“From My Cold Dead Hands”


You’ve all seen the NRA’s imagery of the declining and clueless actor, waving a gun, attempting to reprise his role as Moses the lawgiver. It’s memorable. It’s sad. It’s metaphoric.

From my cold dead hands

From my cold dead hands

I’ve been on the fence about gun control for a very long time. The short summary of my past views is that I’m in favor of a national referendum on gun control, and have always thought it would be a good thing to mandate gun storage in safes, firearms insurance, etc. As my views have evolved, I’ve realized that I cannot recommend and support a gun control regime that makes it easier for the wealthy and powerful to own guns – that’s actually a big piece of the problem.

In this posting I’m going to outline a proposal for how the US should deal with guns, then offer some of the reasoning justifying it. I recognize that it’s not going to happen, because the forces arrayed against the citizens of the US are going to force them to endure this “freedom” whether they want it or not. I had originally planned to try to sneak up on this topic with a series of socratic-style pieces, but given the climate of the day it seems best to just throw the dice, not expecting anything to come of it. The hole we’ve dug for ourselves and been pushed into is too deep for rationality to have a chance, anymore – what we’re dealing with, now, is the downstream effect of over 100 years of propaganda in which individual liberty, toxic masculinity, political divide and conquer, and class warfare are all neatly tied up in a great big snarl of barbed wire.

On With The Proposal

The key is “From my cold dead hands” as the NRA says.

We propose a referendum to disenherit gun ownership for future generations.

  1. All sales and transfers of guns cease. It is illegal to buy/sell a gun.
  2. All sales and transfers of ammunition cease. It is illegal to buy/sell ammunition.
  3. Current gun owners keep their current guns.
  4. When a gun owner passes on, the family has two weeks to turn any guns in for destruction, or may call the state police to come collect them.
  5. The state police or collection center issues a reciept for the fair value of the guns (from back when there was a gun market).
  6. The fair value of the guns is deductible from any inheritance taxes, or income taxes due by the heirs, distributed over a period of 10 years.
  7. Anyone wishing to turn in their guns prior to dying is welcome to do so, and may get the staged tax deduction from their own taxes.
  8. Anyone below the poverty line, who would not owe taxes anyway, gets a check from the treasury, distributed over a period of 10 years.
  9. All guns collected are serialized and audited, bore-printed, then are chopped up and dispersed to recyclers.
  10. There would be some provision for donating historically significant or collectible firearms to museums and curated collections prior to the owners’ death, or within the two week period after the owner’s death.
  11. Over time the gun owning population dies out and the country is disarmed.

