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Effectuating Change Starts With A Discussion

Like so many of you, I am deeply troubled by violence our children and educators are being forced to endure, witness, or imagine to the point of feeling unsafe.

Many people I love and care for keep adding discord to the topic and are merely sharing upsetting memes and trumpeting “do more!” “do something!” “make policy changes!”

What I haven’t seen is anyone actually proposing new policy.

I sat down to draw up some possibilities. They are below. Yes; this is a long post.

I invite anyone to discuss these (and your own ideas) in a respectful and thoughtful way. I certainly don’t propose to have thought through the pitfalls of all possible permutations. But I’m trying. And I’m doing more than passing along sound bites that are sure to keep us divided and unable to tackle change. Some of you may think there’s no point in effectuating change. I challenge you to take part in the discussion if only to raise concrete issues with the ideas I propose. Challenge me. I’m a lawyer (and a mom of four)… I can take it.

As a former member of the active Army, a former military prosecutor (who was encouraged to carry when I was being threatened by members of a gang that I was prosecuting – See Discovery Channel’s Gangland series), and especially as a defense attorney, my biggest concern even in the below proposals is that they go too far. If we are looking to past behavior to predict future ones, do we draw a line at titling / indexing? Is it only at conviction?

And I really haven’t come up with a good approach on the mental health piece. I would never want to stigmatize anyone who is seeking behavioral health to worry about their right to carry. I wouldn’t want to dissuade someone from getting therapeutic support and help because there’s this fear they will not be able to carry. Or frankly even suffer the stigma of being told they can’t.

Case in point- I’m in the process of undergoing a medical board. During a routine annual health screening, a doc didn’t like some of my answers (that have been the same for years) in disclosing my PTSD diagnosis and the meds I take. He decided I wasn’t safe to carry my firearm as part of the reserves. As a judge advocate it isn’t often that I would even need to carry or go to a range to qualify but this awoke something in me that was so primally disturbing. How dare someone question my capacity to be a safe person?! I disclose all this, not because I am making false equivalencies about mental health and gun control, but because I think it’s an important consideration to raise. Who gets to decide who is sane “enough”/ stable “enough” / sound “enough” to carry a firearm? What is the criteria, and will it be implemented universally? Many would say probably not. I tend to be among them.

Huge issue I see in the discourse is proposing policies that mirror other countries where there is a presumption against possession / ownership that needs to be overcome by proving oneself capable of responsible firearms ownership. I cannot fathom there’s a way to “do over” that kind of a policy which would seem to necessitate a day when everyone turns in their weapons and trusts they’ll be getting them back after being vetted. Can you imagine? I don’t see that ever happening peacefully. And I’m not certain that’s the right answer even if one could be ensured it would be bloodless.

Feel free to share your opinions about which if any of these ideas make sense. Keep your memes off my page, and your discourse clean.

Policy Ideas

  • Strict financial and criminal liability for parents whose children use their personally owned or work related weapon in the commission of a crime of violence (I’ve been drafting a definition of “crime of violence” but there are several decent ones in existence)
  • Strict financial and criminal liability for anyone whose personally owned or work related weapon becomes altered or manipulated to fire more rounds than the weapon was manufactured to fire (poorly worded… ideas welcomed)
  • Personnel who have been titled / indexed in NCIC for a crime of violence (to include assault, making threats, domestic violence) are precluded from purchase of personally owned weapons (too low a threshold? Titling and indexing is in need of its own policy change)
  • If a person is convicted of a crime of violence (to include guilty pleas), they forfeit their ownership and possession of any personally owned weapons. (Is this already policy? Or is the line drawn at felonies versus misdemeanors?)

For People who become ineligible to possess firearms, their weapons may not be transferred to anyone who will give that person the ability to use or possess the weapon. Becomes a crime / creates financial liability for anyone to give access to a weapon if the law would preclude it. (Heck, probably this already exists on the books. Is it having any effect? Anyone prosecute weapons charges?)

  1. Any person who facilitates the possession or use of a weapon to someone who has a qualifying conviction of a crime of violence, becomes financially and criminally liable for the use or possession of that weapon. See above.
  2. Personnel who have been titled / indexed in NCIC for a crime of violence (to include assault, making threats, domestic violence) are precluded from working in a job or position that furnishes them with a weapon or requires them to carry
  3. Would be gun-owners must be 21 years old to purchase a weapon, unless a responsible adult “co-signs” responsibility for the purchase and then becomes financially and criminally liable for improper uses / alterations to the weapon. See above.

