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Policies Further Regulating Guns in The United States of America

GUN CONTROL is an exceedingly complex subject. It is extraordinarily difficult to reach broad consensus on many of the facts, let alone subjective desires.

One thing that is not contentious is that there are a minimum of 270 million firearms in America today, held by a population of about 315 million. Most of these guns are privately and legally held by citizens.
Because of the limitations of this format, I will make some broad points that I believe can achieve consensus. I do not doubt that some will disagree with the framework I am trying to establish with the seven points below.
Let them write their own posts, or engage me here. I end up with three possibilities. But first, the framework:
The first thing nearly everyone can agree on is that no one should be violently murdered with a gun. I say "nearly" because paroled murderer William Spengler decided on December 24, 2012 to do what he liked doing best: "killing people" (see Rochester: Felon left note explaining everything).
So there's the first inarguable point: Evil exists, and objectively insane people will do evil things.
Murderer William Spengler is especially instructive: He was being supervised by the State of New York. As a convicted felon, it was illegal for him to have a gun. William Spengler broke every conceivable gun law in the highly-regulated State of New York while being watched closely by the State of New York.
The State failed comprehensively. As a result, two First Responders of Rochester NY were gunned down on Christmas Eve, ambushed by a madman. The once joyful holiday season has been forever demolished for two families.
So there is the second point: the State will, from time to time, fail in executing its duties and fail to uphold the law.
Before Rochester was the horrific Sandy Hook massacre; and before that the Clackamas Town Center shooting. For those families, too, a big, gaping hole has been blown into their lives that will never be repaired.
Sandy Hook and Clackamas have two things in common that are also shared by James Holmes of the Aurora/Batman infamy and the Jared Lee Loughner murders: insanity.
We can bring up more instances, time after time where individuals were known to be withdrawing from society and noticeably mentally unstable. Each one of the most infamous slaughters in America were committed by individuals known to be mentally unstable. None of these people should have had access to guns.
Felons are already federally prohibited from owning a gun, and the FBI's NICS System (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) checks for that. It also checks to see if there is an active restraining order, and whether someone has been adjudicated mentally defective.
So there is the third point: Criminals, particularly the criminally insane, should not have guns. (I would extend this to "mentally unstable should not have guns," but definitions get a little murky.)
Contrary to popular belief, guns in America are highly regulated. From manufacture to availability to ownership to transport to use and to storage: countless laws exist at the Federal, State, County, and Municipal levels.
There are several other jurisdictions, too: Port Authorities (aka, airports or sea ports), schools and universities, some Federal and State parks, and U.S. Post Offices.
In addition, there is case law interpreting the codes and regulations in each jurisdiction. Navigating the myriad laws and precedents is often a significant concern to typically law-abiding gun owners. Enforcement by the police tasked with doing so is equally problematic.
A highly-favored system exists to conduct background checks maintained by the FBI. It is called the NICS System (National Instant Criminal Background Check System - see Point Three). The NICS System can only be accessed by FFLs (licensed firearms dealers), and does not currently support private sales or transfers.
So, a fourth point: Gun manufacture, access and ownership is regulated in 2012 America. Some believe too much, some say too little.
The Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution provides:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
There are many arguments, both legal and political, that arise from parsing the 27 words and (depending on which version you cite) two or three commas of the Second Amendment. I do not intend any attempt to rehash that here.
An interesting discussion regarding regulations within Constitutional boundaries occurs here: Answer Comments - Quora -- including Jon Davis' argument against my Constitutionally-based points on the basis of exigency.
Instead, I will assert a fifth point: Case law's current trajectory is that the individual act of owning and keeping on one's person a firearm is being affirmed (most lately by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Moore/Shepherd v. A.G. of Illinois, 12-1269_002.pdf) as a "Natural Right" protected by the U.S. Constitution.
Despite the affirmation of individual ownership and carry being affirmed in the courts, having a gun is not always the answer, as I discuss here: Sometimes, you just don't have a chance.
(A housekeeping note: The U.S. Constitution does not "grant" Rights, but simply protects them. Human Rights can be neither granted nor withdrawn. They simply exist.)
Sandy Hook took place in a highly-regulated state (Connecticut) that required Nancy Lanza to store her guns in a safe so that they could not be accessed by unauthorized users. To all our horror, her deranged son did get his hands on them. So the murders by Adam Lanza do not tell us anything instructive about adding laws for gun storage. In that massacre, Nancy Lanza appears to have broken the law, and paid for that mistake with her life -- taking 25 innocents with her (see Sandy Hook: There were signs. They were ignored.)
