Guns - require training and require social connection. Isolation is disqualification.
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What is lacking in the gun control debate is new ideas that can help effectively bring an end to these horrific acts. Instead we argue in circles about the same ideas that have been discussed for decades.
I believe I have a new idea that both has a real chance to put a stop to these murderous acts while at the same time being more palatable to the gun lobby. I need your help in spreading the idea, and then ultimately making it a reality.
The idea takes inspiration from another industry where there can be significant risk, albeit more individualized, and where this risk has been quietly and effectively addressed with minimal contention or fanfare - the SCUBA industry.
Recreational SCUBA diving has the potential to be dangerous to an untrained individual. As a result, the industry has established a set of certifying organizations that offer training. Individuals take a certification class and then, upon passing a proficiency test, are given a certification card. There are a whole series of potential cards first covering basic skills and then covering a variety of specialties. Earning more certifications has become a desirable achievement, the higher certifications almost like trophies among participants. The highest certifications are instructor certifications, allowing an individual to then teach these classes and administer tests, thereby making this a broad, decentralized system.
Virtually no dive shop, dive excursion company, or resort worldwide will permit anyone to participate in dive activities without being able to show a certification card. This is not due to any laws. I will give some credit and say it is in part due to concern for the safety of a fellow human, but certainly it is also in part due to a concern for liability. No shop wants to be the shop who got an untrained diver killed through lax enforcement. Similarly, at the certification level, no SCUBA organization wants to be the one that issued a certification to someone who later proved they were unqualified by being injured or killed. Everyone is motivated to make sure the system works - and it does.
So, then, I believe this model can serve as an excellent model for a safer gun culture. The second amendment states clearly that its motivation is to enable a “well regulated militia”, so this is what I propose.
We should enable the formation of independent (non-government, but government regulated) militia organizations. These organizations would be the analogue of SCUBA certification organizations. They will offer training to members and issue certification cards. These cards should recognize proficiency in a variety of specialties, to build a similar desirability as the advanced SCUBA certifications. Similar to SCUBA, those certifications would lead up to instructor-level certification.
Gun dealerships, gun stores, gun shows, and - importantly - all ammunition sales, will be encouraged to require proof of certification before selling the item. Basic rifles would require a basic certification, while more sophisticated or dangerous gear would require more advanced certification.
Dealers and militias would have a legally required level of documentation, keeping records of certifications and of which certifications are used as proof in a sale. Ideally, sales records, not just of guns but ammo also, would be transmitted back to the militia in question and kept on record.
There’s always been a concern among second amendment enthusiasts about having such records on file with the government. That’s why the decentralized model the SCUBA industry uses is helpful. These would not be government records. They would be spread over some number of independent local militias. Only if a militia member commits a crime would the government have access, and to only that one militia’s records.
If such certification cards are available, I think that responsible gun and ammo dealers would be strongly motivated to check the cards, certainly if this check is required by law. The militias would be motivated to watch for unstable individuals among their members. No one would want to be the weak link that allowed a mass shooting to occur. At the very least, if there is a militia with bad intentions, it becomes a focal point for law enforcement, rather than having to watch evenly across the entire, broad population.
The goal here is not to prevent any gun owner from participating in any legal activity they would otherwise partake in. They simply need the certification card. The intent is that these certifications would be readily available from a variety of sources, and would not present a substantial obstacle to a law-abiding citizen. If someone does not like or do not trust existing militias, they are quite welcome to form their own - although, there being no right to an unregulated militia, their militia would need to satisfy the same records and regulatory requirements as the others.
The primary goal is very simple - to bring a requirement for social connection to gun activities. Don’t try to eliminate guns, eliminate the lone gunman. Certification cards should have limited life span, requiring militia members to come back to their organization for renewals. It’s important to also control access to ammo, because a gun, once obtained, lasts a long time, but ammo must be replenished. That provides recurring opportunities for human contact.
