 at 2:20 pm

    Now this is how our politicians should be talking. Wonderfully considered comments.

  4. Bill Formby Reply

    March 12, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    I have been thinking along the same lines but the problem seems to be that most of the gun buying public will have none of it. They instantly start screaming about their second amendment rights. Americans are not knowledgeable enough about history to pt the second amendment into context. The second amendment was inserted into the constitution a very short period of time after the revolutionary war during a time when practically every man was considered to be part of a local militia. Oddly enough it was very closely parallel to the English Statute of Winchester in 1285 where every man was to “arm himself to the degree his station in life permitted). The idea in both instances was that there was not a large standing army which is not a big problem today. America is fortunate in that, our greatest fear is from ourselves as opposed to an invading army. Jaime is directly on point when indicates that the vast majority of people do not understand what it takes to actually kill another human being. Especially one that is shooting at them at the same time. Considering that these days less then 1% of the population join the military we do not have a substantial number of civilians with the training to repel an invading army. This is a different time than even 50 years ago when the draft was used to fill our military. For those who came of age back in those days there were many more who knew how to use a weapon for protection. After going through basic training I was a completely different person in terms of whether or not I would or could kill another person if I needed to protect myself, my family, or another person. If someone wants to have that mindset then I believe there is a price to pay in terms of of training to become responsible enough to have that capability and the weapon to do it. And to those who claim they want a gun to protect themselves against our own government, you need to snap out of your dream world. If this government suddenly decides it wants your weapons they are quiet capable of taking them.

  5. Michael John Scott Reply

    March 12, 2018 at 8:06 pm

    It’s all about the Founders if one listens to the NRA and their Republican puppets. You hear it parroted time and time again: “the Founders gave us the RIGHT to carry a gun…” That’s bullshit! The Second Amendment speaks broadly of “a well-regulated militia.” At the time, it was a term used to refer to the whole of able-bodied men, who were presumed armed and ready to fight.

    The Founders weren’t writing a Constitution for a superpower. The Constitution empowers Congress to maintain a navy, a standing body needed to maintain trade links with the rest of the world and empowers Congress to raise an army as the need arises. How would it be able to do that? Because America would have a militia of men already armed and ready to fight. This concept of the militia is what the Founders believed would prevent one of the things they dreaded most: another invasion by the British. That meant having a rifle in every man’s hand.

    The militia clause is completely compatible with an individual right to bear arms and indeed presupposes it. But it also presupposes something else that Second Amendment absolutists might like less: To have this sort of militia, it is not enough that people have guns. They must also be trained to use them, and that is key to the entire debate.

    Finally, there’s a big difference between a right and an entitlement. Conservatives believe in individual rights — and they believe that rights come with responsibilities. But many conservatives have come to see gun ownership not as a right but as an entitlement: something completely open-ended and unlimited. That’s just wrong. Every American has the right to own guns — but the government can and should make sure there are regulations, training, and checks in place to make sure this right is exercised responsibly. After all, the Second is an amendment, not a commandment. At least that’s how I see it.

  6. Rachael Reply

    March 13, 2018 at 1:38 am

    Well written article and thoughtful discussion. I learned a lot here.

  7. Glenn R. Geist Reply

    March 13, 2018 at 9:37 am

    The text refers to “arms” and not specifically to firearms. In those days swords were also used effectively by the military. I actually collect pocket knives but I have a number of machetes and I’m afraid Hillary and Nancy Pelosi and the LIBERALS are planning to grab them. Molon Labe! If the Spartans wouldn’t give up their swords, why should I?

  8. Michael John Scott Reply

    March 13, 2018 at 10:28 am

    I have a number of guns and I say the same: molon labe! Come and take them, if you dare Hillary and Nancy.

  9. Jaime Edwardo da Silva Reply

    March 13, 2018 at 10:39 am

    Guess how many guns Obama took away from people. Guess how many guns did government intends to take away from people.
    The answers to both are the same, zero.

    • Michael John Scott Reply

      March 13, 2018 at 12:17 pm

      You are exactly right, and yet the NRA is still frightening people with their “confiscation” predictions.

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