Discussion

  • Yes, a constitutional amendment would be required, since there are no national referendums in the US Constitution. Tying the referendum to passage of something like the National Initiative for Democracy might work. I observe that the constitution is not a holy document – it’s ignored on a regular basis by the powers that be. Call it “asset forfeiture regarding potential gun crimes” or something. If there’s a will there’s a way.
  • One of the things that concerns me greatly is “tax them out of existence” strategies, or “sin tax” strategies since those would make gun ownership a privilege of the wealthy. They are already too much a privilege of the wealthy; that is part of the problem.
  • My proposal is the only method that is blind to color, religion, or class. Everyone gets disarmed eventually, by The Grim Reaper (“MORT”), personally.
  • In my scheme there is no single day when police start going door to door seizing guns. This is a big advantage, since it doesn’t create a threat, or a great big spike in work-load. It simply happens naturally over time; the country gets increasingly disarmed and violent crime statistics ought to demonstrate that the measure is effective.
  • There is no great big financial overhang associated with a gun buy-back; it happens gradually (and can probably be paid with out of interest on a government buy-back fund, like the lotteries do it)
  • It is much easier to disempower / dispossess someone who doesn’t even exist yet. It’s hard to say “I want to leave my hunting rifle to my … uh, kid I haven’t thought of having yet.”
  • One of the biggest problems in dealing with gun violence is telling who is a “bad guy” and who is a “good guy” – my proposal makes this simple: if you were born after a certain date, and you’re carrying a gun, you’re a “bad guy.” Eventually people would realize that if they saw someone with a gun who looked younger than 20, they were probably a bad guy. Then 30. Then 40. Etc.
  • Basing the retirement of gun ownership on age also is very very easy to enforce. “Oh, you’re 75 and you have a gun? Can I see your drivers’ license?”   For us older citizens it’d be nice to be carded at the upper end of the range as well as the lower.
  • My scheme has a deferred financial impact – that’s always attractive to presidents and congresspeople who can pass legislation and say “it doesn’t cost anything” because, in this case, it really doesn’t. It actually recirculates money tied up in millions of guns back into the economy.
  • Many gun owners (including myself!) feel that we’ve owned our guns responsibly and the vast majority of us are never likely to hurt anyone with them. So, they can continue to do that, unpunished: congratulations, you were a safe gun owner your entire life. But your kid doesn’t get the chance.
  • As a society we are accustomed and comfortable to regulating childrens’ experience with dangerous things. We don’t let them drive until a certain age. We don’t let them vote until a certain age. We let them join the military and go kill people elsewhere in the world at a certain age. So now we’re just saying “there’s actually never ‘old enough’ you’re going to be in order to own a gun.”
  • As a society we are accustomed and comfortable with bequeathing younger generations a great big “fuck you!” in the form of radioactive waste, habitat destruction, and global warming. Taking away the future generations’ guns proactively isn’t even a “fuck you” compared to the other “fuck you” we’ve already saddled them with. Besides, they’ll already be worrying about whether or not Mad Max is a prophecy; not having lots of guns around will help buffer the collapse of civilization if they can’t handle the mess the 20th century created for them.
  • As a society we are comfortable with the government spending massive amounts of money on public relations campaigns (usually enlist youth into military service) – we are comfortable with propaganda campaigns. Some money would need to be spent to educate the younger generations that the old people couldn’t be trusted with all the guns and their generation had to act firmly and with resolve to protect themselves before the baby boomers fucked everything up in yet another new interesting way.
  • By “disarmed” I mean that it’ll be illegal to own, operate, carry, clean, frob, tweak, or point a gun. Of course there will be loads of clever people who bury guns against that day – but simply criminalizing them will mean that: “when guns are banned, criminals with guns are really fucking obviously criminal to the police.”

In other words, I am advocating a “Slow Ban” – but a total ban just the same.

Variations

One possible variation is to take a constitutional literalist interpretation and say that flintlocks and wooden bows and swords are legal for carrying. As a fan of blade arts, I think it’d be excellent. But it might be simpler to just go with an outright ban.

Seriously, though –
Q: do you know how to do a mass shooting with a flintlock?
A: You start with Napoleon’s Grand Armee…

For people who still want desperately to play with guns, there’s another alternative. I was USAR not NG, but they seemed pretty well-regulated even back in the 1980s. Sign on the dotted line and you’ll not only get to learn to shoot a gun, you’ll learn to assemble it blindfolded, and you’ll learn what “war crimes” are and how to respectfully disobey an unlawful order, and you’ll get to board ahead of everyone else on certain jingoistic airlines.

My Plans

So this leaves me with the question of what to do with my guns. I have a few. I collected them back when  was in an acquisitive phase of my life. So, if I were to sell them, I have the problem that they could eventually fall into the hands of someone irresponsible and they could kill someone.*

I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and put a codicil in my will that upon my death my executor will arrange to have them torched apart with an oxyacetylene torch and turned into a sculpture. I’m sure some artist will be thrilled. I ran this idea by a friend of mine who said, “that’s going to make the ghost of Wayne LaPierre come screeching out of the grave in broad daylight!” Savor that image for a second.

From my cold, dead, hands.


Note:

I’m going to do another posting on this topic, addressing the “but what if the government gets oppressive?!!?!” meme. I will also address the “but what about disarming the pooooliiiice!?” meme in its own posting. So please let’s not drag that into debate here. Thank you. Hint: logistics.