Adding this social element to gun ownership would not be an undue hardship on any gun owners I know. Most are social already, hunting or visiting the target range with friends and family. Most would be quite alert if a militia or club they were part of had a member who was acting strangely.
I think this idea can have a much more positive effect than a ban on a particular weapon, or than detached government regulations (if for no other reason, then at least because it’s a new idea with no entrenched opposition as of yet, and it tries to avoid trigger points of gun control opponents.) I also believe that the decentralized, more community-oriented organizations would be more able to tune specifics to the local environment, and would be more able to make reasonable judgements about the mental health and stability of certification candidates, as compared to a large central government bureaucracy.
Furthermore, this creates a number of entrepreneurial opportunities. SCUBA certification organizations are private, for-profit businesses. Training classes and certifications earn a reasonable profit. The NRA could be quite active in helping to enable these militia organizations (although I believe the NRA is too large and centralized to effectively achieve the local involvement this plan intends if it directly acts as a militia itself.) I believe this entrepreneurial angle can help to incentivize agreement with the proposal.
If this system works as I believe it can, not only would it become much more difficult for a lone shooter to obtain the weapons and ammunition to perform their horrific act, it would become much more likely that a mentally disturbed person would be identified and would find help long before they reach that point. They would have to spend time with someone - a trained instructor who knows what to look for - or they would not be able to arm themselves. I admittedly cannot guarantee it will prevent all of these heinous crimes, but I believe it can prevent many, and therefore represents a major step forward - one that can pass a Republican congress and is therefore achievable.
This I believe is completely in keeping with the spirit of the second amendment - a right to bear arms associated directly with a well regulated militia.
To illustrate how this idea would work in practice, let’s say “Eric” would like to obtain an AR-15 rifle. Eric would need to find a certified AR-15 instructor he can get training from. That instructor would need to be selected from a group of individuals certified by any one of the regulated militia organizations. Eric might first have to attend some basic level training and get a gun safety certification as a prerequisite to his AR-15 training. Then he would attend AR-15 training.
Once Eric completes the training, there would be a proficiency test he would need to pass. If he passes the test, and the instructor thinks he is qualified (and doesn't raise concerns about Eric’s mental health and stability) then Eric get his certification card.
In some sense, this certification process serves as a "way ahead of time" background check, in contrast to the "just in time" background check we try to enforce now, which only begins once the purchase is attempted and must therefore be quick and cursory.
Now that Eric has a certification card, he can go to a store or go to a gun show, and a vendor would be willing to sell him an AR-15 after seeing his certification. That vendor would also report the sale back to the militia that issued Eric’s certification, which would serve as a check on the validity of Eric’s certification card.
The militia would record the sale. There would be a similar checks and record-keeping when Eric buys magazines or ammunition. If Eric started amassing large amounts, his certifying militia would have visibility of that and would have the ability to notice it.
Assume all of these checks are passed, then you still end up with a guy with a gun. The hope, and the premise of the idea, is that if Eric has bad intentions, somewhere along the way someone on the militia side will think, "wait a minute, this seems bad.” Instead of having to act on that feeling or Eric gets his gun, the default action is the reverse. If they choose not to act and not to certify Eric, then he will not be able to obtain weapons or ammunition. This puts the bias in the safer direction.
I envision that these militias are on the small side, numerous, and pretty local. So when a check occurs, it’s not someone saying, "member #9959591 is buying a lot of stuff." It's someone saying, "What's Eric up to? I think I'll check on him.”
I believe this idea, though it isn’t a perfect solution, if implemented would have a substantial benefit and would prevent many horrible crimes. Furthermore, I believe it’s an idea that most advocates for the second amendment can agree with and get behind. That gives it a fighting chance to become law.
Perhaps you don't like my idea. If not, that's OK, I don't pretend to have all the answers. I'm not offended if you disagree.
However if you do like this idea, then please help spread the word. Find a way to help bring it to reality. I need your help.
"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." - 2nd Amendment
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