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A Modest Proposal for Reducing Deaths from Gunfire

(accidentally published this to my blog instead of here)

This came out of a Facebook argument I was having with an old friend of Spouse’s, who we haven’t seen in 30+ years...he was going on about the need for people to have guns for hunting, self-defense, etc.

It seems to me that while guns are not all of the problem, they are a major part of the problem. I tried to think about a reasonable way to handle the issue of firearms, and it occurred to me that the problem is, broadly speaking, semi-automatic weapons, both long guns (“rifles”) and pistols. The point of such weapons is to lay down “suppressing” fire against an armed opponent. In a situation like a school shooting, or a church shooting, etc., these weapons allow the shooter to fire until their magazine is empty, and in that situation, their function is to maximize the carnage. So...let’s not ban guns. Let’s ban semiautomatic guns.


(1) Ban from civilian use or possession—totally—all weapons that can be fired repeatedly without the need to take additional action between trigger pulls. All of them.

The police and the military would still have access to these weapons, hunters would still have rifles, homeowners could keep shotguns for self-defense. The government would have to buy back the semiautomatic weapons. Costly, but it could be done. Of course there would be a heavy cost to manufacturers, but it might be worth looking at how many jobs would actually be affected, and there might be retraining costs for many of the displaced workers.

Gun enthusiasts—and yes, there are many of these—could then engage in the same sorts of competitions in which they now engage, but with a greater emphasis on the human element. Speed would depend on skill, rather than on a machine.

(2) Ensure that every remaining weapon is registered, and that the owner is required to pay for insurance to cover the cost to anyone injured by use of the weapon, even (perhaps especially) use by another party.

(3) If any weapon is stolen *and the theft is not reported*, the last registered user is automatically liable for any and all harm caused by the weapon. Note that this would be civil, not criminal liability, though the registered owner might also be charged with a crime, such as “failure to report theft of a firearm” which would carry prison time for them if convicted. Of course, filing a report of theft would break the chain of both criminal and civil liability.

(4) Use of an unregistered weapon (after a notice period of 12 months or so) would, on conviction, carry a mandatory prison sentence, even if the weapon is used for target practice—to run sequentially with any sentence due to (5) or (6).

(5) Use or possession of any semiautomatic weapon (after a reasonable notice period, perhaps of 24 months, to permit (1) to be implemented), on conviction mandate a prison sentence—to run sequentially with any sentence due to (4) or (6).

(6) Use, sale, or possession of a stolen weapon would mandate a prison sentence—to run sequentially with any sentence due to (4) or (5). No notice period required before implementation.


(7) Importing semiautomatic weapons in violation of (1) would, on conviction,result in a mandatory life sentence.

(8) Loss of a semiautomatic weapon by an authorized user (e.g., police officer) would, unless an investigatory board were to find otherwise, result in discipline up to loss of job and pension.


Of course criminals will continue to use semiautomatic weapons—as long as they are available. This would be a first step toward making them unavailable. In addition, we need better screening and better education.

I’ve been inside schools, and I’ve been inside supermax prisons.

So long as semiautomatic weapons are freely available, nothing less than the latter will be truly safe.


Do we want our children growing up in supermax prisons?

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