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By scott clayton

There are about 200 million privately held guns in the United States, so a new ban on the sale of assault weapons would be futile. The cows are out of the corral and closing the gate now is pointless, just as hoping for a profound cultural change in our gun culture is ludicrous.

For example, Democratic Sen. Diane Feinstein of California has announced plans to introduce a new assault weapons bill, but the legislation would grandfather weapons that are legally possessed on the date the bill became law. Again, the cows are on the loose.

Yet, our society has a clear, valid and compelling interest in gun control.

Call me naïve, but I believe the United States can have effective, common sense gun control laws aimed at stemming the tide of shooting deaths and injuries and ultimately reducing their frequency To that end, I offer a framework for gun control in the hope that Congress can negotiate and implement laws that address the problem.

Gun control would be accomplished through licensing public possession of operational firearms. Public possession licensing is an expansion of, and conceptually consistent with, existing concealed-carry permit laws. Possession of firearms in the home would not be subject to licensing.

There are fundamental differences in the lethality of various firearms. Public possession licensing must recognize these differences. Therefore, I suggest four classes of licenses.

Class 1 – Long guns with mechanical loading mechanisms, including muzzle loaders, bolt action, hinged breach, and pump actions with a magazine capacity limited to five rounds or fewer.

Class 2 — All short guns, and all long guns with semi-automatic loading mechanisms, or mechanical reload mechanism firearms with magazines holding more than five but less than 12 rounds.

Class 3 – All military-style firearms of any length with automatic loading mechanisms and magazine capacities greater than 12 rounds. And all higher-power .50 BMG or similar rifles.

Class 4 — Fully automatic guns and military firearms, limited to law enforcement and the armed forces.

Longer and more comprehensive safety classes, including range time, would be required for each class of license. Liability insurance tied to the class of firearm would also be required. The cost of Class 1 insurance would be essentially zero, for example, while Class 3 insurance would carry a substantial cost.

The classification framework would be flexible enough to allow review and reclassification.

The public possession of an operational gun by an individual without the appropriate license class would be subject to fines, impoundment and confiscation. Transportation of a firearm that is broken down or installed with an approved gun chamber lock would require no license. Unlicensed minors or adults could have a gun if accompanied by a licensed person.

Related measures might include at-risk mental health assessments. When someone is a threat to themselves or others, a judge could grant a warrant to impound any firearm available to that individual, no matter who owned it.

Public possession licensing could be an effective, common sense method of gun control that would increase firearm safety in our country. It mandates neither confiscation nor registration. And it does not infringe upon the individual's right to keep and bear arms.

Scott Clayton is a software implementation consultant to aerospace and defense contractors. He is a native Utahn who grew up with firearms and was an avid hunter, then switched to target shooting and wildlife photography. He lives in Sandy.

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