It is time to take a broader approach to gun ownership, one that recognizes the rights and responsibilities of gun owners and non-gun owners alike. Looking at the gun control problem from the perspective of an economist, I have put together a proposal that I think addresses the issues. The program is based on sound economic principles including that a role of government is to serve the public interest and not private or corporate interests. The ideas presented here protect private rights while simultaneously promoting the public interest.
Consider making the requirements for owning a gun similar to those for owning and operating a vehicle. In order to do so, the vehicle must be registered, and the driver must have a valid operator’s license. It proves that he/she has maintained the necessary qualifications required to operate a motor vehicle. Moreover, the owner pays for the operator’s license, registration fee and an annual fee that varies with the size of the vehicle. Why can’t we treat firearms in a similar way?
Those of us who have no interest in bearing arms, either for self-protection or recreational uses, should not be burdened with the real and financial costs imposed on us by others who insist on that right. While personally I have no need to own a weapon for either purpose, I can respect the rights of others to do so. If gun owners are proud of who they are and proud of their legitimate constitutional right to bear arms, they would insist on the manifestations of that right. It would include: creating a list of gun owners, who they are and identifying the weapons they own, and developing a registry of all weapons with an identifying serial number that specifies its type, characteristics and the registered owner — like the owners license for a vehicle. Gun owners would also be willing to sign a statement, acknowledging that along with the right to bear arms, comes certain responsibilities. Responsibilities of gun ownership include:
- The willingness of every owner to prove that they have the qualifications to own the weapon and a willingness to subject themselves to a background check to prove that and have continued to act in accordance with the approval criteria.
- Gun owners will guarantee that the weapon that they own and control will not in any way be used to harm others unless their personal rights are infringed. If the weapon is used in violation of this principle, they abrogate their right to own any weapons.
- Furthermore, if the use of the gun they own causes any disability, pain or suffering to others beyond their personal rights, they are personally responsible for compensating them for the injury and reimbursing them for their losses.
As a member of the group of those who elect to own guns, they must be willing to contribute to a pool to ensure that funds will be available to compensate those individuals and families that are harmed by the use of weapons when the owner and/or user of those weapons or their estate does not have sufficient funds to reimburse the injured party — it is like an insurance pool. In that way, that responsibility will not fall on those who are injured, on unaffected third parties or on taxpayers. To ensure that gun owners are not held responsible for weapons that are no longer in their possession, they must immediately report any sale, transfer or loss of control of any weapon registered in their name. Moreover, they must provide the name and address, etc. of the proposed new owner prior of the transfer to ensure that the recipient is qualified to own the weapon. That helps to guarantee the new owner meets the group’s high standards.
Lastly, to make sure that the National Rifle Association is an organization that represents the legitimate and lawful owners of weapons and is not a lobbying organization of the manufacturers, importers and dealers of those weapons promoting their corporate and personal self-interest, the NRA should no longer accepts any funds from the later group. Furthermore, they should reveal the names of those companies and individuals and amounts of the funds they contributed in the past.
There are four components of the proposed program — background checks, registry, damage compensation pool and gun buyback. Each aspect will be funded by those gun owners that are responsible for the type of firearm involved and those who benefit from it, like the suppliers — the manufacturers, importers and dealers of that type and their paraphernalia and by non-gun owners. For example, owners and others associated with assault type rifles will contribute to the pool for reimbursing victims of mass killings and their families, handgun owners for the victims of drive-by shootings, and non-gun owners and others who wish to contribute to the gun buyback program. Since the beneficiaries of the program fund it, it will not contribute to the national debt. For additional details on how the program would work and be financed see Gun Control: An Economist’s Perspective. By acting in accordance with these principles those of us who are not gun owners will know that gun owners are acting in accordance with their rights and accepting the responsibility that goes along with that right and that privilege.