If you’ve read this long maybe we can enjoy a fireside chat …

And the conversations begin…

CH: “I like this. I think that financial and criminal liability is a great idea. However, they must be significant and enforced. I agree that mental health piece is a difficult issue. Do you think that renewing the assault weapon ban would help? It seems to me that it would. What about license requirements going forward? I get your concerns stated above. But, for future purchase, would it be helpful to create a federal gun license where all gun owners need to pass a safety exam and pay a fee in order to purchase a firearm. Each additional firearm would also have to be registered for a fee.”

Jocelyn Stewart: “Thanks for the dialogue. So I try to be intentional with language. The term assault weapon doesn’t really exist except in rhetoric and tends to get people who support strong 2nd amendment rights very upset. It tends to be used as a political sound bite. I think many would support pretty strict regulation over weapons that can fire in bursts or “on auto.” Licensing for safety is something that I also think people would tend to support. The other side of licensing and fees is that it usually means that only more affluent people will be able to carry. Even my potential proposals about criminal and financial liability may mean that people of color may be disproportionately targeted by police for enforcement. I definitely think there should be more tracking / registration of weapons. There are several holes between state and federal coverage when it comes to registration / sales / and transfers. Still unclear how to address them. Look at marijuana laws… Safety exams make sense. I’ve thought about requiring gun safes especially when there are young people with proximity. But that would also favor the more affluent who could afford the safety measures. Same tends to be true with fees to register weapons. And CH replies… “Jocelyn, I know that you were being extremely thoughtful/ intentional with your language. I don’t think that I was aware that there wasn’t a standard definition of assault weapon. My main thought/ idea was to limit someone’s ability to purchase a weapon that fires in bursts. I definitely thought of the equity issue with licensing fees and safety exams. Frankly, at the end of the day, the uniform enforcement of these provisions is what will make any reform effective or ineffective. To be clear, that’s not a reason not to try. But, it is a reason to be thoughtful in the language that is used so that any reform gets as much support as possible.”

TM: I like your analysis. I think licensing and insurance requirements are the way to go, like we do with cars.” 

DC: “I think there are a lot of close comparisons between the responsibilities of owning a vehicle and a firearm.”

MP: “I appreciate the perspectives laid out here, as well as the welcoming of exchanging ideas and inviting others’ input. As a former career CID Agent, I’m of a similar mindset when it comes to titling/indexing, which put me at significant odds with my organization innumerable times. Restriction or deprivation of rights based on the absolute lowest and incredibly subjective levels of proof (“credible information”) never sat well with me, and I was reticent and scrutinizing in my titling decisions because of it… not to mention the inarguable connotation of guilt that comes with it. I would LOVE a fireside chat on this topic, not limited to my passion subject of indexing.”

WC:“For your crime of violence proposal, that’s already mostly law. Felonies (except a few securities/white collar crimes, I think) and misdemeanor DV convictions for sure under federal law. Still leaves some gaps. Like the one you pointed out about transferring firearms to people who could still give you access to them. I agree that titling/indexing is too low a standard, at least the way titling/indexing currently work.”

