I have developed this forum as a means to convey information on the subject of sustainability and being green. Most view this subject matter to pertain to things that effect the environment, either with positive or negative results. But sustainability is also about people and what affects them. Thus, the pertinence of this topic in this forum. (This article has been updated since the October 1 shooting in Las Vegas)
There is, and has been for many years, a lot of talk about gun control. To me, gun control was what my father taught me when I was a young boy of around the age of ten.
Grip the pistol lightly with my right hand and just the tip of my index finger on the trigger. Place the palm of my left hand on the pistol grip with those fingers wrapped around the top of the right-hand fingers. Stand with my feet shoulder width, left leg slightly forward and extend both hands forward. Pull back slowly and evenly on the trigger. And practice.
Today, all the rhetoric is not about how you control your gun, but instead about identifying and controlling the violence enacted by criminals and mentally disturbed people with their guns. Something that I think might be a losing battle until the time we can master the art of the Vulcan mind meld.
However, short of being able to control the minds of other people, we can control and allow the acquisition of guns by law-abiding citizens (e.g., those who do not have a history of social violence, mental illness, or criminal activity). Now obviously, there will be those that will slip through the system. Just as the saying goes, ‘there are two types of sailboat operators –those who have run aground and –those who about to run aground,’ there are and will be those gun owners who might fit the category of exclusion but have yet to flip the mental switch.
The solution that I speak of is the mandatory registration of all guns. (For purposes of this article guns will mean both handguns and rifles of all types).
So, what is the concern here? Most of what I have been hearing is fear from U.S. citizens, that if their gun is registered, then the Federal Government will have the ability to come to your home and seize your guns. Quite frankly, I find that whole concept paranoid and crazy.
The Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States reads:
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.
This Amendment provides that all citizens (those who have not lost their Constitutional Rights through the Court System) the right to keep and bear arms and that that right cannot be taken away without an Amendment to the Constitution. And if you know anything about the process for amending the Constitution (see below for details), you would know that repealing the Second Amendment would be impossible. The only other thing that the Federal Government could do would be to declare war on its citizens—which I also do not see happening.
Therefore, if you a legal, law-abiding citizen –you have nothing to lose with stricter laws for the acquisition of a gun. If you are a law-abiding citizen –you have nothing to lose with the stricter tracking of guns. And, if you are a law-abiding citizen –you should have nothing to hide.
When my father passed away February of 2000, I inherited a nearly new Smith & Wesson 380 semi-automatic pistol, with the original box and purchase receipt from 1988. In 2015, I was at the firing range with that pistol when it malfunctioned. I contacted Smith & Wesson (S&W) and was given a pre-paid shipping label to send the pistol back to the factory for repair. A couple of weeks later I received a telephone call from S&W informing me that my S&W 380 (which had not been manufactured since the early 90’s), could not be repaired and to my amazement was offered a free replacement pistol. Also, since S&W did not have any 380’s in stock, I had a choice of new semi-automatic replacement pistol of either 9mm or 45 calibers. Now that is what I call customer service. So, back to the point of this story; according to Federal Laws, even though this is a replacement weapon, S&W could not send my new pistol directly to me, but instead must transfer it through a licensed FFL gun retailer in my town of Las Vegas. Oh, and by the way, S&W is also reimbursing the full amount of the transfer fee as well, again great customer service. After giving S&W the name of a local retailer with whom I wished the weapon sent, I called the retailer to let them know that they would be receiving my weapon from S&W. They had me fill out the transfer paperwork in advance along with an $80.00 transfer fee.
The point of this is to say that even though I am paying a transfer fee, it does not mean that the new pistol is registered in any way to my name. It is only an internal record at the retail store that shows they received a pistol from S&W, and they legally transferred that pistol out of their inventory. It is still up to me to register that new pistol into my name.
In the past, in order to register a weapon in Nevada, you had to go to one of several police sub-stations with your unloaded weapon, have it inspected by the officer, serial numbers recorded and your identification checked. The gun owner then received a “Blue Card” showing that you are the owner of that weapon. There was no charge for registering a weapon. However, in 2015 that process went away, and Clark County residents no longer have to register handguns with Metro.
