I think I have thought of an approach to gun control that isn’t being discussed in the country at the moment, and might actually get round the usual 2nd amendment problems.
The problem, as we all know, is that the current interpretation of the 2nd amendment makes it more or less impossible to pass a Federal statute banning or even usefully regulating domestic ownership of firearms. If Obama tries to go down that road he will never make any headway. Not even now. The 2nd amendment states:
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.
Seems to me the way to make headway is NOT to try to pass a Federal law banning or regulating firearms in the first instance, but instead to pass a federal law, a lot like a highways bill that says to the states, for instance, if you raise the drinking age to 21 we will give you federal money to maintain your highways. It seems to me that the feds could pass a law that says: we will offer funding to any state that chooses to redefine its laws regulating its state militia, so that the redefined militia not only includes the traditional national guard, but also takes in every legally registered gun owner in the state. Thus the state of Connecticut could pass a law saying we redefine our state militia to include all legally registered gun owners.
These new members of the militia will not be required to provide the kind of service that the traditional national guard members are required to provide, but they will be obliged, as members of the second tier of the state militia, to conform to certain basic gun safety rules. Such as:
1. Gun owners (militiamen) will be obliged to keep their guns, when they are not carrying them on their person, in a locked steel gun safe, access to which is restricted to the legally registered owner only. (A rule like this one, would, it seems, have prevented the boy in Connecticut from taking his mother’s weapons to school to kill her). In the U.K. all registered gun owners MUST have a steel gun safe if they wish to keep their guns at home, and no one is allowed to have access to those guns except the registered owner, and it isn’t a problem and it doesn’t stop anyone who wants to own a gun from owning one.
Obliging people to keep their guns in a locked steel safe when in no way prohibits them from owning guns. It just keeps the guns out of the hands of unregistered gun owners, or strangers & children, etc.
Gun safes are low-tech, and heavy, so it would be easy and profitable to manufacture them domestically. That means more jobs, and profits, for the people who make them and or the people who sell them. Yes it will mean every gun owner has to spend some money on a gun safe, but that is not an unreasonable restraint on firearm ownership. A gun safe won’t cost more than, well, yet another gun or two.
2. As part of the state’s ‘well regulation’ of its militia, the state could limit the types of weapons its militia members could own and keep at home. Hunting firearms would be sacrosanct. Assault rifles, monster clips, RPG’s, would not. I believe, and this is crucial, that a state can pass laws limiting the categories of acceptable guns militiamen can own in order to regulate well its own militia, even when the federal government cannot.
I know Scalia has defined the right embedded in the 2nd amendment as a personal right, but no citizen of Connecticut who could prove him or herself fit to own a gun under a reasonable law regulating well its state militia would be excluded from the state militia. So the right to own guns would be absolutely preserved.
States are even now allowed to forbid firearm ownership to certain classes of persons: felons, insane people, children, for instance. There is no constitutional reason a state could not, as part of its well regulation of its own militia, require gun owners to prove they are fit persons to own guns. Not just at the time of purchase, but, as in the U.K. every five years or so. Which could include, say, a letter from their doctor saying they have not developed any mental health issues that might raise a question about their ability to be responsible gun owners, which could include senility, brain damage, clinical depression, etc. This is common practice in the U.K. It only stops a very few people with severe mental issues from keeping guns, but what a huge leap forward that would be!
If the Feds try to pass such a law directly, they will never manage it, not under the current view of the 2nd amendment, but the States have, as far as I can see, a pretty clear road here. Of course all states won’t bite, but many might. Especially states like Connecticut. The Feds could offer as incentive federal funding to pay for the extra policing involved.
Extra money for police always looks good to state legislators and governors. The Feds could even sweeten the pot with money for victims of gun crime. They could even, for a limited time, say, subsidize the manufacture and purchase of gun safes. Now is exactly the right time to get a bill like that passed, because it would show Congress to be doing something without forcing any State to do anything their legislature doesn’t want to do. Every state is free to say no. But not every state will.
If such a law started to work in even one state, say Connecticut, then other states would almost certainly follow. If we could get even just the bluest states to adopt a law like this, we could be protecting a huge percentage of the U.S. population.
And if it works well, and those early adopter states turn out in the longer term to suffer fewer horrendous gun crimes, while at the same time people see that no one is trying to take anyone’s hunting weapons away, or stopping anyone from defending their homes or their persons with responsibly kept firearms, pressure will mount in other states to follow suite.
Funding could be shifted from the homeland security budget, and from the Defense budget.
How better to make us safer and how better to defend our children?