The shootings in Aurora, Colorado [wikipedia.org] at a midnight showing of the new Batman movie seem, at least from Singapore, to have failed to spark any significant new debate on gun control in the US. Here in Singapore, on the other hand, it is the first question any non-American asks me about the thing, something that seems to happen every time there is a shooting of any number of people in the US. The Second Amendment [wikipeida.org] is nearly impossible to explain to non-Americans. The issue, for me, is how do you balance the rights guaranteed in The Second Amendment with the need to protect people and the crazy advances in arms technology (Aside: remember the amendment says “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” is guaranteed but guns are not the only “arms”. Can everyone own nuclear arms? Chemical? Biological?)
How do you balance these things? I think the best suggestion I have come across is somewhere between the “no guns, for anyone, any time” and the “all the guns, for everyone, all the time” camps. The idea is that small magazine, non-automatic guns for hunting should be legal similar to how they are today and that all other guns should be legal under one restriction: that they must be purchased via and permanently stored in the facilities of a licensed gun range. So anyone, with basic checks, probably less invasive than today’s checks, could buy crazy high-powered, ludicrous firing rate bazookas but they would have to purchase the gun through a licensed gun range and it would have to be stored in the licensed facility at all times. There would be various strict regulations about storage of guns and ammo in the facility and regular inspections or audits. But gun owners could visit the range, retrieve and shoot their gun at any time, on the premises. The last bit of this idea is how to move from the current state to this end state? There would need to be some sort of window of time to allow the setup of the regulation system, registration and creation of licensed gun ranges and a major effort to get people to register their guns and house them in a gun range. Anyone found with one of these guns outside the gun range regulation system after the window closes should face very, very severe penalties — like the forfeiture of the right to own any gun from then on. The punishment must be severe to push reluctant people to register their guns during the registration window.
To me, someone who is fully in the “no guns” mindset, but also believes in the art of compromise, this seems a very logical solution. I can’t imagine it would be meet with less than vitriolic derision from the hardcore gun enthusiasts and the NRA but I wouldn’t expect any less in the current religiously polarized political climate in the US.