A proposed solution to gun violence.

Most will agree that it is discouraging to watch public policy debates and civil discourse on the subject of gun violence. Two sides stand at an impasse, and each tragedy and effort at a solution only produces deeper division. Both sides think the other is thoughtless and incapable of seeing plain sense.

One side, deeply concerned about an erosion of their rights and their ability to defend the ones they love, is distrustful of anyone who approaches the subject.

The other side, dismayed at the drumbeat of each new tragedy, wants something -- anything -- to be done to stop the violence.

But both sides hate that people are being injured and dying from violence. They’re tired of this impasse and tired of fighting each other. What could we accomplish if we started by doing what it takes to gain each other’s trust and work together? Our goal is to gain grassroots support and momentum for a package of legislation that will do just that.

The proposal below aims to provide a brief introduction to the terms and history necessary to understand gun policy discussions, lay out the main categories of gun violence, and propose solutions to each category that both of these “sides” should be able to agree on. These solutions are effective, constitutional, and hopefully politically realistic. To succeed, it will require action on both the state and national level.

If you’re new to the intricacies of this discussion, some terms and concepts may seem strange or counterintuitive, but keep reading. The difference between a great policy and a horrible one lies in the details. I would urge you to read this entire document before you decide to disagree.

First: some citizens and politicians want to repeal the 2nd amendment or pretend it only applies to National Guard units and wish to pass laws completely revoking or highly limiting citizen access to firearms. Short of thoroughly searching every house in America (and likely causing a civil war with untold bloodshed), this is not achievable. This is not a feasible solution.

In addition, some think that the addition of “more laws,” banning very common firearms based on their physical appearance (regardless of actual mechanics or use in crimes[1]), or placing onerous requirements on legal gun owners will solve our problems. This energy needs to be redirected to things that could actually reduce violence.

Broadly speaking, there are four categories of gun violence:

The High Level Plan:

1. Universal Background Checks: Require a background check on every firearm transfer. Combined with the other proposals, this would help address domestic violence, violence involving other some crime, and mass shootings and terrorism.

2. Safety Class Offerings in Schools: Provide everyone in our society with a basic understanding of gun safety. This would help prevent accidental injuries and suicides.

3. Nationwide Concealed Carry: Allow citizens who have passed an extensive background check and taken a training class to carry concealed firearms. This would help stop mass shootings, terrorism, and violence involved in other crime.

4. Mental Health Reporting: Require reporting of the dangerously mentally ill to the background check system. This would help address suicide, domestic violence, and mass shootings.

5. Enforce Existing Laws: Equip and encourage prosecutors and police to enforce our existing laws. This would help address violence involved in other crimes.

6. Require Security in Gun Free Zones: Require armed security at all government mandated gun free zones. This would help address mass shootings and terrorism.

The Details and Rationale:

1. Universal Background Checks: But not the schemes that have been proposed in Congress. The biggest argument that gun rights groups have against universal background checks is that they can easily lead to a national gun registry and eventual confiscation by a future government through exploitation of record-keeping systems. This sounds paranoid, but the massive nationwide gun confiscation that took place in Australia was based in part on gun registration records, so this fear is not baseless. Hillary Clinton has suggested that she would consider mandatory gun “buybacks” if elected and Former President Obama has suggested we follow this model. It should be noted that the vast majority of gun sales already involve background checks.

The solution: An Internet-based portal that allows private sellers (or lenders) to automatically run background checks on buyers. Each state would have a separate portal that would communicate directly to the existing the NICS federal background check system, integrate into the state’s photo ID / driver's license system, and (potentially) local systems for additional checks. It would be a crime to sell or lend a gun without performing a background check. The portal would be required to maintain the same uptime and availability standards as the existing NICS service. The portal would have the following requirements to ensure the privacy of gun owners and the effectiveness of the system:

I see no reason why a gun owner could oppose this from a perspective of liberty. This would not have prevented any of the recent tragedies, but it could (if properly enforced and prosecuted), put a dent in the violence in our cities. Police could conduct “sting” operations at gun shows and on the streets of our cities.

2. Mandatory Safety Class Offerings in Schools: Many people are killed in firearms accidents every year (although the number is falling). This is mostly due to ignorance and negligence.

The solution: These incidents can be reduced by having a brief introduction to firearms safety as a mandatory part of the high school (or younger, in a simpler form) curriculum for all students, like sex education. These safety lessons should be taught from a politically neutral perspective and could be accomplished in as few as several hours. The lessons should include at a minimum the following topics:

1. Never point a gun at something you don't intend to destroy.

2. How to safely handle a firearm, including how to pick one up safely (finger outside of the trigger guard), and why you should not trust the mechanical safety.

3. How to safely unload a loaded firearm (and that some guns can still fire after a magazine is removed).

4. Bullets can travel very long distances.

5. Firing a gun can cause ear and eye damage.

6. Unload a firearm when not in use; secure guns so children cannot access them; and correctly use a cable lock.

7. Do not handle or use firearms if under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

8. When in doubt, consult an expert.

None of these topics would be training on how to shoot a firearm, simply how to be safe if a person chooses to own a gun or has to handle one in extenuating circumstances, such as preventing a suicide.

