Guest Essay: How to Eliminate the Gun Control Controversy

Note: The following is a guest essay that I am posting here on behalf of the writer who goes by the pseudonym, “j.s.” Please feel free to comment directly to the story as j.s. will be reviewing any comments, suggestions, etc. If this is well-received, I may post additional essays that j.s. may provide.   –david


Proposal for Eliminating the Gun Control Controversy While Solving Other Societal and Financial Problems

by j.s.

In this essay, I offer a concrete, concise, and entirely feasible solution to several of the issues currently facing our country including gun control, financial instability, and prison overcrowding.

These are, to be sure, divisive issues that have plagued America (and other countries around the world) for years. There are valid concerns raised by both sides of the gun control issue and the main purpose of this editorial is to address the main concerns of those in favor of gun control and propose a method for eliminating their concerns.

By implementing the suggestions contained herein, we can eliminate the raging debates that are polarizing our nation and taking attention away from more pressing concerns. We can increase homeland security, lessen our current financial burdens, ensure that all citizens are contributing members of society, and improve the moral fiber of our great nation.

Gun control advocates argue that increased numbers of legal guns in our country would further increase the likelihood of both gun violence and accidental gun deaths. Depending on the study you read, somewhere between 1 and 15 children die every day by handguns. Gun control advocates are appalled by this statistic and want fervently to decrease that number. And that is exactly the right sentiment. I don’t know a single gun rights supporter that doesn’t want the same thing. Everyone wants to reduce or eliminate gun violence.

The first step in achieving this is better enforcement of existing laws. Many gun control advocates are unaware of the number of existing laws that, if well enforced, would achieve most or all of their goals. For example, it is not only illegal for a child to purchase or own a gun, it is illegal for an adult to purchase one for a child or even leave one where it is accessible to a child. It is illegal for convicted felons to own a gun or to obtain a gun from any source. Every gun rights advocate I know strongly supports these laws and understands that if these laws were enforced, the number of gun-related deaths and incidents of gun violence would plummet.

There is one area of concern that gun control advocates frequently raise that I agree needs to be addressed. That is accidental gun violence. Too often, gun owners who are not properly trained to own, maintain, and use their gun make mistakes which lead to accidental injury or even death. There are many well-known cases (to which gun control advocates frequently refer) in which a child finds a gun and accidentally injures himself or others. There are also many instances in which a legal gun owner attempts to defend themselves and inadvertently injures or kills someone other than their assailant.

The first case is already covered by existing law as I pointed out above. For example, the law in Maine reads: “Endangering the welfare of a child is a crime. If you leave a firearm and ammunition within easy access of a child, you may be subject to fine, imprisonment or both.” In cases where a child finds a parent’s gun, that parent has committed a crime by failing to ensure the child’s welfare. If gun owners were properly trained in the use of gun safes and trigger locks, and if this law was properly enforced, accidental gun injuries and deaths involving children should fall to zero.

It is the second scenario, gun owners incurring or causing accidental injuries while under assault, that I will address in my proposal below.

First, I wish to address some other frequent demands of gun control advocates. They demand background checks. These are already required by law in so much as it is illegal for a convicted felon to own a gun. Since this law exists, a background check has been mandated by law for many years, albeit limited to checking for convicted felons. They also want to limit the types of guns that the average citizen can own. Personally, I agree with this, at least in part. If the purpose of gun ownership is to defend one’s self, family, and property, I cannot personally understand the need to own a machine gun or bazooka. I believe that reasonable limitations could potentially be agreed upon by both sides. (Note: Those properly trained in the use of high-power weapons, such as soldiers and police officers may be excluded from this limitation.)

As mentioned, the major concern of many gun rights activists is the mishandling and misuse of guns by untrained individuals. Thus, many have suggested mandatory training for those wishing to purchase their first gun. This would be, they have suggested, similar to the required written and hands-on driving tests required prior to receiving a driver’s license. This seems quite reasonable in theory as it should reduce the occurrence of accidental gun death and injury, particularly those involving young children, which are always the most disturbing accidents.

Unfortunately, such training in the past has been difficult for many to both afford and attend. Required training classes have been rarely held and typically at great distances from many of those interested in purchasing a gun. Gun rights activists have vigorously protested the proposed training requirement on these grounds, arguing that the training has been made purposefully difficult by those on the other side of the argument in order to dissuade or prevent most people from getting guns. They have also argued that guns and cars are very different. I say: Let’s make them less so. I propose that gun registration and training be offered at county offices just as driver’s licenses are. No one complains about having to travel to the Driver’s License Bureau in order to get a license or the DMV to register their car. If gun training was as ubiquitous as the DMV, the gun rights argument would be rendered null.

Assuming that this proposal is implemented, new gun owners would be at least partially trained on both the operation and storage of their new firearm. This would significantly reduce the number of accidental gun deaths in which a child or other unintended individual gains access to a gun. Unfortunately, this alone would not eliminate all gun-related injuries and deaths. In order to eliminate those that occur during an attempt to use a legal gun to defend oneself, additional training measure needs to be taken, as described later in this essay.

Another serious issue facing America is overcrowding in our prison system. There are well over 2 million inmates crowding our prisons. Various types of prisons at the local, state, and federal levels are at an occupancy rate between 86% and 135%. That means that many prisons are well over the maximum capacity which can lead to unsafe conditions for both the inmates and the guards.

Fortunately, the majority of these prisoners are those that have committed non-violent crimes and are not serving a life sentence. These individuals have the best chance for rehabilitation when they are released from my prison and it is my fervent hope that all of them can once again become contributing members to our society.

