Monday, October 19, 2015

Some Gun Solutions

Discussions about guns and gun control usually seem hopeless. I've long been of a mind to ban handguns and some types of long weapons, and particularly to somehow knock the legs out from under the NRA and its gun-selling agenda. But I don't have particular policy ideas for how to do any of this, and I haven't looked into the specific proposals from groups I would probably support.

I do know that there won't be a perfect solution that ends all gun deaths. We're humans (and we get angry). I'm just looking for some substantial change.

Sunday's Star Tribune carried a commentary by Heather Martens, executive director of Project Minnesota: Working to End Gun Violence. Martens proposes a public-health-based standard, based on research and in a similar vein to recent reductions in harms caused by drunk driving. She listed three approaches.

Limit access for inappropriate users. Gun advocates would have you think background checks don't keep "bad" people from getting guns, but since the Brady Bill was passed, 2.4 million sales were stopped by these checks. The gun-show loophole needs to be ended, and internet sales need to be limited, too (maybe by enlisting the shipping companies and the postal service?). I would add, recent proposals by the Obama administration to take away guns from people who have been declared incompetent to manage their own affairs sound like a good idea to me, too. And the range of reasons to prohibit sale to someone should probably be expanded (does it include a history of alcohol use in unsafe ways, such as DUIs or bar fights, for instance?).

Hold users and sellers accountable. Gun dealers should be held accountable for unsafe use of the guns they sell. They should record their transactions, improve anti-theft measures, and computerize their sales records for easier checking. Martens doesn't mention it, but the idea of requiring insurance of gun owners is another obvious policy.

Incorporate new technologies. Smart gun technology (which ties a gun to one user through their fingerprints) is another obvious solution that has been fought tooth and nail by the gun establishment.  This would immediately cut down the number of accidental (especially child-caused) deaths and suicides. Microstamping of bullets is another technology that would help.

The first and to some extent the second of these approaches will stem the ever-widening flood of guns in our country, which can only have good effects as far as I'm concerned.

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