3. Nationwide Concealed Carry Permit Reciprocity and Shall-Issue Permitting: Just like a driver's license, allow those who have met the criteria to carry a firearm in one state to carry in every state. The 

criteria should include a class (on subjects including firearms, psychology of violent situations, and de-escalation), fingerprinting, and an extensive background check. Like a state driver's license, it would be issued and renewed under the state's governing power with the addition of background check for the renewal. The purpose of this is two-fold: First, this will allow people to protect themselves and their families no matter where they are in the country. Statistically speaking, mass shootings do not end until they are confronted by force[3] (civilians and police). Even in the most policed areas, the police are minutes away when seconds count; in addition, police are not actually required to respond to calls and/or protect citizens. Second, this is a compromise that will make the other points in this legislation more acceptable to lawful gun owners[4]. Those who are unfamiliar with guns may find this idea repulsive, but carrying a concealed handgun with a permit is legal in all 50 states and DC (although a minority of states only issue permits to the wealthy or politically connected). It’s nearly certain that you have passed or had a friendly conversation with someone on the street or in a store who was legally carrying. Depending on your state, this could even be a daily occurrence.

4. Mental Health Reporting: Require reporting of the dangerously mentally ill to the NICS. There needs to a clear legal standard so providers have no question about the criteria, protections, and expectations on them about when to report and when not to report. This requirement needs a substantial balance so that people do not avoid treatment for fear of losing their Second Amendment rights. Someone with minor depression, difficulty sleeping, an eating disorder, or minor anxiety should have no fear that their records could be shared with the government. The safeguards need to be at a minimum:

1. Require at least two psychiatrists to physically meet with and concur that a patient is a danger to themselves or others (unless waived by the patient).

2. This danger must be reassessed at least bi-yearly if the patient requests.

3. The patient can challenge this assessment in court, with a court-appointed lawyer if needed.

As a side note, New York state has implemented mental health reporting but has not appointed any protections. In New York, anything you tell your doctor about your mental health can be reported to the police and cause your guns to be demanded of you, even if you are not dangerous. It is easy to see how a system without safeguards could prevent someone from seeking help, contributing to the problem rather than helping it. This point interacts with the point on mandatory background checks – a person who is personally or has family members going through a difficult time would have a safe, legal way to remove a gun from the home by lending them for safekeeping to someone who had passed a background check.

5. Prosecute Existing Laws: Properly fund and encourage federal/state prosecutors to pursue charges against straw purchasers of firearms (buying a gun for someone who can't legally buy one). Straw purchases are a major source for the criminal pipeline and the current federal prosecution rate for these crimes is insanely low. Prosecution for buying/selling a gun without a certificate of background check should have the same punishment: mandatory jail time for offenders. This would have a massive impact on crime.[5]

6. Require armed personnel at any government-mandated “gun free zone”: This person does not necessarily need to be a police officer but ideally would be a trained, deputized sheriff. Far too many shootings are in gun free zones, as the killer knows that they will not face any opposition until the police arrive. It is unconscionable that we allow this to continue.

In closing:

We believe that this list of points is reasonable and could actually be passed by our current congress. All six points depend on one another and are critical to the reduction in violence – they should be passed as a single bill on the national level and the national bill should encourage states to act as well.

If you like this plan and think it could succeed, please share this with your friends. It's very important that you also send a note or give a call to your representatives; be sure to mention #SomethingReasonable. If you are a member of any poltical organizations (for example, 2nd Amendment groups), put pressure on the leaders to consider this plan. You can promote and follow the progress of this effort with the tag #SomethingReasonable; please also consider "liking" and sharing our Facebook page.

As a final note; a non-legislative action: encourage your local and national media not to name mass shooters or show their faces. They are not heroes. #NoNotoriety


Last updated on: 23 February 2018

Contact: contact@somethingreasonable.com

Change list:

5 December 2015 -- Initial page release to the public.

8 December 2015 -- Added information about our Facebook page and more clarity about contacting representatives. Strengthened language about point #3 after Internet feedback. Added HTML description meta-tag and title tag. Fixed typo.

22 January 2016 -- Updated point #3 to include the recent executive order. Added Facebook (not working) and Twitter links.

1 February 2016 -- Clarified footnote #1 to note position on Assault Weapons Bans.

4 October 2017 -- Replaced Breitbart citations with different sources with the same data.

23 February 2018 -- Minor updates based on events. Fixed broken links and took out unneeded redirects. Took out non-affiliation note.

[1] Far more murders occur with blunt objects than all types of rifles: https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expanded-homicide/expanded_homicide_data_table_8_murder_victims_by_weapon_2009-2013.xls
For this reason, SomethingReasonable vehemently opposes so-called "assault weapons bans"; the only result of such efforts are to alienate gun owners. 

[2]        Some of the most secure systems in the world use open source code; this practice ensures that many people test and agree that the system is indeed secure and does not contain back doors accessible to hackers or governments.

[3]     Page 11 in the link

[4]        If you feel that you can't trust citizens to carry handguns: a study concluded that concealed carry permit holders are 5.7 times less likely to commit a violent crime than a person in the general population: http://www.gunfacts.info/gun-control-myths/concealed-carry/#return-note-91-21 

[5]     Table 12 in the linked document.