Khal Spencer: Do we need a Human Reliability Program for (Certain Kinds of) Gun Ownership?

Barely have we gotten out of the news cycle of the Florida mail-bomber than an extremist, anti-Semite in Pittsburgh shot up a synagogue, killing eleven and injuring four police officers in a firefight before being captured. Robert Bowers apparently left a trail of evidence of his extreme views on social media (and hints of acting out) but unfortunately, the First Amendment protects most of this garbage, as well as social media’s right to act as a toxic mind pollutant to the American psyche.

businessBut all this has a price when one also has a stockpile of guns or bombs, as per Bowers and Cesar Sayoc. Perhaps we in the firearms community need to admit, belatedly, that the 2A has two clauses and the first one mandates that the people who universally populate the “well regulated militia” with arms in their hands need to be vetted to make sure they are pointing guns at legitimate adversaries rather than figments of their warped imaginations. How far should we go in the name of preventing these demented clowns from shooting up the nation? That, as usual, is the question.

Bowers apparently left a trail of hate on the Internet. Should we be monitoring the Internet and serving people who sound like they are about to go violently off the rails with Extreme Risk Protective Orders? Should owning certain classes of small arms be contingent on something like a Human Reliability Program? I think its clear that as long as anyone can procure a firearm easily, there is a clear statistical probability that some will go off the rails at other people’s expense and the more lethal the firearm, the more the expense. Especially nowadays with politicians, Russian troll farms, and social media activists pouring on political gasoline and handing out matches. What can go wrong?

One could imagine something like a violence triangle as we do a fire triangle. One needs motive, means, and a decision to act, i.e., a defective mental circuit breaker, to go batshit crazy and shoot up a mosque, synagogue, church, school, or whatever your personal choice of imaginary enemy happens to be on a given day. Means plus motive without the mental circuit breaker almost guarantees some “fires” will start. One can remove the means, albeit with some difficulty in a nation with a Second Amendment. One can try to eliminate motive, but in an age of toxic social media, gutter politics, and tribalism, its tough to do that. Mental circuit breakers seem to be in short supply. I was waiting in line for an Rx on Saturday and some other customer simply went off on the poor lady behind the counter, berating her loudly enough for the whole store to notice. Several of us were contemplating the possibility of having to tackle the guy if it got much worse but he stormed off.

So how about this? As Mike Weisser has said, some hunting rifles and shotguns (and probably certain kinds of handguns) are rarely implicated in crimes or mass shootings. How about we go lightly on these lower public risk firearms but examine those guns which seem to beckon for misuse and raise the standards for ownership of some firearms?

To be qualified for the job that I once held for fifteen years in a Federal lab, I had to undergo annual background screening, including a sit down with a company shrink, to ensure that the public and fellow workers could trust that I would not go off the rails at everyone else’s expense. Maybe its about time we designed a scaled down version of that sort of process for those who want to own high cap Glocks, ARs, and similar weaponry that can turn a synagogue into a charnel house in a few short minutes. I wouldn’t make it prohibitive or expensive, just clear and fair to the gun nuts and the public at large. With fewer mass shootings, such a system should pay for itself, actually, even if Matt DeLisi’s numbers are a little hard to believe.

Any takers?



4 thoughts on “Khal Spencer: Do we need a Human Reliability Program for (Certain Kinds of) Gun Ownership?

  1. Good article and sensible idea, Khal. Some countries require psychological evaluations for certain gun owners (the young, handgun owners). While there is growing support for the banning of assault-style weapons, this is certainly preferable to the status quo.

  2. Our conceal carry class requirement deters quite a few from getting a cc license. I’d like to see free annual renewals with live fire and a ten question test, with a more thorough test every 5 years. Paid out of a special “firearm safety” tax based on income, not out of PR funds or paid by firearm owners. If restrictionists what to restrict, they should pay. Maybe via donations and if there aren’t enough donations the laws revert to “shall issue”.

    A lot of wealthy libs buy handguns because they want one, but they seldom if ever fire it, and haven’t a clue about safe handling. Annual reviews might help them become educated or give it up.

    Most homicides as you know are poor young men of color shot with a handgun purchased on the black market, and probably shot by someone not legal to carry or own. Wish there were a way to reach those guys. To incentivise them to take a class, even if they just got out of the pokey.

    And of course the largest group is suicides. Maybe part of the 10 question annual review should be “have you ever considered suicide and do you want free mental health care”.

    Also a way to store firearms given up on a temporary basis due to lack of certification or mental illness etc.

    Never happen. We can’t even fund the background check system. Anti gun people aren’t so interested in stopping firearm deaths as they are in “winning” the fight with “gun nuts”.

    • I used to be a police officer. We had to qualify once per year. I shoot regularly so that wasn’t a problem for me but it was for the guys who never practiced. Honestly, if you’re carrying a firearm (professionally or otherwise), qualification needs to be done more than once per year.

      Also, qualifying should involve more than just firing 50 rounds at a non-moving target from varying distances. Shooters should have to show proficiency of shooting from behind cover and shooting while moving. Gunfights don’t all take place at 21 feet with an opponent standing still. Neither should qualifications.

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