A Happy Medium on Dealing with Guns and Public Safety

Many people, including a group of Democrats in Congress, are insisting that we include things like No-Fly lists in the decision process before allowing someone to buy a gun.  There is one significant, but not insurmountable, issue with that.  Inclusion on a No-Fly list does not require due process of law.  Owning a personal firearm is a constitutionally granted right.  You cannot take away a constitutional right to life, liberty, or property without due process.  This was initially documented in the Magna Carta and made part of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Nonetheless, we are discovering that if FBI watch lists were referenced during the terrorist’s legal purchase of a Sig Sauer MCX semi-automatic rifle and a Glock 17 semi-automatic pistol, he would have been prevented from buying them. (BTW, for those who don’t know about guns, a semi-automatic firearm only can shoot one round per trigger pull whereas an automatic firearm can shoot multiple rounds per trigger pull).  The Republicans are insisting that there are inaccuracies on these watch lists.  There are, but this can be dealt with using existing technology and processes.

The Transportation Security Administration is responsible for the issuance of Transportation Worker Identification Credentials (TWIC).  Let’s say that a person needs to get into a federally restricted access area for work.  That person needs a TWIC, which has a picture, a microchip, and counterfeiting countermeasures built in, to enter the restricted access area.  Let’s say that the applicant for a TWIC is on a watch list or has some other potentially disqualifying factor.  The applicant’s application will be denied, but the applicant will also be given instructions on how to proceed with getting that decision overturned (see https://www.tsa.gov/for-industry/twic#quickset-twic_faqs_10).  If the applicant files for redress or requests a waiver, and is still not approved, the applicant can request a formal hearing with an administrative law judge (see https://www.tsa.gov/node/2852).  That is a due process hearing.  Would having to go that far take time and effort?  Yes.  Would a person who was initially prevented from exercising Second Amendment rights possibly be able to have those rights restored? Yes.

I am an NRA Life Member and Certified Instructor.  While I don’t want to run the risk of losing my rights or heading down a slippery slope, I could embrace this approach if the same level of diligence that is applied by the TSA would be applied to present and future firearm owners.

If you like this approach, do something about it.  Write letters to your representatives and senators.  IMHO, we’re focusing too much on firearms and not enough on those who wield them illegally.

The only solution to domestic terrorism

After the latest tragedy to hit Colorado, let’s hope the governments of the individual states and the federal government don’t make the same mistakes they have made to this point.  Metal detectors, full-body scanners, and bomb sniffing dogs would have all failed to prevent the shooting.  What needs to be done is what El Al Israel Airlines does.  El Al actively profiles everyone, not based on what they look like, but based on what they do.  The entire shooting could have been stopped by an old-fashioned theatre usher with a walkie-talkie that was trained in recognizing suspicious behavior.  In a theatre, profiling behavior is not all that complicated because there is a very small set of activities a theatre patron can perform without rousing suspicion: buying a ticket, buying popcorn, watching the movie, going to the bathroom, playing an arcade game, and leaving the theatre.

When the gunman left the theatre by an emergency exit only minutes into the movie, an usher that was paying attention would think it was strange for someone to have stayed up until midnight and purchase a $12 movie ticket just to run out on one of the most anticipated movies of the year.  All the usher would have had to do was walk down to the emergency door and check to make sure it was closed.  Apparently, the gunman propped the door on the way out, suited up for his killing spree, and returned minutes later.  The usher would have had to remove whatever the prop was and pull the door closed.  If the usher followed that with a quick call to the front desk of the theatre, a place that usually has one or two police officers nearby, the officers could have gone outside to see a frustrated gunman trying to break through a very heavy fire door that was designed to only open from the inside.

With his knowledge of binary chemical agents, the murderer could have even brought weapons into the theatre that would not show up on an x-ray or metal detector, and would be undetectable by dogs.  People trained in behavioral profiling would have spotted him long before he got to the place he could have used those things.  If you aren’t sure about this idea of behavioral profiling, take these two bits of information into consideration.  Since 1948, El Al has had only one hijacking.  Its most sophisticated weapon against terror is a pair of well-trained eyes.  Second, if you don’t believe in the ability of an observant person to predict someone’s actions merely by watching, then attend the World Series of Poker.  Doyle Brunson, a legend of the game, has made a career out of predicting the actions of an opponent through observing the slightest behaviors known as “tells.”  While maybe not as good as Doyle, there are tens of thousands of people in the US that have similar skills and make lots of money using them.

Instead of gambling with our security by putting fairly useless technology in the field, we need to invest in the finest machine walking the face of the Earth, a human being.