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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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