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Sanjay Sanghoee

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What the Founding Fathers Would Have Done About Gun Violence in America

Posted: 08/31/2012 5:41 pm

Another day, another shooting -- this time by an ex-marine armed with an AK-47 at a PathMark in New Jersey, but what's new? Lately, mass shootings seem to have become a weekly sport, and even someone like me, who has written multiple articles on the subject, is becoming a little jaded to that red banner of "Breaking News" that announces yet another sickening tragedy. And that is the biggest problem of all: We are slowly but surely getting desensitized to the violence that is sweeping through our society and remain either indifferent or deliberately oblivious to the role that guns (and the overt aggression they represent) play in mass murders like the ones in Colorado, Wisconsin, and now New Jersey.

In order to address this issue effectively, we need to first reject the objections to gun control brought up by the Second Amendment fanatics, those people who are so enamored of the idea of private justice, anarchy, and insurrection that they lose their common sense and even their humanity in the face of these revolutionary fantasies. For my specific arguments against the Second Amendment, you can refer to my piece "Gun Control: It's Time to Challenge the Second Amendment," but in the wake of this latest shooting, I think it's worth considering what our Founding Fathers would have done if they had been confronted by such carnage in their own time.

Of course, for this analogy to be meaningful, it's necessary to imagine that the weaponry of the time had advanced to the level that we have today, because it's pretty hard to commit mass murder with the rickety weapons of the 1700s, like the flintlock fowler. So assuming a level playing field, would the Founding Fathers have removed the Second Amendment from the Constitution or abandoned the idea of empowering citizens to defend themselves because of a string of mass shootings? Not likely, but what they would have done is created a strong set of restrictions to ensure that guns were not abused by people to harm the welfare of their fellow citizens:

Limiting Firearm Ownership

The Founding Fathers, though idealists, were also fierce pragmatists and knew that freedom could not be maintained without law and order. In this spirit, I believe they would have used common sense as their guide to limit the number of firearms that civilians could own, perhaps to the tune of a single gun for every adult in the household, with children automatically becoming eligible when they reached a certain age, and with certain exceptions for hunting.

Training and Testing

Essential to putting firearms in the hands of ordinary citizens is their ability to use those weapons responsibly and in a manner that minimizes the chance of accidents. That would have been addressed by the Founding Fathers through a rigorous and community-based system to train and test all gun owners every six months to ensure competency. Those who did not meet the community's standards would have had their private guns confiscated until they could do so. The re-training and re-testing would have ensured that people's skills, eyesight, and mental ability remained fresh and conducive to the carriage of a deadly weapon. There would have been no such thing as an automatic renewal or exception.

Strict Ammunition Control

In this critical arena, I believe the Founding Fathers would have created a public-private system wherein private ammunition makers would only have been allowed to sell a fixed quantity of ammunition for any single weapon per a formula determined by the federal government to be necessary for citizens to protect their home or for hunting, but no more. At the end of every year, citizens would have been offered monetary compensation by the government for any unused ammunition, providing an incentive for people to report their actual gun usage and reducing the motivation to hoard ammunition.

Severe Penalties for Gun Abuse

The Founding Fathers were champions of freedom but were not weak on law enforcement. Faced with a debilitating threat to society, they would have enacted laws to ensure that citizens treated guns with respect and did not use them in a cavalier fashion. That would have included harsh penalties for unnecessary gun use in any situation, and even harsher penalties for casualties or injuries caused to others by guns. By invoking zero tolerance on gun violence, the Founding Fathers would have provided America with a safe and stable social order.

In our country today, we have a serious problem with gun violence, as well as with the proliferation of guns and ammunition. That is not in doubt or a subject for debate. The only thing that is debatable is the best way to address that problem. The right to bear arms should be preserved, but in the context of stricter gun laws that enable law enforcement to control and track weapons, and to provide adequate disincentive for the abuse of firearms. This alone may not solve all of our problems, but it will definitely make an appreciable difference, and that is enough. If even one senseless gun murder is prevented by these laws, it will have been more than worth it.

I bet the Founding Fathers would have agreed, and in fact taken the lead in this process.

Sanjay Sanghoee is the author of two novels. Please visit sanghoee.com for more details. Tweet this blog out with the hashtag #stopgunviolence.

 

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