Time For Common Sense Gun Control Has Arrived
NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- This isn't a column about healthcare. This is a column about common sense.
On Friday, a gunman walked into an elementary school in suburban Newtown, Conn. and killed 26 people, including 20 children. To describe this as a tragedy is an unimaginable understatement, and my heart goes out to the victims and their families. For everyone in America, this is yet another wake up call -- the most strident yet -- that the time for strict gun control has arrived.
Before we go any further, I want to address the legion of pro-gun conservatives that reflexively start shrieking about the Second Amendment whenever the topic of gun control arises. This isn't 1791. There is absolutely zero chance that Americans will band together in a privately armed militia to protect the Republic against attack, and the risk-benefit ratio of gun ownership for "self-protection" seems woefully imbalanced. Calm down and let's find a middle ground that keeps our children safer.
Despite my personal preference -- outlaw all private guns, except standard hunting rifles -- I respect both the Constitution and reasonable people with a different view. Moreover, state laws appear to be drifting steadily towards less stringent regulation, which suggests the American people are increasingly comfortable with the presence of guns in public. For example, the Michigan state legislature just passed a bill that streamlines the gun permit approval process and allows concealed handguns in so-called "gun free zones," which includes schools. That's a terrible idea, but a number of states have passed similar laws in recent years.
Let me offer a three-part solution that I think respects both sides of this argument.
First, anything that isn't a hunting rifle or a handgun should be illegal. There is absolutely no need for an individual to have any access whatsoever to semiautomatic assault rifles like the one used in the Newtown shootings, or other military-grade weapons.
Pro-gun advocates will likely see this as an infringement on their rights, given the text of the Constitution. Yet it seems reasonable to assume the right to "bear arms" didn't contemplate weapons with high capacity magazines capable of firing six bullets per second. (Revolutionary War-era muskets could, at best, manage three rounds per minute.) A gun-owning colleague of mine suggested, alternatively, that ammunition magazines be limited to six or fewer shots. That seems like a reasonable idea that's worthy of consideration. Neither side of this issue owns a monopoly on common sense.
Second, every gun should be licensed and registered, and the approvals process should be stringent. Although there are logistical difficulties to obtaining information about guns already in the market, it's relatively straightforward to mandate for any new guns sold.
My final point is critical. Pro-gun advocates argue constantly about rights, which is fine. Yet with any right comes responsibility. Given the potential consequences, the right to bear arms should be tightly wedded to meaningful responsibility. So here's the proposal: All guns must be registered to one individual, and that individual is responsible for that gun and for any crimes committed with that weapon. If the gun is lost or stolen, it must be promptly reported to the police, at which point the burden of responsibility shifts. Otherwise, crimes committed using your gun are your crimes. Period.