America is caught on the horns of a dilemma: how do we reduce rampage violence while honoring the Second Amendment, which has been interpreted to guarantee access to firearms? I addressed one possible solution to this issue in the first entry in this series, where I advocated the idea of a comprehensive ban on semi-automatic rifles and handguns — you can read that here. In this article I’m taking a different tack, since I know that banning guns is such a trigger for many Americans. If we can’t ban guns… how about we make it harder for dangerous individuals to own guns, instead?
I’m talking, of course, about men. If we look at the statistics, men are overwhelmingly more likely to commit a murder with a firearm than women. Furthermore, men are far more likely to commit rampage violence with a firearm than women are. Taken together, I am forced to conclude that, when it comes to violent acts involving a firearm, men are the demographic to fear — indeed, a fair percentage of firearm sales are, in my humble opinion, made to women to protect them from men.
Furthermore, the perpetrators or rampage shootings are usually young men. Not always, but usually, they are under the age of 25. This kind of makes sense when you think about it — which demographic is notorious for making bad decisions? If you’re a car insurance company, you already know the answer, and it is young men under the age of 25. There’s actually a reason for this — human brain development doesn’t actually finish until about age 25, meaning that young people really are more likely to do all sorts of stupid things.
Now, the issue with rampage violence is, of course, that nothing the shooter does is illegal — right up until the point that it very much is. These individuals routinely purchase their guns and ammunition legally, following their relevant state laws, and then proceed to murder a dozen or more people. So to counter this trend, I propose the following:
For a period of ten years, make it illegal for any male under the age of 25 to purchase, own, or handle a firearm without the supervision of an adult over the age of 25. The penalty for purchasing, owning, or handling a firearm without supervision for these individuals would be incarceration until the day of their 25th birthday, with mandatory psychological counseling, without the possibility of parole. Maybe give them one warning if we’re feeling tolerant.
Furthermore, for any young man still living with his parents, make the parents at least partially liable for any firearms-related offense he commits; to make it fair, since they can’t control everything their son does, let’s say half of whatever sentence the young man receives for a crime. Furthermore, any parents whose dependent young men commit a violent act involving a firearm and who do not own a gun safe would receive the full sentence for any crime committed by the young man. These penalties would be waived if the parents report their young man to the authorities in advance of a shooting; at that point it’s the cops’ problem.
Follow this up with a bunch of PSAs, some commentary from leading religious and political figures, and maybe a lineup of Saturday morning cartoon notices, etc., to get the word out and socialize the population.
The goal here is twofold:
- Keep weapons out of the hands of the people who are most likely to misuse them.
- Identify and restrain those people who are too stupid, stubborn, or bloody-minded to let go of their guns until such time as they are scientifically capable of rational thought.
This proposal has several things going for it:
- It targets the most likely demographic to commit a violent act involving a firearm.
- It allows the greater majority of the population to continue owning firearms without prejudice, thus not greatly infringing on the Second Amendment.
- It specifically does not affect the least likely group of rampage shooters, and the group that are most likely to be victimized by young men, i.e., women.
- It meets the mail for all the “personal responsibility”-focused people, who say “the parents should have done more.”
- It imposes real, but rational, penalties designed to get young men over the rationality hump if they just can’t keep their hands off a firearm.
- It does not penalize those have no real control over their young men, i.e. parents whose children do not live with them.
- It does not rely on registration schemes or firearm manufacture limitations.
For those out there who might argue that young men under the age of 25 are covered by the “shall not be infringed” section of the Second Amendment, may I draw your attention to two points?
- One, no Amendment and no right is absolute; the Supreme Court upheld in DC v. Heller the concept that states could implement rational gun control, provided that they did not capriciously ban the most common types of self-defense weapons.
- Two, the Constitution is not a suicide pact, again according the Supreme Court, and there can exist circumstances in which the national interest supersedes the exact formulation of that document. This is, I think, one of them. The Founders could not have foreseen modern weaponry, and this proposal strikes a balance between addressing the problem at hand and respecting the rights of the vast majority of the population.
You hear folks say “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” right? Ok, then. Let’s control the people, if we don’t think we can control the guns. Let’s try this for ten years. That’s all I ask. Just try it, and watch the statistics. If nothing changes, fine, no worries mate, put everything back the way it was. We’ll chalk that one up as a miss. But if shootings drop by a significant margin? Well then, we have prevented people from killing people, and we keep this idea in place.