DC: “The firearm is just the weapon. Murder is already illegal, guns on school property are already illegal. Would more anti murder laws stop murder? Again, you can take the tool away, the killer will still kill, driving through kid’s soccer game, parades etc. So instead of knee jerk reactions aimed at “the gun,” let’s go after the multiple root issues. We need deterrence, stop posting these killers high scores like it is grand theft auto. They feel wronged and want notoriety, instead mock them at every chance. It is normalized to trash anyone from certain opposing political parties on every platform from Hollywood to tv to yahoo. Make these shooters appear as loser like as possible, that is what they hate. American not only has a gun violence problem but a general violent crime problem. We glorify violence in Hollywood, video games, and a wide array of other walks of our life, but we constantly write that off as not being a big deal. Let’s fix the violence problem, lets’ reform the media’s model of us v them, everything is racist, and all things are offensive. Stop victim culture. Let’s push more positive messages and support less divisive programming.  “Strict financial and criminal liability for anyone whose personally owned or work related weapon…”  I am willing to see parents be held accountable for minors and disturbed adults they raised that now cause violence with their unsecured firearms. How would that play in court, if a minor takes mom and dad’s car and kills someone from drunk driving, are the parents held accountable for leaving the keys out? For “whose personally owned or work related weapon becomes altered or manipulated to fire more rounds than the weapon was manufactured to fire” I don’t know if that is fair, if the original owner never intended for the perpetrator to alter its use. The ATF and courts already solved that people who misuse pistol braces are acting alone and it is not the designs fault it is not being used for its intended use. (Im sure I could have wrote that explanation better.) But I also think we should hold schools accountable when kids are bullied daily to the point of wanting to massacre the whole school. Are there resource officers and school therapists taking notes on trouble kids and are those notes going to the right channels? My daughter was bullied pretty bad at her last school and the school was very risk adverse about setting up meetings with other kids parents, they refused to facilitate a meeting with them and acted as a separate mediator, I have no idea how effective they think they were, I only know how hard it was on my child every day for months. One thing that concerns me is the decline in disciplining children, the uptick in lazy parents over using screens/electronics as babysitters, the false self-satisfaction/gratification social media brings, the false security of filters on Instagram as well as filtering people by blocking and reporting any opposing opinion, this causes a false sense of power and wrongful entitlement.  Then lock down children for almost 2 years who are developing mentally removing the interpersonal skills they should be learning, the coping mechanisms they should be developing and put a screen between them where misreading text due to lack of tone and inflection causes more miscommunication than anywhere else. That is all a ticking timebomb. Media says it is ok to break laws when protesting if the cause is worth it, so it is common to see people breaking the law if they FEEL it is warranted, but we see how that can get out of hand. What do schools, tv programs or streaming services offer for conflict resolution training? The money is in division not unifying. We can teach the world that dudes can get pregnant and you better not disagree with it, but not how to respectfully handle a disagreement. We have a far bigger problem than guns. I think there is more obtainable progress to be made in the area of mental health than redefining definitions of firearms which just leads to legal cat and mouse games in legislation. I would love to see an epidemiology study on how many parents with children with psychological issues feel confident their child has access to care and the appropriate facilities. Are there parents out there that dont even know their kid has warning signs? If mom and dad are out trying to YOLO and live their best life for likes and subscribes are they neglecting their children and missing red flags? Additionally as a progressive society we try to normalize some mental health conditions instead of treating them, see “man identifies as a toddler,” placing political opinions over actual science. Don’t disagree or you will get cancelled!! “If a person is convicted of a crime of violence (to include guilty pleas), they forfeit their ownership and possession of any personally owned weapons.” Violent offenders, yes(no guns). But with non-violent felons, have they served their time or is there a chance to show they have been rehabilitated? If so they should be allowed to defend themselves in their own home. (If not, what is the point of “corrections”) I say that because I think there is danger in lumping any demographic together. I am a huge fan of case by case basis. “Any person who facilitates the possession or use of a weapon to someone who has a qualifying conviction of a crime of violence, becomes financially and criminally liable for the use or possession of that weapon.” This may help stop the gun show loop holes, the problem where good people sacrifice from bad peoples actions. If I have a good friend I can account for, I should be able to trade or sell a firearm without the government lining their pockets or adding us to a list. BUT I see how criminals can abuse this and would be willing to budge here. Or possible do the transfer at a gun shop and have the individual background checked if they pas the sale can then become private again without federal forms. “Personnel who have been titled / indexed in NCIC for a crime of violence (to include assault, making threats, domestic violence) are precluded from working in a job or position that furnishes them with a weapon or requires them to carry” Absolutely! I would hope most job screening applications and background checks would prevent this, but I am sure there are some loop holes or fall through the crack moments. “Would be gun-owners must be 21 years old to purchase a weapon” This I don’t agree with unless we raise the age of military/law enforcement entrance to 21, or waiver 18-20 year olds that join the military or LE to be able to buy as a reward for their passing of proficiency training and responsibilities. We can hold minors criminally liable as an adult in certain cases, we need to hold adults accountable and teach more responsibility instead of raising the age on everything. Whatever line we draw in the sand, I also think working youth should not have taxes taken out of their checks until that age either. (Whole different conversation.)”

