Norman Vandal: License and insure semiautomatic weapons like a car

This commentary is by Norman Vandal, a resident of Roxbury.

I propose the Semiautomatic Weapon Legalization and Regulation Act.

The AR-15 type, assault, semiautomatic, military-style weapon is responsible for incomparable carnage in mass shootings throughout the country. It’s a weapon designed to inflict maximum damage upon an enemy.

Unfortunately, it’s a weapon frequently used in mass shootings. In the civilian hands of an active shooter, it enables the shooter to either kill or injure large numbers of victims like no other weapon can do. This weapon comes with associated associated costs upon our society.

Medical costs: Pressure on medical first responders (training, special equipment, trauma, etc.); medical equipment: triage kits, special wound care supplies, tourniquets, etc.; ambulances: large numbers needed for larger numbers of victims; hospitals: more emergency rooms, trauma surgeons, blood, rooms, etc.; all sorts of increased medical personnel requirements; litigation: finding ways to cover the expenses of these injuries; insurance costs: increased claims, medical liability,

Law enforcement costs: Equipment: the militarization of police forces, equipment, paraphernalia; SWAT teams: associated expenses, training, transportation; guns and other equipment capable of countering assault weapons; communication systems in the case of an event; Frequent litigation, hearings, press conferences, etc.

Social costs: Loss, death, grieving, heartache; trauma, PTSD, emotional distress; anger fear depression in both adults and young people; disruption of communities; separation of families; Long-term physical and emotional injuries, chronic pain, paralysis, limb loss.

The premise of the act

Assault weapons were once illegal, and a majority of Americans feel they should be so today. However, proposed legislation fails time and time again for reasons that don’t need to be elaborated upon here.

So, it is time for a new approach. We need to codify through legislation the legal, undisputed, private ownership of these weapons. However, we need to regulate these weapons in ways that minimize the damage they cause and in ways that recover the costs imposed upon our citizens and our country.

Much as automobiles are titled, registered, insured and driven only by licensed individuals, the same thresholds should be established with regard to owning these weapons. If we do so, we are not denying what the owners of these guns claim are their Second Amendment right, but we are placing controls upon ownership of these weapons in ways that are already common in the ownership of other dangerous possessions in our society.

We are free to own motor vehicles, yet we must be licensed to drive them. They have to be titled, registered and insured, and we can drive them only in designated places. There are costs and responsibilities associated with ownership. Money accrued is used to support the infrastructure needed for automobiles.

There is an infrastructure required because of assault weapons. There is also a need to regulate assault weapons to minimize the dangers they inflict upon all of us. An assault weapon manufacturing tax per weapon should be assessed, much as how cigarettes are taxed.

The proposal for owners

All owners of these weapons would have to be federally licensed, even the police.

Extensive background checks upon each purchase, waiting period, written and performance tests, physical exams and needed psychological evaluations, educational materials to read and observe, yearly license renewals, random checks.

Assault weapon license fee $200 annually. All assault weapons must be registered, even those owned by police forces. National database (serial number, model, make, caliber) correlated to registered owners.

Manufacturing tax assessed upon manufacturers, per assault weapon.

The ultimate goal of assault weapon taxes is to improve public health, to extend lives, and to defray some of the inherent costs.

Owner fees: Owner registration fees (two-year renewal), one weapon $250 per year, two weapons $300 each per year, more than two $350 each per year, more than five $450 each per year.

All unregistered assault weapons must be surrendered and will be destroyed. Any assault weapons assembled from parts or otherwise not having manufacturers’ serial numbers cannot be registered and must be surrendered and will be destroyed. Assault weapons buyback plans to be established.

Titling, inspection of assault weapons: All assault weapons must have a title, like an automobile, even those in police ownership. A national database of titled assault weapons, correlated to owners. Title fees for each assault weapon $300, even for old weapons currently in private ownership.

No title or ownership transfers can take place without legal notification, payment of fees, new registration fee, background check procedures, etc. Gunmakers required to submit data on both new and older manufactured assault weapons.

Inspection of assault weapons: All registered assault weapons of any configuration must be inspected every year by a licensed firearm inspector. Inspections shall include checking for safety, for alterations, for modifications and for any alteration of model and serial numbers.

Any assault weapon that fails to meet specifications and/or is altered to make it noncompliant with the law will be immediately confiscated. An inspection fee shall be established.

Transfer of assault weapons: No undocumented person-to-person transfers, even to immediate relatives. All transfers must be done through registered gun dealers. All transfers subject to new background checks (seller and buyer), new registration and fee, new title and fee.

Sellers and buyers must both be licensed. Dealers must charge a fee of $150 to cover mandatory costs.

Use of assault weapons: Private use only on legal assault weapon owner’s own personal property or premises.

Public use only at federally licensed, registered and designated shooting ranges.

In addition to owners, any or all shooters of the weapon must be licensed. All use at ranges to be documented with title and registration check.

Range fee goes to range operators and to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Legal carrying of any assault weapon: To and from registered shooting ranges, to and from registered gun dealers and gunsmiths for sale, transfer or repair. No public display of assault weapons while being carried; no concealed carry of any assault weapon.

Only two magazines can accompany each assault weapon at any time during carry to either dealers or shooting ranges.

Liability insurance: Any assault weapon transported off the personal property or premises of a licensed owner for any reason must have liability insurance to protect the owner and any potential victims of accidents or assaults should the weapon be stolen and somehow misused.

Definitions of assault weapons

A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle, or a semiautomatic handgun larger than the .22 rimfire caliber, or a semiautomatic shotgun that can accept a detachable magazine with a capacity of more than five rounds (rifle and shotgun, 10 rounds for a handgun) and having any two of the following: A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon; a folding or telescoping stock; a grenade launcher or flare launcher; a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor; a shroud that is attached to or partially or completely encircles the barrel, allowing the bearer to fire the weapon without burning his or her hand; the capacity for modifications that enable the weapon to be fired automatically. Additional conditions may apply, depending on the weapon.


There are 20 million assault rifles in the US today. Clearly the proceeds from this act would total billions of dollars that could be used in myriad ways to minimize the costs associated with mass shootings. For example: funding mental health programs, making schools and businesses safe, and supporting medical establishments.

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Tags: AR-15, federal licenses, insurance, license fees, like a car, Norman Vandal, recover the costs, regulate weapons, semiautomatic weapons


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