I suppose I should get this idea out there before all the gun control interest wanes and Sandy Hook becomes just another tragic footnote in American history. Like many thousands of bloggers, I have certainly done my share in keeping interest moving along, although I might find the arguments on both sides a bit.. misdirected… I understand the spirit. I’ve pointed out my reasons in the few posts I’ve made thus far and I’m not going to bang away at it here. But let’s try this one on for size.
Realizing that I am sorta now crossing some line where I am actually taking a solid position one way or the other and likely this post might garner some “enthusiastic” opinions from others, I should make a few things clear up front about my personal demographics.
- I am white. (why that should make any difference one way or the other.. who knows. At least I am not green).
- As of this year I am now old enough to further contribute to the bankruptcy of the Social Security system (that’s been going bankrupt since I was born).
- I have a college degree (for what that’s worth these days).
- I am employed (and that’s all it is).
- The doc says I am overweight and unless I change my ways my lush, full, and productive life will be shortened by some unspecified time.
- I used to own many guns, typically I like military-style weapons.
- My interest in guns has little to due with having some insurance against an invading country, a renegade government, or zombies; I like shooting at things and seeing things blow up cause it’s cool. I am not a hunter; I am a “recreational” shooter.
- I do not currently own any guns due to economic reasons (not for any lack of interest).
- I am a past member of the NRA (and that’s not the “National Restaurant Association”); having joined pretty much for the magazine articles about guns (ok, ok.. and the pictures, too).
- I view my political affiliation as more being that of a liberal conservative. (Yes, it’s true. I can be bi-partisan; I can swing both ways).
- I believe the Second Amendment is as important as all the others in the list of ten.
- I am a military veteran of the Viet Nam era (but not a combat veteran).
- In spite of everything above… I am really an okay guy (I don’t much enjoy walks in the rain, I’m not overly thrilled about Monday mornings (other than waking up and finding myself still alive), and I am fine leaving the future of the shrinking rainforests to future generations.
Now.. let’s move on here.
The Gun Owners Responsibility Act of 2013
Understanding that the right to bear arms is one of the ten Bill of Rights that express our freedom as a nation, my “Act” here carries that spirit forward. While we universally acknowledge gun ownership we should also acknowledge gun ownership responsibility. This means, each and every gun owner should be obligated in accepting responsibility for their firearms in the area of gun operations safety, gun storage safety, and gun education in general. Each and every gun owner should always be aware of how their firearms are being used, who uses them, and who has access to them, at all times. While the Second Amendment gives us the right to gun ownership, by extension it also assigns the responsibility of the gun owner to assure the personal rights of others are not violated in the use of their firearms.
Given that irresponsibile use of firearms, either by owners or other persons, can cause injury, death or a threat to public safety (armed robbery and assault), many times on a wide scale, this act would serve as the attempt to assign punitive consequences to gun owners themselves, irregardless of their own guilt or innocense in the commission of those acts, whose registered or unregistered firearms were used in the commission of such crimes. These damages would be over and beyond that which is already prescribed by law, civil or criminal, federal or state or municipal.
Again.. the spirit of this act is not to punish a gun owner for the crime commited using his/her firearm but rather to levy responsibility for a firearm being made available to be used in a crime. It is assumed (for this “act”) that firearm ownship carries with it sole responsibility for its use.
The penalty would encompass three areas… forfeiture of the firearm in question, a financial penalty, and a public service componant. The following would be the breakdown:
Forfeiture of the firearm. Mandatory in all cases of criminal activity with the use of a firearm. The weapon would be destroyed or held for the judicial process as deemed appropriate.
- Financial penalty. Limited to three times the current market value of the firearm, or each firearm, used to commit such offenses, for each injury or death due to the firearm. This would be money assigned as a judicial penalty and not as victim restitution (there are other avenues victims can use to extract compensatory/punitive damages). (Note: In a perfect world there might be some moral preference for theses fines to pass to victims or their suvivors but many times a firearm owner may have limited financial resources, in which case a court or appointed trustee would have to administer long term payment through wage garnishment and this would likely be impractical, especially if the firearm owner is unemployed.)
- Public service. This would be mandatory, based on a multiplier of hours determined by the judicial system (but a minimum of ten hours), times the number of victims injured or killed. In the event of the firearm being used in a crime that does not afford a victim to be injured or death, an amount of hours spent would be determined by the judicial system depending on the severity of the crime and circumstances of the firearm owner.
Example of application. Had the firearm owner of the Sandy Hook tragedy remained alive, under this “act”, she would have had an obligation of the following:
Forfeiture of three weapons (and thusly three weapons out of circulation)
Bushmaster .223 model XM15-E2S rifle – $ 2,000
Glock 10mm pistol – $ 600
Sig-Sauer P226 9mm pistol – $ 1,000
Total: $ 3,600 x 3 = $10,800
26 victims x 10 hours (min mandatory) = 260 public service hours.
Just what does this “act” serve to accomplish?
- It assigns social importance and moral acceptance that firearm ownership does not stop simply because the owner is not around, or has failed to establish safety precautions beyond the scope of themselves.
- It places a real value (loss of the firearm in question), a financial value (financial penalty based on number of victims), and a personal value (public service based on number of victims) to those owners who fail to assume responsibility of gun ownership to the level that it does not infringe on the rights of others. Hopefully it provides incentive to gun owners everywhere that there are standards of responsibility if you choose to activate the Second Amendment.
- It does not assign real guilt regarding the use of their firearm in a crime yet it assigns a measure of moral guilt for a failure to act responsibly in gun ownership. Unless otherwise revealed in a court of law, the gun owner is not guilty of a crime.. but of neglect. This act should not be interpreted as criminal or even a misdemenor in it’s application. The goal is to set a standard of gun ownership responsibility as part of an overall effort of a deterence to gun violence.
- It does nothing toward the elimination or control of gun ownership and it punishes no one for gun ownership.
Would this pass the Sandy Hook litmus test? In other words, if this act were inacted would this have been an adquate deterrent to the tragedy at Sandy Hook? All anyone can guess is that it was possible. We know the killer’s mother had taught him use of weapons and likely what she knew of basic gun safety. Had something like this act been around at those times perhaps the added incentive of risk responsibility may have prevailed enough for her to think that maybe her mentally challenged son could be a greater risk factor in handling firearms given she could suffer some loss if he did anything.
All fiction aside, this little exercise is to get folks thinking a bit that a law like this or similar, when used as a tool inside a broader application of mental health requirements, firearm registration, buyer background databases, and rules for gun ownership, could be effective. It can serve as a template; change the math, modify the money amounts.. whatever. The point to all this is that if you own a gun then you MUST accept responsibility for it… even when you aren’t around.