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The Left wants a total ban on guns. Much of the right counters with unlimited “Constitutional carry,” anywhere, anytime. Neither of these extremes is feasible.
If we can put aside our narratives and straw men for a moment, and simply be real, we may find some value in commonsense “gun control.” And the most commonsense place to find it is our friend in the Middle East, Israel.
Israel is a very small country, about the size of New Jersey. It is in many ways surrounded by enemies, or at best, tenuous partners bound by treaties and pledges of cooperation. These facts lead to some stark realities. Every able-bodied Israeli–even the ultra-Orthodox Jews–must serve in the military. This is mandatory. The military trains every member in weapons handling, so every Israeli who has served has some familiarity with handling, caring for, and firing guns.
That’s one large difference between Israel, the U.S., and other western countries. Many Americans only know guns from movies. Seeing a real one, or–heaven forbid–firing a gun, can be a frightening experience for liberals and Europeans unaccustomed to it. (In fact, Gersh Kuntzman of the New York Daily News called his virgin experience firing an AR-15, “horrifying, dangerous, and very, very loud.” To which Erick Erickson hilariously replied, “It’s a gun, you idiot! Were you expecting it to tickle you?” This lays to rest the “suppressor” or “silencer” argument, of course, but that is not our topic here.)
Let’s set aside those who believe that real, actual guns, not portrayed on television or movie screens are incarnations of Satan himself. Those people are the burners of straw-men and fantasizers of gun-confiscation. To whom they would entrust the task of confiscating (at gunpoint!) 300 million guns is also not our topic here. Let’s now confine the subject to those who wish to own, use and carry guns.
In America we have a Second Amendment right for citizens to own guns. In Israel, no such right is granted by the government, although it is somewhat brought about by necessity. Where the two overlap: Americans’ rights and Israelis’ necessity, is where we can and should learn from Israel’s form of “gun control.”
There are three planks to sensible gun control.
- Determining who can and cannot possess a gun.
- Determining where guns can and cannot be carried.
- Controlling how guns can and cannot be used.
It’s a far-right straw-man to claim that none of these apply, as even the Second Amendment speaks of “a well-regulated militia.” The government has an interest and a responsibility to regulate (“control”) deadly weapons. Can we all agree that it’s a bad idea to give a loaded gun, unsupervised, to a four-year-old? Can we agree that 16-year-olds carrying concealed, loaded weapons in high schools may not be the best idea? What age is the right age? That’s a matter of debate–but the point is taken that some people should not possess guns.
Who can carry?
In Israel, carrying a gun is a positive privilege granted by the state. Since 2015, IDF officers with the rank of lieutenant or above and NCOs with the rank of staff-sergeant or higher are eligible for firearms permits. Before 2015, there was an additional two-year service requirement, but that was removed to enhance the value of “citizens with firearms training” as “a multiplying force for the police in their fight against terrorism.”
Also, citizens who have served in certain military units, along with those who have passed the Shin Bet’s (Israel’s FBI) security guard training courses, and people who wish firearms training on a case-by-case basis can apply for permits. Permits carry an obligation to remain proficient with the weapons–every few years at a range at minimum.
We should have no problem with states that require some kind of firearms training to obtain a concealed carry permit. We should agree that firearms education should be offered in every high school. It would prevent the “Gersh Kuntzman” reaction, or the tragic case of 19-year-old Pedro Ruiz. Ruiz convinced his girlfriend to shoot him in the chest point-blank with a .50 cal Desert Eagle so he could make a YouTube video showing how an encyclopedia would stop the round. She killed him.
Many times, at super-mega gun stores and big-box retailers, the people behind the counter are incentivized to make the sale, get the background check, and collect the money. Perhaps, adding a few bumps here and there with other people who aren’t trying to sell a product would be a better solution. Waiting periods are fairly useless, except for the occasion where a jilted lover runs to Bass Pro Shops to buy a gun to take home specifically to kill a cheating spouse. On the other hand, there’s not many times where I have a “gun buying emergency” where I simply must have that .454 Casull, and I must have it today!