Similarly, Clackamas murderer Jacob Tyler Roberts reportedly stole his friend's rifle before going to the mall (see Bingo: Clackamas shooter "isolated himself").
In another event that did not lead to anyone dying, a Utah family left their .22-caliber handgun available to their sixth-grade son, who took it to school and pointed it at a fellow student's head. The laws in Utah do not have much bite to them for such negligence (see Lock up your guns). Conversely, California is highly regulated: Guns and Firearms: As a firearm owner what should I know about moving to California?
So a sixth point: There is room for improvement in America to standardize gun storage laws to reflect a general public policy. It is arguable that, were this more emphatically imposed, Nancy Lanza may have prevented her demented son from getting the guns he used.
That being said, see some of Bill McDonald's commentary on gun storage issues, here: Locking up guns: Are gun owners prepared to accept regulations and penalties for negligence in securing firearms?
Many, many laws exist nationwide for dealing with the mentally deranged. Because a mentally competent citizen might buy a gun and then become incompetent later, this presents a problem (see On sanity, the Second Amendment, and the Civil Society).
Connecticut, at the time of this writing, is just one of a handful of States that does not have a law providing for the means of involuntary mental healthcare detention and treatment (see Connecticut killings reopen debate on forcibly committing the mentally ill).
Nancy Lanza was in the process of seeking conservatorship of her son, murderer Adam Lanza. Some have argued that his heinous act at Sandy Hook arose directly as a result of his mother trying to institutionalize him against his will (see Sandy Hook: Guns were secured?).
It is outside this post to discuss in meaningful detail how to determine someone's faculties and whether they pose a threat to society.
But it does bring me to the seventh and final point: If someone is adjudicated mentally ill by a court of competent jurisdiction and they own guns or have access to guns, the guns should be confiscated if owned and access to guns they do not own affirmatively prevented. GuardAmerican favors this: Sandy Hook: We need unambiguous gun storage laws.
Based on the above, I offer these seven points on which I believe consensus largely exists.
This does not mean that everyone agrees that these things should be so or that they are exactly set forth in every detail, but that this list fairly describes how things are in America, right now:
  1. Murder is wrong
  2. Government will periodically fail to enforce laws
  3. Criminals should not have guns
  4. Guns are currently regulated in America
  5. Individual gun ownership is being affirmed
  6. Gun storage laws vary by jurisdiction
  7. The mentally deranged should not own or have access to guns
Of this list, three stand out as actionable: We can do something today about Number 4, Number 6 and Number 7.
This is probably the least viable.
I am not qualified to comment on any legal restrictions that may make a private NICS check for individual sale or transfer of a firearm prohibitive, but I support making such checks conducted under Penalty of Perjury (with fines for abuse or failure) available for free by citizens intending to privately sell or transfer a firearm.
It is possible that a NICS reply to a private citizen may indicate Yes/No without detailing any reasons why, with the would-be recipient provided a method of appeal or inquiry that is not choked and sclerotic.
I know: With government being what it is, that seems unlikely. This is the weakest suggestion in that I do not believe it would be widely supported for a variety of reasons.
This could be subject to abuse, as a commenter notes here: Sandy Hook: We need unambiguous gun storage laws.
Though possibly fraught with concerns, I believe that consistent, national laws regarding responsible gun storage would further emphasize good Public Policy of securing individually-owned firearms.
I believe that any action determining a citizen's mental competency should include review of access to firearms, whether owned by the individual or a family member/householder.
Please note that this may include your aging parents if they refuse to give up their arsenal.
Involuntary Commitment & Notification
I believe there should be uniform laws for every state permitting involuntary detainment of someone deemed a threat to themselves or others, and that record of this involuntary detainment should exist in the federal NICS system currently in place.
Bear in mind that FFLs (licensed firearms retailers) must access the NICS system for every sale.
Restoration of Second Amendment Rights
I believe that anyone involuntarily committed should have to undergo psychiatric evaluation and be cleared for restoration of their Right to own a gun as protected by the Second Amendment.
Public Notification
I believe that immediate family members, if any, or co-residents of the last known address, should be advised of a citizen's involuntary detainment for mental health observation and formally advised to ensure that all guns must be secured against access by the subject individual.
On December 14th, I wrote that the children of Sandy Hook deserved an answer (Would a really awful mass shooting be sufficient to shift the balance of American opinion in favor of greater restrictions on handguns?). I supported arming willing teachers and education professionals, but that has not been well-recieved by enough to be practical. I have similarly supported ending prohibition of carrying a gun on campus. But, again, consensus was not achieved.
So here is the answer I am able to give to those innocents shot that horrible day. It is offered in earnest good will from a man whose company explicitly seeks to preserve the Civil Society.

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Category: Politics