Now, let me state that I am not naive enough to think that just because a gun is registered to someone that it will prevent them from doing bad things with that weapon. Not at all! However, if we start now, by registering all guns at the point of sale, it will significantly slow the proliferation of illegal (unregistered), guns from getting onto the streets. This process will not happen overnight and may, in fact, be a ten-year process. But as more and more guns are registered, it will leave less and less unregistered guns on the street until the supply is dwindled down to a more manageable number. And, through this process, at the very least, the guns will be traceable back to a person that legally purchased that gun and then, either gave it or sold it to someone who in turn does bad things –like go on a shooting spree.
The next step is to pass a law that severely penalizes a person who buys a gun legally and then turns around and either sells or gives that gun to another person without a background check or changing the registration. So, in turn, if a crime is committed with a gun, the person to whom that gun is registered could be severely penalized for contributing to a crime or the death of another person. With this penalty clause in effect, a registered (and legal) gun owner will think twice about selling his gun on the black market.
The other day I was listening to an interview with a young man that grew up in the Watts neighborhood of L.A. He like most of his friends was involved in gang activity even as a very young boy. He told the interviewer that during times of heightened gang activity he would be given a gun by one of the older members of his gang and told to use it against rival members. If the gun were used, he would “ditch” that gun by literally throwing it away, because it is better not to be caught by the police with a gun and because unregistered guns were both plentiful and easily replaced.
In addition, and in light of the Las Vegas shooting on October 1, 2017, there needs to be a system in place whereby a person buying five or more guns within a two to three-month period, should sound an alert to the local police departments and FBI. I am not saying that a person should not be allowed to purchase that many guns, but it should put up a flag for investigation.
Is this some sort of euphoric dream? I don’t think so.
Again, I say, if we start an aggressive registration program today, ten years from now we may have eliminated 90% of the illegal handguns that are on the street and used by gangs.
The trick is, how do we make it both convenient and affordable for conscientious, law-abiding citizens to buy and register handguns. The simple way would be to authorize licensed gun dealers to process the “legal” registration when they sell a handgun. Things are so automated these days, with computers and internet connectivity, that the $25.00 background check fee should include the issuing of a registration card as well. Once you have one gun registered, an additional $10.00 registration fee for additional guns would be a reasonable price to pay to the retailer as a processing fee. With this system in place, if I wanted to sell one of my registered guns to a friend or stranger, I could go to my local gun dealer, have him be the middleman in the transaction to assure that a proper background check was made and that the registration of that handgun was transferred from me to the new buyer, thus relieving me of all responsibility of that gun.
Once we overcome the hurdle of limiting the amount of illegal guns that are on the streets, and have a handle on who owns guns; we can then address the issue of mental stability/illness and how to record and report persons that appear to have, but not yet openly displayed, violent tendencies, without violating their personal rights. This will be a much more tedious process and I am sure will include enough lawyers, politicians, and doctors to fill each and every hotel room in Las Vegas.
Craig A. Ruark
Conscientious Handgun Owner
There are essentially two ways spelled out in the Constitution for how to propose an amendment. One has never been used.
The first method is for a bill to pass both houses of the legislature, by a two-thirds majority in each. Once the bill has passed both houses, it goes on to the states. This is the route taken by all current amendments. Because of some long outstanding amendments, such as the 27th, Congress will normally put a time limit (typically seven years) for the bill to be approved as an amendment (for example, see the 21st and 22nd).
The second method prescribed is for a Constitutional Convention to be called by two-thirds of the legislatures of the States, and for that Convention to propose one or more amendments. These amendments are then sent to the states to be approved by three-fourths of the legislatures or conventions. This route has never been taken, and there is a discussion in political science circles about just how such a convention would be convened, and what kind of changes it would bring about.
Regardless of which of the two proposal routes is taken, the amendment must be ratified, or approved, by three-fourths of states. There are two ways to do this, too. The text of the amendment may specify whether the bill must be passed by the state legislatures or by a state convention. See the Ratification Convention Page for a discussion of the makeup of a convention. Amendments are sent to the legislatures of the states by default. Only one amendment, the 21st, specified a convention. In any case, passage by the legislature or convention is by a simple majority.
The Constitution, then, spells out four paths for an amendment:
- Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state conventions (never used)
- Proposal by convention of states, ratification by state legislatures (never used)
- Proposal by Congress, ratification by state conventions (used once)
- Proposal by Congress, ratification by state legislatures (used all other times)
It is interesting to note that at no point does the President have a role in the formal amendment process (though he would be free to make his opinion known). He cannot veto an amendment proposal or ratification. This point is clear in Article 5 and was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in Hollingsworth v Virginia (3 US 378 ):