Unfortunately, that still leaves a significant number of inmates who are violent criminals and are already on death row or have received sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility for parole. These individuals have virtually zero chance of rehabilitation or becoming positive contributors to society. This includes more than 3,000 inmates on death row and more than 140,000 inmates with life sentences. That is a total of more than 143,000 individuals who can never again contribute to society in a positive fashion.

It costs and average of about $42,000 per year to house each inmate (costs vary by state). For the individuals with life sentences, that comes out to over $6 billion per year. While the life span of individuals in prison is typically shorter than average, we can still estimate an average of 30 years behind bars with a life sentence. That’s a cost of over $180 billion dollars. For those on death row, the cost per inmate is much higher due to the additional court costs that the state must pay for the endless appeals process. It is estimated that an inmate on death row costs the state approximately $3 million dollars during his time in prison. Considering the number of inmates waiting on death row, that comes out to another $9 billion dollars.

It won’t erase the deficit, but for a country in as difficult a financial situation as we currently are, $189 billion is a significant amount of money. As they say…”a billion here, a billion there…before long you’re talking about real money!”

On the topic of the death penalty, did you know that there are multiple methods of execution allowed in the United States, but there is only one state, Oklahoma, that currently offers Firing Squad as a legal option (and only in the event that lethal injection and electrocution were ruled to be unconstitutional). Historically, however, many more states have allowed it. There is considerable discussion surrounding the constitutionality of both lethal injection and electrocution due to the occurrence of failed execution attempts resulting in “cruel and unusual punishment,” which is in violation of the 8th Amendment. I propose that execution by firing squad be reinstated across the nation as a valid form of execution as it is impossible for anyone to survive a bullet fired by a well-trained shooter. This would eliminate failed execution attempts, removing the possibility of “cruel and unusual punishment,” one of the strongest objections to the death penalty.

Returning to the topic of accidental gun violence, recall that the most common cause of accidental deaths and injuries that occur when a legal gun owner is trying to defend himself or his family is inexperience with the weapon. That is the basis for the suggestion of mandatory training prior to purchasing a firearm. However, no amount of training with paper targets can prepare a person for the action of actually shooting another human being. Even those proudly serving in our military or police force have frequently acknowledged the difficulty of the first kill. If gun owners were more comfortable with the entire process of defending themselves, including, only if necessary, shooting the assailant, then the incidence of accidental gun violence during assaults would fall dramatically.

Given the points below, I believe the solution should now be clear.
• There are many thousands of individuals who either already own or would like to legally purchase a gun, but do not have proper training.
• Proper training would significantly reduce or eliminate accidental gun deaths.
• Proper training must address the fear and discomfort that comes with shooting at an actual human.
• There are also thousands of individuals on death row who have earned their death penalty through heinous crimes and for which there is no hope of rehabilitation.

The obvious solution is to allow new gun owners the opportunity to shoot an individual on death row as part of their training process.

This solves the issue of completing a thorough gun training. Every legal gun owner would be comfortable in all aspects of gun ownership including maintaining, storing, and using a gun. This increases both the security and safety of our nation.

This solution even saves the additional costs of the actual execution itself. Less than two years ago, lethal injection cost less than $100, but that amount has risen to over $1,300 due to changes in drug usage and increasing pharmaceutical costs. I propose that the cost of the single bullet used to shoot the convicted felon be part of the costs for the gun owner to secure their license. This eliminates most of the cost (see below) for the state, accounting for another nearly $4 million dollars in saving.

Some would, at this point, argue that death by a firing squad of one individual with only partial training could easily become a failed execution should they miss the intended part of the target’s body. This could lead to the same violations of the 8th Amendment discussed previously. It is for that reason that I propose that two additional, well-trained marksmen also be present at the time of the execution. Should it become obvious that the first shot, by the person applying for gun ownership, has failed, the two marksmen will complete the job. These individuals should be well-trained (likely military or police officers) to recognize the failure of the first shot to immediately terminate the criminal and be ready to fire within seconds. This option would eliminate (or at least severely limit) any pain or suffering experienced by the target. It would also incur a cost for the state of only two bullets in the worst case and no cost in the best.

By this point, you have seen the value in my proposal and have likely begun thinking through the implementation details. You might have recognized that there are more many thousands of people applying for gun ownership or that already own guns for which they are not trained, but there are only 3,000 inmates on death row. My proposal is thus extended to include additional individuals who can never again become positive, contributing members of society, specifically, those service life sentences without the possibility of parole.

In order to rebuild ourselves into the best society the world has ever known, every single person must do their part. That part may be small like sacking my groceries, or it may be large, such as those defending our freedom in the Middle East, but everyone must do their part. Those individuals that have demonstrated that they will never again contribute to society, but will only be a burden, have given up their right to be part of our society. In fact, utilizing those without the possibility of parole as candidates for this proposal is an act of love because, according to many published reports by renowned psychologists, a life sentence is much worse psychologically than a death sentence.

I hope that it is now clear to you that by implementing my proposal we can, as a society, settle one of our most divisive issues while also improving our country’s security and financial health. Gun control advocates are sure to approve as this proposal results in significant decreases in the number of accidental gun injuries and deaths through the proper and thorough training of gun owners. Gun rights advocates will just as surely support this proposal as it provides much more accessible training and registration, making it significantly easier for Americans to fulfill their Constitutional right to “keep and bear arms.” The added benefits of improved financial stability and reduction in unsafe levels of prison overcrowding are simply bonuses.

This proposal will clearly make America stronger than ever before based on the morals and ideals of both our forefathers and our God.

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