(* Guns kill, and so do people)

Comments

  1. Bruce says

    Your suggestions would require keeping actual records of who owned each gun, and of each sale, including private sales.
    Otherwise, the day after each grandpa dies, the family will say to themselves: hey, don’t you all remember three days ago when grandpa gave away all his guns to the grandkids!

    Also, what about the people that love the taste of deer meat so much that they want the ability to hunt Bambi with an AR-15, as one does, apparently? This all confuses me.

  2. says

    Bruce@#1:
    Your suggestions would require keeping actual records of who owned each gun, and of each sale, including private sales.

    What? No. I will edit “sale” to “transfer or sale” in my explanation.

    If you’re born after, say, July 4, 2020 you are never allowed to own, use, carry, mess with, hold, a gun.
    If you’re born prior to July 4, 2020, you can choose to keep any you already have.
    If you’re born prior to July 4, 2020, you can probably illegally buy a gun and claim you had it all along, but on your demise your heirs will have to get rid of it or they’re criminally possessing a firearm if they are born after July 4, 2020.

    No need to track anything except people’s birth dates, which are already tracked.

    Also, what about the people that love the taste of deer meat so much that they want the ability to hunt Bambi with an AR-15, as one does, apparently?

    It would have been good to actually read my suggestion before critiquing it. If you had read it, under “Alternatives” I mention that perhaps we allow flintlock rifles and wooden bows – technology Circa 1776. People hunted deer just fine in 1776, they could still hunt deer using that technology.

    I acknowledge that my suggestions sucks for civil war reenactors. (shrug) It was an ill-fought thing, anyhow. I’m sure someone will make paintball guns that look like civil war weapons and make great horrendous splats when they hit things. The folks who make airsofts would probably have a field day.

  3. Menyambal says

    I like it.

    I think you could make registering each gun quite like titling a car. There is currently a transfer-upon-death line in my car titles, by the way, which you’d leave out.

    Banning sales is good. Stopping manufacturing is going to be a trick, though – those folks own the NRA absolutely. A good PR campaign about “merchants of death” might be fun.

  4. says

    Menyambal@#3:
    Stopping manufacturing is going to be a trick, though

    Picture me with a 40-piece orchestra, on the head of a pin, playing the “sympathy symphony” for the gun makers and gun dealers.

    I agree, though, that the US would have to do something about its habit of exporting its toxic products. While we have spent a tremendous amount of money fighting legal battles with the tobacco industry, they have taken advantage of the government’s protection to go poison loads of people elsewhere in the world. The good thing is that most of the rest of the world has regulations regarding guns – I suppose gun dealers could try to smuggle their wares to Somalia, but they’d be selling them at flea market prices. (raises his baton and begins conducting the symphony)

    There’s no need to register anything. Police would look at the age of anyone who was seen doing anything with a gun and if they were born after, say, July 4, 2020 it’d be “where did you get that?” after they had them (hopefully safely) disarmed and cuffed. And if they replied, “It’s my dad’s” then dad gets a ride in the black and white car, too.

    I suppose I should add that cops would probably like my proposal. Because then they’d know that any young person with a gun was probably OK to shoot to kill. Someone born on July 3, 2020 would probably still not want to ever be see anywhere near a gun.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    As a southern country boy in a poisonous-snake environment, I want/need a .22 in a reasonably rapidly-accessible place, and strongly suspect the next person to live in my house, in the fairly-likely event it outlasts me, should have that option too.

    My previous rural address was in an even more remote space, home to a few endangered-species plants, which would be mostly a wasteland by now if not for the current occupant making arrangements to kill a few dozen wild Russian boars, and several dozen whitetail deer, each year. (That project requires considerably more firepower than my little moccasin-murdering machine.) Will this plan send the cops to confiscate each new litter of Bambis and amok organic mini-dozers as well?

  6. says

    Pierce R. Butler@#5:
    My imagination’s pretty good. I can think of lots of ways to deal with snakes and deer that don’t involve killing or even annoying them.