Jocelyn Stewart: “DC okay, this is long but thanks for chiming in when / if possible- 

“The firearm is just the weapon.  Murder is already illegal, guns on school property are already illegal.  Would more anti murder laws stop murder?”

I think perhaps if there’s a thread of monetary interest at play, it could. But to your point, I don’t think more laws making it illegal to murder would deter people who want to commit murder. But I do think that if there were financial / liability repercussions it would potentially cause people to more safely guard their weapons, which tends to limit the availability of this one instrument of murder. 

One of the ways that people have combatted abortion for example is through designing laws that essentially make it impossible to perform them. Please don’t interpret this as either an endorsement or criticism of that approach- merely a dispassionate recognition that laws can be created that regulate beyond the base intention. And please do NOT anyone interpret that I’m adding abortion regulation laws (about the size of rooms and reciprocity with local ERs) to mean I am drawing any parallels between abortion and mass shootings. Don’t go there anyone. Your comments will be deleted. 

“Again, you can take the tool away, the killer will still kill, driving through kid’s soccer game, parades etc.”

I’m more trying to get at making it harder for the killer to get an instrument. At least if we slow him down maybe there will be other indications and opportunities for intervention.

“So instead of knee jerk reactions aimed at “the gun,” let’s go after the multiple root issues.” 

I don’t see the approaches I and others in the thread as being knee jerk. Maybe you mean poorly aimed at the gun, rather than the person using the gun?

“We need deterrence, stop posting these killers high scores like it is grand theft auto. They feel wronged and want notoriety, instead mock them at every chance. It is normalized to trash anyone from certain opposing political parties on every platform from Hollywood to tv to yahoo. Make these shooters appear as loser like as possible, that is what they hate.”

I won’t disagree that there seems to be a pathology among some who commit mass shootings that enjoys the notoriety. I don’t necessarily agree that restrictions or lenses on media coverage will change that. 

I absolutely think there is something to be had in trying to address the person behind the weapon. I struggle with what that could be. And I don’t think shaming them is the answer (like calling them losers etc.)

“American not only has a gun violence problem but a general violent crime problem. We glorify violence in Hollywood, video games, and a wide array of other walks of our life, but we constantly write that off as not being a big deal.”

I concur that there a a great deal of desensitization of violence. Also the similarly the normalization of alcohol consumption. It’s everywhere and no one ever questions it.

“Let’s fix the violence problem, lets’s reform the media’s model of us v them, everything is racist, and all things are offensive.  Stop victim culture.”

Divisiveness isn’t helping. People are lobbing bombs at one another rather than discussing ideas. Lots of things are racist. It’s definitely a concern of mine about even the policies that I propose given the disproportionate focus of police action against minorities. Victim culture we should save for another day. I don’t disagree with you there.

“Let’s push more positive messages and support less divisive programming.” 

Agree in part. I think there needs to be a place to confront tough issues but there needs to be a better approach.

“Strict financial and criminal liability for anyone whose personally owned or work related weapon…”   

“I am willing to see parents be held accountable for minors and disturbed adults they raised that now cause violence with their unsecured firearms.  How would that play in court, if a minor takes mom and dads car and kills someone from drunk driving, are the parents held accountable for leaving the keys out?”

Cars can certainly be converted into instruments of destruction. Leaving the keys out seems to be a false equivalency. If a parent throws a post prom party, serves under age kids alcohol, and then undertakes no safety measures to get the kids Ubers home, take keys, then I do think those parents have both criminal culpability and financial liability for drunk driving accidents that occur. In my mind, there’s not a factual similarity between car keys without other dangerous circumstances and leaving an unattended weapon and rounds. But I’m open to being challenged.

“For “whose personally owned or work related weapon becomes altered or manipulated to fire more rounds than the weapon was manufactured to fire” I don’t know if that is fair, if the original owner never intended for the perpetrator to alter its use. The ATF and courts already solved that people who misuse pistol braces are acting alone and it is not the designs fault it is not being used for its intended use. (Im sure I could have wrote that explanation better.)” 

