The Answer to Gun Control
By Steven M. Edwards
Here is the answer to the gun control problem: Put a GPS chip on every gun so it can be tracked wherever it goes. Satellite networks can be programmed to send warnings to law enforcement whenever there are concentrations of guns or guns are in suspicious locations. If a person appears to be driving around with an arsenal of guns, law enforcement can check it out. If a person appears to be taking guns into a movie theater, a church, or a school, law enforcement can get there in a hurry. If multiple people with guns are converging on a concert venue, multiple law enforcement people can be there to meet them.
The chips can be programmed to identify the type of gun, just as a GPS system in a car can identify the make and model. Law enforcement will know whether the gun is an assault weapon or a hunting rifle. Law enforcement also will be able to pinpoint the location of guns that have been lost or stolen.
The chips can be programmed so it is possible to tell whether the gun is in the possession of law enforcement or a member of the public. If a police officer loses or sells his or her gun, the GPS chip can be programmed to give off a signal making it clear that the gun is no longer in the exempt category. Law enforcement will be able to follow guns after a crime has been committed, as well as before.
It should be relatively simple to program the GPS chip to give off a signal if it is no longer attached to the gun. Like a home smoke detector, the signal can be off so long as everything is in proper working order. As soon as the bond between the chip and the gun is broken, however, the alarm could go off.
It will be necessary to have a power source for the chip, but it should be possible to accomplish that with batteries. Watches have batteries that last for years. Rechargeable batteries are also a possibility.
A law can be passed requiring that every newly manufactured gun have a chip. Guns already in circulation would have to be brought to centers where chips can be embedded; otherwise they are unlawful guns. It may take some time, but after five or 10 years, virtually every gun could have a GPS chip.
The Second Amendment
GPS chips on guns would not violate the Second Amendment. No one would be prevented from obtaining a gun. GPS chips on guns is just a way of regulating the possession of guns. In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court made it clear that the government can regulate the possession of guns in various ways, including prohibiting felons and the mentally ill from possessing guns, forbidding the carrying of guns in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings and passing laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Compared to many of the restrictions on firearms that are universally accepted today, putting chips on guns imposes a relatively minor burden on the exercise of Second Amendment rights. GPS chips will have no impact on the ability of people to keep and bear arms.
Nor would GPS chips violate any privacy rights. GPS chips on guns would be like electronic license plates. We put licenses plates on cars so we can keep track of them. We recognize that cars can be stolen or used to commit crimes. Licenses plates make it easier to find cars, and they would make it easier to find guns.
It might be argued that there is no right to drive a car – it is a privilege – while there is a right to own a gun. But other constitutional rights are licensed in various ways. A speaker may be required to get a permit. A church may be required to identify itself in order to get a tax exemption. The Supreme Court in Heller explicitly recognized that the government may require a gun owner to get a license, so why not an electronic license?
U.S. v. Jones
The Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Jones is not an impediment. In Jones the Supreme Court ruled that placement of a GPS device on a car was a “search” under the Fourth Amendment. The Court did not rule that it was an unreasonable search – it left that question open because the government had not raised it. The fundamental problem in Jones was that the defendant’s expectation of privacy was violated when the police surreptitiously put a GPS device on his car. If GPS chips are put on every gun, no one will be surprised that they are being used for tracking purposes. It is not a search any more than tracking a plane by radar is a search.
The beauty of the GPS chip solution is that it answers the objections of gun control opponents. It will not keep guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens. It will not prevent people from carrying guns where it is permitted by state law. And it will be far more effective than measures such as background checks.
Whenever a mass shooting tragedy occurs, the opponents of gun control suggest that the tragedy could have been averted, or at least minimized, if the victims had guns to protect themselves. Those on the other side of the argument express concern about innocent people being killed if untrained people try to use guns to protect themselves. My proposal for GPS chips on guns provides a compromise: By enabling law enforcement to determine whether guns are in the wrong places, law enforcement can get there quickly and use their training to provide an effective response.
Think of what law enforcement could have done if it had detected Adam Lanza when he was 10 miles away from the Sandy Hook School with a cache of weapons. Think of what would have been possible if the police in Aurora, Colorado, had been alerted as soon as James Holmes entered a movie theater with guns. Consider what the people enjoying a holiday party at the San Bernardino Department of Health could have done if they had known they were in danger as soon as Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik entered the parking lot. Imagine the lives that could have been saved at the Bataclan Theater if the police had known that there was a carload of people with guns driving through the streets of Paris.
It is a solution too good to pass up.