no gunsYes, I said it.  I used the words.  Put the two together, something so many people are loathe to do, and spelled out “gun control.”

Because somebody needs to.

The U.S. has had a gun problem for quite some time.  It’s like a nationwide addiction that no one is willing to address, much less treat.  Why?  Because over two centuries ago, our forefathers told us we have a right to own and use guns.   (Mind you, this was written when the country was on a wartime footing on its own shores… details, details.)  And today, although we haven’t fought a war on our lands for over a century, we have dangerous people among us, and we want to protect ourselves.

So we buy guns.  Many of us don’t learn to use them properly… many of us don’t store them properly… many of us keep ammo in them, leave safeties off and put them where kids can get at them… but there you go.  We feel safer.

And then, an incident like the one in Connecticut happens.  (Are you keeping count?  That’s seven mass shootings in the U.S. this year.)  And we all duck our heads… not from the gunfire, but from the vitally needed discussion that needs to happen immediately afterward.

It should be fairly obvious that gun access and use has gotten out of hand in the U.S., and now presents more of a threat to average citizens than the supposed protection it provides.  According to a recent ABC News report, among the world’s 23 wealthiest countries, 80 percent of all gun deaths are American deaths and 87 percent of all kids killed by guns are American kids.  Although there is a gun for every American citizen in this country, most of them are owned by individuals, and most gun owners have seven or more guns in their collection.

Significant word, that: Collection.  You don’t collect things designed to protect your home, like fire extinguishers or German Shepherds.  You collect things because you think they’re cool.  Do we want people to own deadly weapons because they think they’re cool?

In addition, most of these guns are well beyond what the average citizen would need for personal protection.  Assault rifles.  Automatic and semi-automatic weapons.  These are wartime arsenals, not home protection tools.

And let’s not forget how easy it is to load them up.  Ammunition can be bought online and sent anywhere.  There is no limit to how much ammo can be bought by a single person.  And bullets are cheap enough to be bought in bulk.  (Personally, I think Chris Rock had a great idea when he said every bullet should cost five thousand dollars; then at least only rich people would be armed, and even they’d think twice.)

Put all of that together, and you know what you get?  “What the #&@%!$!! were we thinking?

So, it’s time to wise up.  It’s time to recognize that amendments can themselves be amended.  The U.S. needs to take significant multiple steps to limit the availability, use and lethality of guns on our shores.  And I emphasize the word multiple because the steps that must be taken are various, to not only curb gun use and dissemination, but to deal with the guns that are already here.

First, I believe this country would be best served by a complete public ban on firearms, similar to (or maybe exactly) what is done in the UK, for example.  From Wikipedia: “The United Kingdom has one of the lowest rates of gun homicides in the world with 0.07 recorded intentional homicides committed with a firearm per 100,000 inhabitants in 2009 compared to the United States’ 3.0 and to Germany’s 0.21.”

Failing an outright ban, I think the most sensible step would be to ban all assault, automatic and semiautomatic weapons from private ownership… basically, taking the combat-level firearms out of the hands of the public.  Any owners who want to collect such guns should have them rendered permanently unusable, say, by removal of vital moving parts, filling the barrel with non-removable plugs, permanently blocking the firing mechanism, etc… thereby making them nothing but pretty-looking wall displays, incapable of hurting anyone (unless when wielded like a club).

The non-automatic guns left to be purchased should be fully registered with the local authorities (and through them, the FBI and ATF), including ballistics data.  Each gun will have a chip installed in an unremovable manner that will allow it to be detected by RFID-type equipment. If possible, I’d design the guns so as not to be fire-able unless the user had a matching bracelet (or something) in immediate proximity that would send a signal to the RFID chip in the gun; and the owner would be required to keep gun and bracelet in different places, thereby making it harder for someone to steal or use someone else’s gun.

The owner should be similarly registered, and upon registering, the owner’s home will be made subject to random inspection by the authorities (local, FBI or AFT) at any time, to ensure compliance with all regulations.  Failure to meet regulations will be answered with heavy fines, possibly coupled with jail time and/or community service.

In other words, owning a gun will be a serious responsibility, with serious oversight and serious consequences for doing it wrong.

Next, there are greater steps we can take to protect the public, steps that technology can help us with right now.  We can adopt the street surveillance systems used in many urban areas, basically monitored CCTV systems, to more quickly identify trouble (hopefully) before it occurs, and more quickly identify and track criminals after an incident.  We can roll out devices like micrometer radar, capable of identifying concealed weapons, even non-metal weapons, with a great deal of accuracy.  We can apply sniffing technology that can detect gunpowder and other chemicals common to firearms (with single-parts-per-million sensitivity, existing technology is more accurate than trained dogs), and sensors that will scan for the RFID chips of a gun.  We can install these sensors in all public places, along with barriers to entry if a device is detected.

And oh, yeah: $5,000 bullets.  Okay, fine… maybe $1,000.  Non-tax-deductible.  In fact, offer incentives for owners of combat-level ammo to hand them over to the government for a significant incentive (hey, no reason gun owners can’t profit from this).

As another article has pointed out, we have a responsibility to take every step possible to protect our citizens from dangerous technology.  Though some argue that guns don’t kill people… that we didn’t ban airplanes after 9-11… the counter-argument is that cars don’t kill people, drivers do… so we make sure drivers are registered, trained to drive and aware of the motor vehicle laws; we make sure people are not allowed to drive vehicles for which they are not licensed, and we make sure certain vehicles (like formula one race cars) aren’t allowed on public streets.  And no, we didn’t ban jets; but we did put tighter regulations on who flies them, who gets on, what luggage is loaded, and how they are monitored at all times.

Taking the steps outlined above for gun control are the least that we ought to be doing, to protect our citizenry.  Every day wasted in not enacting these steps is another day closer to the next mass shooting… which may take place closer to you than you’d like.