Gunner Control (Revisited)
For several years I have been formulating a system that might help with the improper use of firearms in this country. The overall planning is hampered by several factors, however. The first is the fact that each state has regulations about the use, transport, purchase, etc. of firearms that makes it almost impossible for a citizen to know what is and what is not a legal process. Secondly, the availability of a number of types of weapons confuses the issues around what kinds of guns make sense to have in the hands of a variety of persons. Third is the market of stolen and personal sale transfers of guns from one person to another, making a murky trail of possession.
The whole issue has been approached by almost everyone involved as an attempt to control guns. This has been shown to be hopeless given the current regulations, even though laws currently passed try to control them.
I have come to believe that the whole issue should be approached in a new way. The control and all association laws should be directed to gunner control. By this I mean the process would be one of defining the gun holder as the issue, and attempt to assure that anyone having a gun is knowledgeable about the laws that apply to owning and using weapons, is skilled in the use of the type of weapon that person buys, and that the person can be tested and approved for the purchase and ownership of a weapon of any kind.
Firstly, any such system must define the qualifications of a person to have a weapon of a type that discharges a destructive payload to be delivered at some distance from the user. I suggest that classes of users be defined that are allowed to own such weapons in the first place. Age is a natural starting place to restrict a person from having a weapon of one of the defined classes. For example, a young child should not be allowed to purchase, own, have access, or use of a weapon of a class that is military in nature. Physical limitations may play a role in determining weapon ownership and use, but this isn’t perfectly clear without study. The reason a person wishes to be eligible weapon owners/users should also be able to show a knowledge of that type of weapon and knowledge of the laws applying to its purchase, sale, and use.
I suggest there are five legitimate reasons for a person to have a weapon of any class.1. A member of the military, National Guard, or paramilitary force such as police, private investigators, drug officers, etc.
2. Collectors of functioning and non-functioning weapons.
4. Sportsmen, such as target shooters and those using weapons in the course of competitions like the Olympics.
5. Civilians in general who can make a case for a need of self defense, at home or work, such as store owners/operators, drug counselors, psychologists, etc. who have a higher percentage of contact with marginally dangerous clients.
This list, or one more properly drawn after study, would represent the “gunners” that any law would attempt to control. Any law proposed should be described as “gunner control.”
The process embodied in such gunner control legislation is what I have been working on for several years (off and on). Some years ago I presented an early version to some lawyers for the NRA, who agreed with me on its general approach and saw nothing objectionable with it. This is encouraging, but there are a lot of issues that have to be explored to get this into a reasonable law.
Firstly, and unfortunately, my process would require the establishment of a new government agency. I’m not really interested in doing this, but I haven’t seen where in the current government hierarchy the appropriate commission might be located. The agency I suggest would be something like the Federal Communications Commission in its original charter for controlling the use of frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum. It was originally in the Depart of the Navy, I believe, but eventually was handled by the specifically created FCC.
When I decided to become a radio amateur there were a number of steps I had to take to prove myself. First, I had to register and pay a fee which helped to defer the cost of the agency. Second, I had to take a written exam which covered the laws and regulations in the use of the spectrum: what transmission modes were used at which frequencies, what power limitations there were on each band of frequencies, what type of equipment was allowed, what record of spectrum use had to be kept, etc. Third, I have to take a practical exam, demonstrating my ability to perform certain communication actions, primarily the sending and receiving of Morse code at a specified speed. Lastly, I had to agree to be monitored in my use and produce records of my activities if needed.
This did not seem at the time to be an unmanageable burden to me. I also had no objection to my call letter assignment being published with my name and address. In fact, this became useful to me in finding others with whom I had contact, and for business purposes. I got a lot of advertising for radios and electronic parts.
Note that this system controls the users of the equipment, not the equipment. There were and are some restrictions on the use of equipment in very limited areas. I believe it is still considered illegal to own and use a police scanner to follow police transmissions, but it may be the use of scramblers and codes may have eliminated that restriction. Such bans were minor.
A similar system would control gunners (not guns), and provide for the ability of persons to own and use weapons of various classes only if they were licensed to do so. What follows is an outline system, suggested as a starting point, for such gunner control.
All weaponry would be categorized as to what class of weapon it is. A cannon, for example, would never be thought of as a hunting class weapon, or fall into a category of self-defense. It would easily be a military weapon, and perhaps a collection item, if non-functioning, etc. Such categories and classes would have to be carefully defined based on some measurable characteristic of each weapon. I can’t imagine what all these might be, but such elements as rate of fire, size of payload, portability, etc. could figure into the description.
Once categories are defined, a set of tests covering the laws and regulations and practical issues of each class of weapon would be developed. These would represent the defining requirements a person must meet to be eligible to purchase and own a weapon of a class. A person passing the exam(s) for a given class would be issued a license of that class. It would only be legal for a person holding a license of a class to purchase or own a weapon of that class. A person could, of course, qualify for more than one class, but do so for each individually.
On passing all the requirements for eligibility for a class license, the person’s name, address, and class license information would be entered in a license data base which would be publicly available, probably at some charge or subscription rate. This data base would be available to groups who had an interest in licensees of weapons classes. This might include police departments, state police, manufacturers, legal departments, etc. Even an individual might wish to purchase access to the data base, but there is no clear reason that I can imagine at this time for this.
Upon entry into the data base, any entity that has access could search and/or scan the records and could submit an objection to a new licensee being issued of the license based on one or more of a set of grounds spelled out in the legislation. Only these grounds can be used to file an objection. This is a key element of such legislation. As such, the grounds must be carefully determined and defined. Some grounds would seem to be obvious: the applicant is a documented felon; or has a psychiatric history of dangerous behavior; or is a documented member of a violent/terrorist/anti-government group; or is a person wanted for smuggling, drug dealing; etc. The completion of this list of grounds might take the most time to get right and likely would have to be revised from time to time.
After a reasonable waiting period which would allow for objections to be filed, the license would be issued to the applicant. Objections could still be filed at a later date, but the license would remain issued and in effect until the grounds were upheld.
If an objection is filed it would have to be evaluated and a ruling made within some specified time from the date of the objection being submitted. After that time, the objection would become moot and normal laws would come into play for suspending a license due to weapons violations, as defined now.
After a period of two years (or other agreed timeframe) the applicant’s record for an issued license would be removed from the data base. The main reason for the record to stay “live” for some period of time is to catch the impulse licensed weapon buyer.
When a person attempts to buy a weapon, whether through a dealer or from another individual, the seller will be responsible for identifying the purchaser, checking the license of the purchaser and insuring that only weapons of the class for which the purchaser is licensed are sold. The normal instant background checks can also be made.
The record of the sale is a delicate issue at this point. It could be entered into the data base or not. I currently believe it should not be. It should be logged in the seller’s records and available later if called for.
Penalties should be defined for a person selling or having a weapon of a class without a license, or for which he is not licensed. This is analogous to a person caught driving without a license, or operating a taxicab without the proper class license, etc.
All other weapons issues relating to general use of would still apply at the state level, such as concealed carry permits, transportation of weapons regulations, use of weapons in various jurisdictions, etc. But the right to a weapon and the ability to purchase a weapon would be regulated by “gunner control.”
The agency could have the right to retest an individual if issues arise concerning misuse of weapons by a licensee, or at after some appropriate licensed time period. There should also be requirements for a licensee to report changes of address to the commission and for new licenses to be issued at the current address. This is the same as the requirements for amateur radio licenses.