Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Reasonable Gun Control

The phrase "reasonable gun control" is widely used by the anti-gun advocates in the media, but there is little agreement of what constitutes "reasonable" in the context of gun regulation. The two extreme positions, a total ban on guns, and complete freedom for anyone to own and carry anything, are usually rejected by most people. Some kind of regulation is needed, and in the wake of the Heller decision I think that compromise between gun control and gun rights advocates may be possible. What follows is my personal thoughts on what laws are needed for balance on this issue.

Note that the following discussion is founded on the premise that California state law is the starting point, and the proposed changes are changes to state law: some of the provisions would not make sense to people not familiar with California law. Other proposed changes are already in effect in California, and these are ones that I think should apply nationally.

Background Checks - Private Transfers as well.

Yep, close the so-called gun show loophole. The fundamental basis of my compromise position is that we, as a society, should do all we reasonable can to prevent prohibited persons from obtaining firearms. While I know that determined criminals will get them anyway, I believe that
we should not make it easier, and requiring background checks on all transfers is an easy way to start. We do background checks on private transfers in California, and the sky has not fallen.

Training - even more than that required by the HSC.

Before a person can buy a handgun in California they have to obtain a Handgun Safety Certificate (HSC). This is demonstration of knowledge of gun safety and firearms laws on a written, multiple-choice test. The test is ridiculously easy, and perhaps not as effective as it should be. I like the idea of training, and I think that even more training would be a good idea. Before buying my first handgun, I took the NRA Basic Pistol class. This was an eight hour session of classroom instruction on handguns, safety, and law, as well as a range session where instructors taught us how to shoot safely in an indoor target range. I found this to be a very helpful class for a new handgun owner, and it made my purchase a much more informed one as well. I would propose that attendance in a similar class would be required prior to purchasing ANY firearm.

One Handgun Per Month

I really do not understand the opposition to this proposal. Quality firearms, either new or used, are expensive, so I do not think that most people will buy more that one per month. Straw purchases are a problem, and this restriction is not too onerous if it can hep reduce them.

CCW Permits

The CCW permit system in California is a travesty. In this "may issue" state most jurisdictions where a person would need to carry a weapon, urban high-crime areas, won't issue, and in most areas where the authorities will issue, rural low-crime areas, there is much less need to carry a weapon. As a business owner in California, I understand the problem: exercising their discretion to issue a CCW permit makes the issuing authority liable for the acts of the CCW permit holder, so they refuse to issue. Many also refuse to issue because many Sheriffs and Police Chiefs don't want more armed people on the streets.

I think that there are only two fair options: we need to either make California shall-issue, or make California no-issue. These are the only fair options. Currently, a VIP or a "friend of the Sheriff" can get a CCW permit, but ordinary citizens cannot. The CCW permit circus in Orange County shows how a new Sheriff can arbitrarily change department policy, and begin to revoke or deny renewal of permits. I have come to believe that we should go all one way, or all the other.

Given the political makeup of the state in general, and the legislature in particular, I think that there is zero chance of a shall-issue system being put in place in any foreseeable future. Sure, AB 357 was recently proposed to make California "shall-issue", but this bill would have changed only a single word in the law: delete "may" and replace it with "shall". The "good cause" requirement was still there, which is antithetical to any real shall-issue system, and no objective criteria were defined by AB 357. AB 357 was a bad law, and it deserved to die in committee.

DOJ Handgun Roster

Some explanation of the Department of Justice Handgun Roster is in order for people reading this that are fortunate enough not to live in either California or the District of Columbia. Not evey handgun made is available for purchase in California. Manufacturers must submit their handgun to state-approved testing laboratories to ensure that the handguns meet California safety requirements. After acceptance, the manufacturer must pay a fee annually to maintain the listing of the handgun on the roster. If the manufacturer chooses not to maintain the listing, then the handgun can no longer be offered for sale by dealers. Unlisted handguns may still be transferred by private parties and brought into the state by their owners, however.

The DOJ roster is in effect a partial handgun ban. Guns that do not meet the safety requirements are banned for sale. If the costs of listing a handgun become prohibitive, the no handguns would be available for sale in California. The maintenance of the listing is what makes this a gun ban. There are many safety laws on the books, and many products are tested to various standards, but the safety laws simply say that the products sold must meet certain requirements, a Underwriter Laboratories standard, for example, to be sold. But once it is tested to be safe, it does not become unsafe simply because it has been taken off some list. The coercive nature of the DOJ roster is further illustrated by the fact that in 2010 all new handguns must have the "safety feature" of micro-stamping the handgun serial number of spent casings. Guns that do not do this are "unsafe" and may not be sold.

Repeal the whole stupid thing.

Assault Weapon Ban

The California Assault Weapon ban is the poster child for feel-good gun legislation. If the true intent of the 2nd Amendment is to be realized in the post-Heller United States, semi-automatic versions of military rifles would be the most protected firearms under the Constitution. Militia members reporting for duty with and AR-15 could be supplied with ammunition and magazines by the U.S. Army without any problems with the military logistics system.

This is also a law that has pretty much no impact on crime. Most crimes are not committed with rifles because they are not easily concealable. And the law itself is confusing and arbitrary. It bans rifles with certain cosmetic features, but does not ban rifles, equally as capable, that lack those features. A Bushmater Carbon 15 M4AR-15 is illegal, but the Springfield Armory SOCOM II rifle is not.

This law also bans large capacity magazines, defined as magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Ineffective and confusing, this is a bad law.

Repeal it.

Ammunition Registration

There are no requirement to register ammunition purchases, yet, (See my posts on AB 962), proposals to do this have been raised before, implemented before, and repealed before. They used to exist at the Federal level, but were repealed when the BATFE testified before Congress that the requirements generated massive amounts of paper, that was of questionable value in fighting gun crime.

What such laws would do is make it harder for law abiding citizens to get ammunition for lawful purposes, and make that ammunition more expensive, due to the record keeping requirements placed upon ammunition vendor. In short this type of law is another feel-good law that would have no real effect on violent crime.


Well, these are my selections. I some cases I agree with the gun control advocates, and in others I disagree. I like the idea of training, which is the most effective way to increase firearm safety, not loading handguns with questionable features like loaded chamber indicators or magazine disconnects. Training will ensure that any gun can be handled safely by anyone. I also think that more can be done to prevent the flow of guns into the illegal arms market. But in general I think actions of individuals should be punished, not law abiding citizens as a class, to firearm bans are a no-go with me.

Let the flames begin.

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