From the People, For the People: A Proposed Referendum on Gun Control

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We live in an era in which violence reigns. This violence often manifests itself in deaths by guns. Mass shootings at schools are commonplace. According to Education Week, there have been a total of 24 shootings in schools in 2023 as of May 25.  The opinions on how to deal with this phenomenon gravitate to the extremes. According to Toobin, many look to the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which has been interpreted by the US Supreme Court to guarantee the right of individuals to carry a weapon. The slogan is often heard and quoted by the National Rifle Association (NRA), “The only thing that stops a  bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” At the other extreme, calls to confiscate all guns from private citizens are often heard. Proposals to license all weapons are often seen as a stepping-stone to control.

 

Some folks want to let all Americans carry guns at all times. Others want to confiscate all weapons. A more moderate group intends to focus on gun safety.

 

This essay seeks to answer the question of what Americans are willing to do by the simplest method: asking them. No specific method is proposed. The mechanism for query is the referendum. The proposed Referendum is intended to resolve this issue by finding out what Americans really want. All Americans in all states and territories would have the opportunity to respond to the referendum, which would be written, organized, and administered by a Central Committee chartered by Congress. This essay aims to present some initial ideas that may be elaborated to determine a more developed version of the referendum the people may vote on.

 

The Gun Violence Referendum would be organized by a Central Committee whose responsibilities would be difficult and important.  The Central Committee would be broad-based with a similar role described in Warren Commission. The chair would most likely be the chair of the Supreme Court. Congress would determine the size and exact makeup of the Committee.

 

The Central Committee would determine specific questions on the Referendum. They would range from the very easy to the most challenging. An easy question might be, for example, would you be willing to register your firearm? A more challenging question might be, for example, would you be willing to surrender your firearm to authorities? Other questions that have been considered include if teachers should be armed in schools. This essay does not favor any specific questions. That will be up to the respondents.

 

The Central Committee will determine how the Referendum will be administered and how the results will be tallied. The ultimate goal will be to determine a set of statements the general public will agree with and incorporate into new legislation that will supersede all previous federal and state legislation.

 

It is logical to ask whether referenda of this type have been used in other countries. A logical example is the concept of the Citizens Assembly used in the Republic of Ireland. This is an assembly of exactly 100 citizens who are called together to consider changes in public policy. One of its most important decisions was to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution, which forbade the abortion of women.

 

Another forum was California Speaks which came together to discuss health care reform.  The group came together and discussed health care reform. Although considerable agreement was reached, it does not appear that specific programs have been enacted.

 

Finally, it is not the purpose of this essay to try to propose a compromise. A compromise implies a solution in which one party gives up something of value. That is not the goal. This essay examines ways in which all parties will be satisfied with the results and will reach a solution satisfactory to everyone.

 

To the readers, please do not underestimate the value of this proposal. To my knowledge, it is the only proposal submitted that aims to break the deadlock between the warring factions on this issue. Furthermore, it may even save lives. It’s now up to you.

 

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Scott Jackson, PhD

Scott Jackson is a research scientist with expertise in applied systems theory. He was formerly with the University of Southern California (USC) and the Missouri University of Science and Technology (MST). He is a Fellow of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE). He has published four books on systems engineering. He is currently a consultant for both Embraer of Brazil and Comac of China, offering advice on the use of systems theory in the design of commercial aircraft.

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