In a recent discussion of gun control here on Gather, I made the following statement to a gun control opponent:
"If ANY law were enacted that restricted gun ownership in any way, all the nutcases would hide their weapons. All the crooks would hide their weapons. Only the sane, law abiding folks...would obey the law."
His reply: "...bravo to you for this statement...It shows your understanding..."
What I meant, but didn't make clear, is that I was describing the initial conditions if such a law were passed. Eventually, over time, the 200 million privately-owned firearms would be collected and confiscated. But this would have to be handled very carefully to avoid another Prohibition situation. During Prohibition, booze was illegal, but readily available. People defied the law because they didn't agree with it.
So, a large majority of the populace must become convinced that such a measure is necessary. If that doesn't happen, then it won't work. At this moment, I do not think the public is convinced, but that will hopefully change as we experience more horrific incidents like the one in Colorado.
So let's do a little thought experiment and consider how government should deal with the problem if such a law were passed.
After some deadline when all guns should be turned in, anybody who still possesses a gun is a criminal, by definition. Law enforcement cannot go door-to-door and search every house from attic to basement. That would violate all kinds of Constitutional safeguards. Like other private property searches, it would require a warrant, issued by a judge, who must be convinced of "probable cause."
So how should violators be punished? If we put them in jail, we will need a lot more jails. I suggest that it might be best to "de-criminalize" gun possession...treat it like a traffic ticket. First offenders might get a fine of $1000 or 10 days in jail. The penalty would be doubled for subsequent offenses...e.g., a third offense would cost $4000 or 40 days in jail.
Offenders would not go to "regular" jails. Instead, they would go to "farms" where they work for their meals...no work, no food. The farms should be self-sufficient, growing produce to sell in local markets. Inmates would get three "chits" after each work shift, one for each meal for the next day. They would perform various jobs, from dishwashing to field labor.
Every year, the penalties for gun ownership would double, providing an escalating incentive to turn in weapons. Any person who voluntarily surrendered a gun would not be penalized, even after the deadline.
Over time, such a program would greatly reduce the gun population, but as guns became scarce, their value would go up, and, as with booze during Prohibition, and illegal drugs today, organized crime syndicates would quickly establish high-profit operations selling guns. This can only be controlled by a vigilant citizenry who report any firearms they see, and severe punishment for anyone convicted of using a weapon in the commission of a crime.
I have no illusions that this can be accomplished quickly or easily. It will take many years. But the longest journey begins with a single step.
It is time to take that step.
Guns, like horse-drawn wagons, whale oil lamps and chamber pots, are anachronisms that a modern society does not need.