    For example, I have a 6-foot black rat snake that lives in my basement. It is dubbed (alternately) “basement snake” or “router snake” – it likes the heat from the Cisco. Basement Snake performs holistic all-natural mouse removal services for me and in return I have allocated the entire space under the freezer chest to serve as its domain.

  7. Bruce H says

    Personally, I think it should be illegal to carry any gun in any public place for nearly any reason, with the following exceptions:

    A) Hunting, with a hunting license
    B) Transporting a weapon between locations, e.g. between one’s home and one’s vehicle, or between one’s vehicle and a licensed shooting range.

    In other words, you can’t carry a gun in public. Anyone who does so should have to pay a reasonable fine. If someone persists in carrying a gun in public, the gun should be confiscated and the person should face additional fines or incarceration. In egregious cases, that person should be barred from owning firearms.

  8. says

    Bruce H@#7:
    Personally, I think it should be […]

    Well, that’s pretty close to the status quo, and the status quo is not working very well.
    I propose something much more radical, more in line with what Australia and the UK did after their mass shootings.
    Something that dramatically reduced (damn near eliminated) gun deaths.
    Something that works.

  9. John Morales says

    Marcus,

    I propose something much more radical, more in line with what Australia and the UK did after their mass shootings.

    Um, I suspect you’re not that familiar with Australia’s gun laws. There are a shitload of firearms here — just, not on the street.

    Yeah, one needs a gun license to own them. Yeah, there are checks and waiting periods before that license is issued. Yeah, certain types are restricted.
    But: in terms of guns per capita worldwide, we’re not even in the lower deciles.

    Prohibition is most certainly not a thing, here.

    IMO, the salient difference is gun culture — here, they’re a tool, in the USA they’re a right. Specifically, possession of a firearm is legal only for a particular purpose, not just for the sake of having one. And self-defence is not a valid reason. Because we know and acknowledge that the primary purpose of firearms is to kill.

  10. says

    John Morales@#9:
    I’m not super familiar with gun laws in most of the civilized world, except France.

    Getting them off the street is the key, since that allows easy and rapid discrimination of “gun = bad guy”

    I agree that gun culture is the biggest difference. That’s the deep hole we’ve dug for ourselves that I was referring to. It doesn’t help at all that assholes like the NRA keep shovelling madly to deepen it so as to head off any chance of searching for a happy medium.

  11. Devocate says

    Any plan that doesn’t even mention guns in the hands of Police, Security, and other such organizations, must fail.

  12. says

    Devocate@#11:
    Did you see the part where I said:
    I will also address the “but what about disarming the pooooliiiice!?” meme in its own posting. So please let’s not drag that into debate here.
    ?

    Meanwhile, it must be a tremendous comfort to you to be so certain. Your assertions are bolder than your supporting arguments, to be sure.

  13. lorn says

    More than a decade ago I was contemplating the current mass shooting of the day, I don’t remember which one it was (It is telling that there are so many that I can’t remember) and I considered what gun control might look like if this was a sane nation.

    My intention was that the plan would reduce the number of mass shootings. It would have little effect upon small-scale violence and accidents.

    What I came up with:

    No automatic weapons of any description.

    Semi-automatic weapons are limited to revolvers. It might be useful to limit revolvers to single-action but it seemed outside the scope of my intention. Semi-automatic weapons might be allowed to be modified by removing the reloading and/or re-cocking action. This would make them into manual loading devices.

    No removable magazines of any capacity. Weapons with removable magazines could have a complying low-capacity magazine welded into place.

    Non-removable magazines are limited to (capacity to be determined). I favored a five round limit, it complies with the hunting regulation I know about and allows people to use certain classic rifles like the Springfield without modification. There are arguments to be made for some other numbers. Any number from three to ten might work but lower number are going to be more effective while a slightly higher number might slide a favorite firearm in relatively unmodified.

    Re: Pierce R. Butler @ #5:
    “As a southern country boy in a poisonous-snake environment, I want/need a .22 in a reasonably rapidly-accessible place, and strongly suspect the next person to live in my house, in the fairly-likely event it outlasts me, should have that option too.”