Gun registries and sales: a uniquely U.S. problem
Oh boy. A hornet’s nest. Is it the government’s business that you own a gun, and is it their (or anyone’s) business that you own a lot of guns, or which guns you own? In Israel, yes, absolutely. There is no private gun sale right in Israel. There’s no way a terrorist can get a legal permit holder to go buy a gun for them without raising all kinds of red flags. You can’t just walk into Academy Sports in Israel and walk out with a handgun.
In the U.S., gun sales is big business. To the tune of $11 billion (guns and ammunition). Gun manufacturers employs 35,165 workers. There are over 50,000 retail gun dealers, which contribute $123 million in tax money to federal coffers, along with over a half billion to states and conservation groups for hunting licenses. In the U.S., 32 percent of households own at least one gun.
Of course the industry would be against anything that would spook individuals from buying guns–that’s a no-brainer. However, common sense can prevail here, in a combination of Israel’s tightly controlled ownership registry versus America’s “screw-you-it’s-my-right” ethos.
Nothing good can come of a national gun registry, unless you were a criminal and the police were about to raid your house. And since you fill out an ATF Form 4473 every time you buy a gun from a licensed dealer, they already know you’ve bought a bunch of guns. They aren’t supposed to share that information–but they do.
The fact is, that people who own 30 or 40 or 50 guns–they’re either collectors (and that’s fine) or they’re something else. The something else might be a paranoid prepper, an anti-government arsenal builder, or a murderous nutcase. Either way, people in that category deserve scrutiny. I might be unpopular saying it, but let me give a couple of examples.
If you’re a father, do you want your teenage daughter dating a guy who has dated one or two girls in his class, or one who has dated them all? If you’re hiring for a position, do you want the applicant who has worked at one company for 5 years, or 15 jobs in the same period? There’s a value in knowing when the neighbor down the street has 50 cases (1,000 rounds per case) of 5.56mm NATO ball ammo. That’s enough for a small army.
Can we agree that there’s no problem with the federal government asking “why” in these cases, or telling buyers on the phone that local law enforcement will be informed of their newly-acquired arsenal? Can we agree that’s not an infringement on Second Amendment rights? It’s a straw-man argument that anyone can own as many firearms as they want without the government taking notice. Can we agree that there’s no problem telling shady gun stores that they’ll face decades in federal prison if they break those rules (they have those rules now, but pawn shops and other dealers who buy and sell weapons sometimes “lose” the transaction records).
Where guns can be carried
Americans want to have our cake and eat it too. We don’t like metal detectors, bag searches and other inconveniences. But we also don’t like being shot at in public places. As the latter increases in risk, resistance to the former becomes weaker.
In Israel, it’s commonplace to have bag searches, metal detectors and security guards. Many employers have gun lockers. Employees come to work, unlock their personal gun safe, deposit their firearm (sometimes an M-16 if the worker is a reserve soldier), and go to their jobs. If you go into an Israeli mall, the security guard asks “do you have a gun?” They might ask for your permit.
Can we agree that in American retail stores and malls, it’s a tremendously stupid idea to ban all guns? It’s just blindingly dumb, but it’s private property. In these businesses, in Georgia, I carry concealed if I feel like it. The worst they can do it throw me out. A smarter way is to employ a couple of trained, armed security guards, who can ask if people are armed (train them to spot telltale signs). If they are armed, they show their permit, and they can come in. This is not an infringement on anything. Private businesses can ask for a gun permit if they want to.
Why is that better? Well, it keeps the idiots at bay–those open-carry-for-the-sake-of-screw-you people. It keeps the criminals at bay–they know there are armed people in the mall. It would likely prevent several tragedies a year. Notice at churches where people can carry guns, mass shootings are rare and generally quashed quickly if attempted. But in Charleston, guns cannot be carried at churches, and Dylann Roof took advantage of that. It’s the same with movie theaters.
Creating unenforced no-gun zones where people gather simply makes it more likely a mass shooting will happen, and succeed.
Walt Disney World used to allow anyone legally permitted to carry concealed in Florida to carry in their parks. Now they don’t. They have metal detectors and bag searches. You have to get there earlier. The moved the “open the gates” ceremony at the Magic Kingdom from the gates to Cinderella’s castle. It’s less convenient. But it’s safer.
We should expect at least some of the hotels at the Las Vegas strip and other touristy places where a killer can infiltrate to set up similar inconvenient barriers. That means some people won’t want to stay at the hotel, and that’s fine. Maybe the hotel can make an exception for permitted concealed carry–one gun on your person. That would prevent someone from bringing in an arsenal. Common sense can prevail.