I feel like there has been some litigation about weapons manufacturers being taken to task (with varying success) for knowingly making their products capable of manipulation because they know that’s what people what to do with them and people will be more likely to buy their easily manipulated weapons. Admittedly I don’t know enough about it to speak with conviction.

“But I also think we should hold schools accountable when kids are bullied daily to the point of wanting to massacre the whole school.” 

Say more please. This is so tough, right? I mean, I hear you. But how? Kids being bullied is awful. I think most times our educators see it happening and that they are far more sensitive to it than when I was growing up. There was sort of a, that’s just kids being kids, they’ll grow out of it kind of mentality. But what is their duty? If we look to the responsibilities of a mental health counselor and when they can break privilege to warn when they have pretty solid grounds that a patient has a plan to carry out harm, is that what we want the teachers to apply? Because I think they do.  If you’re suggesting something less concrete what burden / standard would you propose? I hope my tone of coming across as intended from a place of true curiosity and not condescending challenge. 

“Are there resource officers and school therapists taking notes on trouble kids and are those notes going to the right channels?” 

Say more please. I really want to understand how we can empower educators and school counselors. What’s the right standard?

“My daughter was bullied pretty bad at her last school and the school was very risk adverse about setting up meetings with other kids parents, they refused to facilitate a meeting with them and acted as a separate mediator, I have no idea how effective they think they were, I only know how hard it was on my child every day for months.” 

I’m really sorry that your daughter was bullied. It is truly terrible. I also get frustrated when schools are required to be cagey about who the other party was. I’m not sure what to suggest as a bright line rule. I’m really open to your thoughts on this.

“One thing that concerns me is the decline in disciplining children, the uptick in lazy parents over using screens/electronics as babysitters, the false self satisfaction/gratification social media brings, the false security of filters on instagram as well as filtering people by blocking and reporting any opposing opinion, this causes a false sense of power and wrongful entitlement.” 

I agree that the overuse of devices and the dehumanization of people from the comfortable distance makes it easier to remain divided. I find it sad. The filter I think we all should use is, were I standing in front of this person, would I feel comfortable saying it to them?

“Then lock down children for almost 2 years who are developing mentally removing the interpersonal skills they should be learning, the coping mechanisms they should be developing and put a screen between them where misreading text due to lack of tone and  inflection causes more miscommunication than anywhere else.” 

The past few years have been hard on us all I would say.

“That is all a ticking time bomb.” 

When the kids were home doing school there wasn’t a place for the school shootings. Probably not your point. It will be interesting to see the impacts on school age kids who didn’t get to be socialized for so long.

“Media says it is ok to break laws when protesting if the cause is worth it, so it is common to see people breaking the law if they FEEL it is warranted, but we see how that can get out of hand.” 

I’m not following in the context of gun violence. Can you please say more?

“What do schools, tv programs or streaming services offer for conflict resolution training? The money is in division not unifying. We can teach the world that dudes can get pregnant and you better not disagree with it, but not how to respectfully handle a disagreement. We have a far bigger problem than guns.

I think there is more obtainable progress to be made in the area of mental health than redefining definitions of firearms which just leads to legal cat and mouse games in legislation.” 

I agree that healthy discourse has largely been lost. And I think that technology and socially distanced networks play a big part in it. There’s more opportunity to gain perspectives from such a diverse collection of people but polarizing is mostly what I see as well.

“I would love to see an epidemiology study on how many parents with children with psychological issues feel confident their child has access to care and the appropriate facilities. Are there parents out there that dont even know their kid has warning signs?  If mom and dad are out trying to YOLO and live their best life for likes and subscribes are they neglecting their children and missing red flags?”

Lets say mom and dad do see warning signs of anti social behavior, being withdrawn, maybe even depressed, what are there moral obligations? Getting kids into therapy? Trying to force social connections? I’m really asking. In WA once my kids hit age 13, they get to decide whether to go to counseling. Say what? Seriously. That’s hard. I mean, I get that we don’t want to force kids to get therapy but what’s a parent to do?

“Additionally as a progressive society we try to normalize some mental health conditions instead of treating them, see “man identifies as a toddler,” placing political opinions over actual science. Don’t disagree or you will get cancelled!!” 

This seems to have several layers to it. Can you please say more?

“If a person is convicted of a crime of violence (to include guilty pleas), they forfeit their ownership and possession of any personally owned weapons.”