    I live in Florida, sometimes work in the forest, and hike the deep woods (what little remains of them) and have never found any need for a firearm to dispatch a snake. I usually avoid them or shoo them away. The times I have needed to manually clear the path of a poisonous snake I have used my walking stick to flip them away. The three times over 50 years that I felt compelled to kill a snake, I had nowhere to back up to or I felt the need to protect an innocent, I have used a stick or shovel. The advantages of non-firearm solutions include: less noise, no jams or running out of ammunition, there is no chance of an accidental discharge, little chance of collateral damage or ricochet, no need for a precision aim or great accuracy. The older I get more useful a simple stick becomes.

    I have nothing against firearms. They are useful tools. Not sacred objects. I own firearms, a revolver and a shotgun, and intend to purchase a .22 breakdown rifle for plinking. I do not normally carry any of them unless I am intending to go out shooting, or for other specific reasons. I don’t hunt, I tried it, but see where others might want to.

    The mass shootings have to stop. If a change in consciousness will do it I’m all for that. If it means that some firearms are eliminated or need to be modified I am for that. If it means all guns must go away I could live with that. By any means necessary; the mass shootings have to stop.

  14. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Well, this is quite sensible and thought-out proposal for gun control – possibly the first one that I’ve ever seen. Props for that.

  15. says

    lorn@#13:
    I think that “all guns go away” is the most likely to be effective route, simply because it removes anyone’s having to think, “… but there are good guns.” I think we need to be able to teach kids “if you see a gun – run.” Actually, that’s pretty catchy right there.

    I have nothing against firearms. They are useful tools. Not sacred objects.

    Me too. They’re not sacred objects to the two of us, but they are to some people, and it’s their worshippers that worry me.

    There’s a term in intelligence “the targeting problem” which is the degree to which a particular situation facilitates or degrades your ability to quickly determine what you should be looking at. That’s really what’s going on with guns: we have no quick and easy way of teaching people simple rules involving what to do if you see a gun. For example, right now, if someone is walking out of their door with guns – their neighbor who sees them doesn’t know if they have a permit to carry, or if they are a police auxiliary, or going to the range,* or whatever. The game the NRA has played so long – that there are “good guns” – deliberately complicates the targeting problem.

    No removable magazines of any capacity

    What do you think of my suggestion that guns be limited to technology as it was available in 1776? I’ve fired flintlocks and I could see putting an animal down with one of my duelling pistols if I needed to. Though, sadly, the last animal I had to put down, I used a sledgehammer. :( I don’t buy the hunting and putting down critters argument particularly.

    Let’s just get rid of the damn things. Slowly but surely.

    (* usually that’d mean they’d be cased and the ammo boxed separately, but…)

  16. says

    EnlightenmentLiberal@#14:
    Thanks. I have been thinking about this problem for a while.

    One of the excuses that’s often given for inertia is “it’d be hard” or (e.g.: comment #11) “it’ll fail” when we really aren’t putting our brains to work trying to actually come up with something. The reason we can’t, of course, is because of a scorched-earth dialectic trick in which the rational middle ground is eradicated, so there are just passionate ideologues on both sides of the problem. Whenever I see that trick being played on a population, I look for the deeper agendas, and they are always there.

  17. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I feel bad for it, and I might be in the wrong, but I think I do weakly favor gun rights. However, I’m not going to take a shit on your parade, because of my own relatively weak conviction on the matter.

    What annoys the piss out of me, and what you so clearly avoided, was do-nothing measures like assault weapon bans, and arguing against the clear legal and constitutional history of the federal second amendment. That pisses me off so much, precisely because of the collateral damage it can have on the rule of law and the rest of our legal rights.

    Again, well done. It really is well thought out, and entirely practicable. With a buy-back program, that could very quickly be sped up.

    I suspect it won’t happen for a long time, because of the supermajority requirements for constitutional amendments. But that’s a separate discussion.