My stance on gun reform is broken down into simple short-term changes to quickly reduce gun deaths and a sustainable long-term solution to address guns.
Help is available
Speak with someone today
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Available 24 hours in both English and Spanish. Learn more.
The immediate problem
There are about 40,000 gun deaths per year in the US. More than half of those are suicides. The reasons for these suicides are economic disparity, culture, lack of mental health treatment, trauma (especially for veterans), temporary crises, etc., not guns. The problem is that addressing those causes is going to take a huge amount of money, people, energy, and, most importantly, time. In that time, we're going to continue to lose tens of thousands of lives. Unfortunately, death is a symptom we cannot recover from. While we're working on the time-consuming cures for the diseases that cause gun deaths, quick, easy, simple reforms like free/subsidized gun storage locks, universal waiting periods, instituting a perpetual optional gun buyback program, and adjusting key laws to put the onus of safety on gun owners can act as first aid measures to take that 40,000 number down to 30,000 or 20,000 or even 10,000. These reforms are intended as symptom treatment, not as cures for the diseases.
But you just said guns aren't the problem. People can commit suicide with other methods.
The method matters. Suicide with a gun is (far) more lethal than suicide with any other method because of its high inherent deadliness, high ease of use, and inability to abort mid-attempt. That matters because when people survive a suicide attempt, over 90% of the time, they don't end up dying from suicide later on. If we can remove the gun from the suicide equation for an individual, we can dramatically increase the chance that person is going to survive their suicide attempt and go on to live a fuller, longer, happier life. And again, this is not a cure for the disease. It’s not supposed to get us from 40,000 to 0; it’s supposed to save a few lives right now.
What about the other types of gun deaths?
The bulk of remaining gun deaths in the US are homicides, mostly not from mass shootings despite their increasing frequency. Similar to suicides, access to guns is the most controllable factor in reducing gun deaths in this category. Many shooters have openly admitted that if firearms weren’t easily available to them, the shooting wouldn’t have happened — and yes, I’m specifically referring to shooters who weren’t supposed to have access to guns in the first place.
Requiring or encouraging gun owners to keep their firearms securely locked when not being used or on their person can sometimes be enough of a barrier to prevent the wrong people from obtaining them (you’d be surprised how many people don’t take a drink because there’s a lock on their liquor cabinet). The federal government can provide rebates for home and vehicle locking systems to gun owners as an incentive to buy and use them.
Universal waiting periods can prevent people from acting irrationally on their anger or sadness. While I am in favor of universal background checks to close the private gun sale loophole, there are many issues with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Universal waiting periods could give us an opportunity to implement a more comprehensive system that’s more accurate and thorough, similar to the licensing systems already used in twelve states, although this is leaving the realm of simple reform.
A perpetual optional gun buyback program gives gun owners an easy option to discard their firearms without having to worry about them ending up in the wrong hands.
There are several laws that incentivize gun owners to use their firearms to kill rather than deter. In many states, warning shots and brandishing without firing are illegal or have little or senseless guidance as to when and how to do so to deter a threat. Additionally, there are few legal protections for people who fire non-lethal shots. This often leads to survivors of shootings successfully suing the shooter for damages regardless of what actually happened, incentivizing gun owners to shoot to kill rather than deter. Small tweaks to these laws can shift the onus on gun owners from violence to safety.
That sounds like a lot of changes.
Even if we implement only a few of those reforms, we could see a significant drop in gun deaths, meaning fewer families mourning. However, it’s time to dive into the long-term solution that may have drawn you to this page.
Out with it already!
At a high level, I want to empower the gun community to regulate itself.
Mechanically, this would work by empowering local citizen militias to write regulations and rules regarding obtaining, transporting, accessorizing, storing, using, and selling firearms and ammo in their jurisdiction. The size of the militias and the jurisdictions they cover would vary, but I would recommend approximately county-sized jurisdictions. Multiple militias in large cities would cover smaller geographical areas but collaborate on unifying regulation while militias in rural areas may be larger and cover up to tri-county areas. Federal guidelines would be in place to cover the gaps such as when people are moving or in communities that choose not to have a militia. The nature of these guidelines is up for further national discussion with gun owners, and some guidelines could be intentionally designed to be overwritten by local militias. Local militias would be required to make their regulations accessible through hotlines and public websites supported by and linked to through a centralized government website so gun owners can always have up-to-date information on local regulations both where they live and where they’re traveling. These local militias would be held accountable for gun deaths in their jurisdictions (or gun deaths in other jurisdictions where the gun originated in their jurisdiction) by the Department of Justice and whatever means are deemed fit by the communities they’re in because that’s exactly where guns are an issue: communities.
If you shoot a gun in El Paso, it doesn’t kill someone in Houston. We know that more guns in urban areas leads to more gun deaths, but that doesn’t necessarily play out the same in rural areas. One-size-fits-all solutions for guns are not sustainable in a country as large and diverse as the US. Right now, gun owners of all kinds don’t have much voice in the rules around their guns. By moving regulations down to the community level, gun owners’ voices are amplified immensely, especially the many gun owners who advocate for more gun safety.
The other advantage of this idea is its compatibility with the language of the Second Amendment. If you’re turned off by the short-term reforms I discussed earlier, this should seem like a workable approach.
The conversation around this idea is ongoing and needs to spread as it’s quite a comprehensive reform that requires diverse input and consideration before implementation, especially around the federal guidelines. If, after reading this entire page, you have specific input on this concept, connect with me publicly on social media or by sending me a direct message.