Friday, October 2, 2015

A Well Regulated Militia

I've been reading Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror, which hasn't put me in any optimistic mood regarding the prospects for creating a society where wholesale violence is absent. All the same, there is clearly great variation across time and space in the frequency and scale of such violence. This variation must have causes and therefore be subject to some degree of control. Surely we can find a way to do better than we presently are!

It seems to me that the root of the problem is our gun culture. There is no way we are going to be able to divide people up into the good people who should be allowed or encouraged to own guns, and the bad people who should be discouraged or forbidden. It's not just that it is difficult to figure out who is good and who is bad; each of us is a complex evolving combination of good and bad elements. But again, this kind of variation opens the door to the possibility of steering the mix. I cannot imagine our gun culture evaporating over any small number of decades. But it is always changing. We can choose the sort of gun culture we want and take action to bring that about.

The constitutional objective of a well regulated militia points us along a viable path of responsible gun ownership. A gun is by design a lethal weapon. Gun owners need to be responsible users of lethal weapons. This clearly implies a level of training that is not trivial or elementary. Components of such a training regime could include:

  • psychological tools for managing anger and depression
  • dispute resolution
  • non-lethal self-defense
  • physical conditioning
  • laws regarding gun usage
  • target shooting
  • gun cleaning
  • gun storage and transport

Maintaining a permit to own guns could require regular continuing training and regular testing, e.g. a yearly course and a test every five years.

We can transform our gun culture from a national disgrace to a source of national pride. A culture of sober responsibility should spawn vastly fewer senseless mass killings.


  1. We already require testing and education for another lethal weapon, the automobile. In that case the car is only incidentally a lethal weapon.

    A gun, of any sort, is designed to be a lethal weapon. Why shouldn't it be at least as regulated as the automible?

  2. Part of the function of these classes would be to strengthen local community, so the loner gun nut just couldn't be so much of a loner. Maybe the connections would help that person become healthier, or at the very least other folks would be more aware of the risk posed by that individual.

  3. Considerable progress toward reforming our gun culture can be made without government action. Gun owner groups can establish standards for various ranks of competence. Gun owners can take pride in achieving and maintaining a high rank. We the people can build the society we want: no one else can do it for us!

  4. Here is an example of a privately managed competency program:

  5. This looks like a good program: