While Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton was denying her intention to take away our guns, the N.Y. Times reported that party progressives think the time is right for gun control. Mere Democrat wishes don’t cause liberal media fantasies to come true, but perhaps conservatives are missing an opportunity.
I know, I know… but please hear me out.
There is a way to give the left what it claims to want, truly address understandable concerns about gun violence in the U.S., and simultaneously strengthen gun ownership rights for law abiding American citizens. Here’s what we do: We equate gun ownership with voting rights. Rather than registering guns we qualify and register gun owners.
We (Constitutional conservatives) begin with the reasonable allowance that gun ownership is not always a universal, absolute right—just like voting. We’ll propose that people should be citizens of this country before we allow them to buy a gun—just like voting. We’ll say that it’s okay to keep felons from buying guns—just like voting (we’re looking at you, Terry McAuliffe). And naturally, our efforts to register gun owners would include showing ID… just as it is responsible and proper to demand this of voters.
It is easy to imagine the howls of protests and rhetorical red herrings from liberals as we offer this smart approach for dealing with one of their pet issues. However, we would always come back to the fact that both voting and gun ownership are Constitutional rights. We could even have fun trolling them a little. How about requiring extensive instruction before becoming a gun owner in exchange for weeding out low-info voters? Probably a wise prerequisite on both counts.
The additional beauty of this plan is that it acknowledges the adage, “when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns,” by taking the focus off firearms. No more nonsense definitions for assault weapons, confusing regulations about clip sizes, or arbitrary prohibitions against ‘Saturday Night Specials,” etc. Instead, we go right to the root of any gun violence issues by emphasizing individual rights and responsibilities. The process includes consistently and equitably verifying and protecting Second Amendment guarantees, as well as disenfranchising specific individuals who engage in irresponsible behavior (of course disenfranchisement would require due process.)
Under our plan people can buy guns simply by showing their ID and gun owner registration. There would be no waiting period because the background checks took place with registration, and that process should not be much more onerous than proving you’re qualified to vote. Once you’re registered lawful firearm owner buying a gun becomes almost as easy buying a book. As a practical matter, it will also be a lot easier to keep track of individuals who own guns rather than the hundreds of millions of firearms already in this country.
We could prevent the government from easily disarming its population by leaving gun registration completely up to the owners. Gun confiscation would also become more problematic in that someone who is registered to own a gun might not actually possess one. As for true lawbreakers, if someone is found in possession of a firearm without being registered we must treat that as a real crime, just as we should when we discover voter fraud.
I realize the absolute last thing progressive’s want is an end to gun violence—that’s why their proposals ensure that criminals will keep their guns while disarming the rest of us (I suspect liberals sort of like the idea of DIY wealth redistribution). However, we aren’t out to convince left wing politicians or their media allies that gun owner registration is the way to go. Our target audience would be non-ideological American voters who are more likely to embrace pragmatism.
Clearly, there would be some details to work out such as age requirements, gun-ownership by legal immigrants, non-felony criminal offenders, drug abusers or mental illness. Perhaps voting rights advocates should willingly examine such concerns as well.
There is also the issue of states’ rights. Yet ultimately, pulling off this political jujitsu would only require holding firm to the premise that gun ownership and voting rights deserve the same thoughtful respect and proceeding from there.