In Georgia, it’s illegal to carry onto school property, except when picking up or dropping off students. That’s common sense. It should be legal for college students to carry on campus–at any school, in class or in the dorms.
But there should also be limitations.
How guns can and cannot be used
In Israel, one big–huge–difference in dealing with firearms is the concept of positive control. If a citizen carries in Israel, the gun is inextricably tied to them. Many police departments in America use this same concept. Carry everywhere because the gun is yours and you can never let it out of your sight. It’s a major offense in Israel to leave a gun unattended. In the U.S., it can lead to discipline against a police officer (such as the Capitol police sergeant who left a gun in a bathroom). In Israel, leaving a gun in a car unattended will lead to prison.
In Israel, permit holders are required to have government-approved gun safes in their homes. If the gun isn’t in the safe, it’s carried. If it’s carried to work, it goes into a safe locker. Guns are not simply left out.
What reason do we have not to require some kind of personal carry and ownership responsibility? We might not require a full-on gun safe (but that’s a good idea, mine is biometric), but there should be stiff penalties for leaving a gun in a car or home unattended without securing it. At minimum, that should be a hearing to potentially suspend a citizen’s right to carry. A right is a right, but if it’s exercised without responsibility and with abandon, it should be suspended. We have a right to vote, but should we be able to vote again and again in the same race? Should convicted felons have a right to vote from prison? Should company insiders have the right to use their knowledge to profit in the stock market?
Can we agree that certain activities should result in suspension or loss of the right to carry a gun?
In Israel, the standard is one of “need.” In Israel about 300,000 guns are licensed to individuals, companies and ministries based on need. That’s about one for every 16 citizens between 15 and 65 years old–or about 6 percent of the population. There are about a half million Israelis eligible to carry weapons because they’re serving in the military or reserves. That brings the number up to 14 percent.
That’s not so far off from U.S. numbers. Though about a third of households own a firearm, most of those don’t carry it, or they have a hunting rifle or other long gun. Hunting in Israel is not nearly as popular an activity as in America, so it’s hard to compare apples-to-apples. In general, there is only one reason to own or carry a gun in Israel, and that’s necessity.
In Israel, the government limits the amount of ammunition people can own; it’s anywhere from 50 bullets for a handgun to up to 700 bullets for a hunting rifle. Generally, in Israel, a civilian gun license is for one gun only. They are very restrictive.
In America, owning is a right. But not an unrestricted right.
If we want to prevent more mass shootings of the kind we had in Orlando, Aurora, Sandy Hook and Las Vegas, we can’t continue to burn straw-men and shout past each other on the issue of gun control. Some gun control is needed. Gun confiscation, or a total ban, is not feasible, legal, or politically possible.
It’s up to private businesses to determine if they want firearms carried on their property. In many cases, it’s stupid for them to ban guns carried by law-abiding citizens. But it’s even more useless to ban guns without having some kind of enforcement, as inconvenient and expensive as that might be.
Owning a gun should not merely be an entitlement. It’s a right that carries with it a responsibility. It’s up to government to wisely regulate the responsibilities of gun owners, without infringing on the right to become one. How a gun is carried and used should be strictly enforced.
Gun education is key. This is mostly what the NRA is about. The Left paints them as a lobbying organization representing gun manufacturers (yes, the NRA-ILA is a lobbying group, but there’s also the NSSF, NAGR, and others), but much of what the NRA does is training and education. If people aren’t getting firearms education in the military, they need to get it locally, and we should be okay with that as a requirement for concealed carry. Guns are deadly and should not be trifled with.
Finally, we should look at some form of law enforcement flagging for individuals who have accumulated many guns. This will upset the paranoid conspiracy theorists who are preparing for the black helicopters and UN troops marching to take “our guns.” I have news for these people: if the federal government wanted to know who you are, they already do. The flagging is to offer a check against individuals like Stephen Paddock who might accumulate a cache of weapons quickly. Better to have a confrontation with law enforcement at home than to have him do what he did.
Sensible “gun control” is the objective. Israel has a very good and effective system. They do it out of necessity. Maybe it’s time America adopted their ideas.
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