“Violent offenders, yes(no guns). But with non violent felons, have they served their time or is there a chance to show they have been rehabilitated? If so they should be allowed to defend themselves in their own home. (If not, what is the point of “corrections”) I say that because I think there is danger in lumping any demographic together. I am a huge fan of case by case basis.” 

I wasn’t suggesting that non violent felons should not carry but that’s an interesting point. I think what you’re saying is that felons without regard to what the felony was forfeit their right to own / possess guns post conviction. That does seem a little short sided. Case by case is nearly impossible to legislate so perhaps that’s why they have drawn the line in the sand at felony.

“Any person who facilitates the possession or use of a weapon to someone who has a qualifying conviction of a crime of violence, becomes financially and criminally liable for the use or possession of that weapon.”

This may help stop the gun show loop holes, the problem where good people sacrifice from bad peoples actions. If I have a good friend I can account for, I should be able to trade or sell a firearm without the government lining their pockets or adding us to a list.  BUT I see how criminals can abuse this and would be willing to budge here. Or possible do the transfer at a gun shop and have the individual background checked if they pas the sale can then become private again without federal forms.”

Transfers through approved and vetted dealers sounds like a great idea.

“Personnel who have been titled / indexed in NCIC for a crime of violence (to include assault, making threats, domestic violence) are precluded from working in a job or position that furnishes them with a weapon or requires them to carry”

Absolutely! I would hope most job screening applications and background checks would prevent this, but I am sure there are some loop holes or fall through the crack moments.

“Would be gun-owners must be 21 years old to purchase a weapon”

This I don’t agree with unless we raise the age of military/law enforcement entrance to 21, or waiver 18-20 year olds that join the military or LE to be able to buy as a reward for their passing of proficiency training and responsibilities.  We can hold minors criminally liable as an adult in certain cases, we need to hold adults accountable and teach more responsibility instead of raising the age on everything.  Whatever line we draw in the sand, I also think working youth should not have taxes taken out of their checks until that age either. (Whole different conversation.)

Waivers for military etc sounds like a sound permutation.

Thanks again.”

CB: “All good ideas, though 4 gives me pause. I have some others which I’ll share on another day. I do appreciate you thinking about this, and sharing. These tragedies have become too common.”

CA: “Force all legally obtained guns to be insured against acts of violence at purchase for $1 million per incident. The first time an insurance company has to pay out, $30 million plus, on an incident like what happened 2 days ago you’ll see the insurance lobby turn on the gun lobby and something will actually be done. Also, Tax the ammunition. Make it cost $20-50 for a bullet. Finally, stop reporting on the shooters. These guys are losers, they’ve always been losers, if they lived they would continue to be losers. They feel like the only way they’ll make an impact is through infamy so stop giving it to them. I mean none of this is going to happen because our politicians are all in someone’s pocket, but it sure is nice to keep pretending.”

EQ: “CA your first 3 are outside the box ideas that could probably be accomplished with executive order. I think more creative thinking like this is needed because getting anything passed in congress is very unlikely in today’s politics. Your stop reporting piece i have mixed thoughts on. People need to know so the request for change gets louder. Eventually people will get fed up with the same news. I’ve seen and heard more people talk about this than ever. I’m not sure how we ever get to a point of change if it’s never reported on. But I get the point of why.”

RM: “Good ideas, there are currently laws prohibiting possession and ownership in domestics abuse charges and convictions and in felonies of certain classes. That list should probably be expanded. I’m troubled at the concept of Red Flag decision-making, like you said “who gets to decide”. I’m willing to follow the second amendment and have the presumption for gun ownership and possession.”

SL: “Jocelyn, thank you for getting into the details and actually proposing a starting point. Great beginning!”

BT: “I would like to see expansion of gun safety measures expanded in a way that would reduce not only violent crime but also gun accidents by children. Criminal and financial liability like you mentioned might be a good approach. Is it already there/routinely invoked? One could argue that somebody whose child has accidentally killed himself or another child by accident with a parent’s gun has already suffered the worst punishment there is. There are plenty of these stories though where, through sheer luck, there’s no fatality. I feel like there needs to be some sort of ramification, maybe criminal/financial.”

What are your thoughts on this subject?

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