Well, it’s happened again.
This time a school shooting in Maryland. The thoughts and prayers are sure to start pouring in anytime now.
But since I’m trying to be less political, I’m not going to waste a bunch of time here documenting how feckless, incompetent, and utterly craven the Republican Party is on this issue–log on to Twitter or Facebook and you’re sure to find plenty of that.
No, what I want to write about is what we could do–a solution that wouldn’t violate the Second Amendment or the rights of gun owners but would significantly cut down on the number of Americans killed by firearms.
It’s pretty simple: treat guns like cars. Licensing, registration, renewal, and insurance. And as with cars, each state could set their own rules about what that process looks like.
Let’s take a look at each aspect, comparing how we treat cars to how we should treat guns.
LICENSING: to drive a car, you have to have a license. The same ought to be true for guns, the only difference being that while we don’t require a license to buy a car, we should require a license to buy a gun, for the simple fact that it’s quite clear to see if someone is driving a car while the same cannot be said for owning a gun. In other words, with cars we can assume that at some point the police, DMV, or DEQ are going to check the owner of a car to see if they have a license, whereas with guns that’s not necessarily the case.
As with a license to drive, gun owners should have to demonstrate competency on a physical test at a gun range, showing that they know how to safely carry the weapon, load it, fire it, clean it, etc. In addition, they should have to pass a written test showing that they understand gun laws, how to store their gun, and whatever else the state deems necessary knowledge for gun ownership.
A final step we ought to add with guns that we do not require for a driver’s license (but maybe we should for cars too), is that the applicant pass a background check and mental health screening. We shouldn’t want people suffering from mental illness or criminals to own guns, and that isn’t controversial: 90% of Americans believe we should have universal background checks, and every time we have a mass shooting, we talk about mental health as well. This requirement to get a license would be a simple way to kill two birds with one stone.
REGISTRATION: as with cars, every gun ought to be registered so the state knows who owns guns as well as what kind of guns they own and how many. One excellent reason to require registration–a reason that also applies to cars–is so owners can report a stolen gun or car to the police, and the police then know what kind of gun/car has been stolen and where/who it was stolen from. It would also allow police to seize any guns that are not registered, whether in a routine traffic stop or a big time drug bust.
(For those who are paranoid about the government having any information on them, understand that corporations like Google, Facebook, etc. know far more about you than the government–and they are using that information–unlike the government, who can’t unless you’re the subject of a criminal investigation. Plus, it seems odd to me that the same people who argue the government shouldn’t know the identity of gun owners are perfectly fine with the government requiring ID if you want to cast a vote. Sorry, but if you want to own a gun, the government should have the right to know who you are and what kind of gun(s) you own. We ask that people identify themselves if they want to own a car, vote, go fishing or hunting, travel outside the country, or do any number of other things, and the same should be true of gun ownership.)
RENEWAL: As with a driver’s license, states should require gun owners to periodically renew their license so that their information is accurate and up to date.
INSURANCE: All gun owners should be required to carry insurance in the event that the gun(s) they own causes damage to property, injury, or death–the same thing we require of people who want to drive. Requiring insurance for gun ownership would serve two purposes: 1) it would serve as a check on people who want to stockpile weapons. Want to own 20 AR-15’s? Fine, but Statefarm is going to require a pretty hefty monthly payment to cover that liability. 2) Guns are dangerous, and if they’re involved in property damage, injury, and/or death, the owner ought to be held liable for the cost to society. We do this for cars–it seems quite reasonable we would do so for guns.
The reason I like this system is that it’s simple, it allows states to set up their own parameters for how the system is carried out, and it does nothing to curtail or impede on the right of Americans to own guns. Note: under this system, there’s no restriction on what kinds of guns people can own, nor on how many. All it requires is that those guns are registered with the state and covered by liability insurance.
Would some of this be a hassle for gun owners? Sure, but clearly the system we’ve set up isn’t working, and the reason it’s not working is that people who shouldn’t have access to guns are able to get their hands on them far too easily. The best way to stop that from happening is to require more accountability on the part of gun owners–and it doesn’t have to be onerous. To go back to the car comparison, no one particularly likes going to the DMV or DEQ, but we do it because we want to be able to drive, and in the end, it’s only a day or two at most each year that we have to deal with the requirements society has put in place to drive.
Is it really so unreasonable that we would do the same thing with guns?
No. It’s not. It’s just not. And the sooner we enact this sort of system, the more lives we’ll save.
Spread the word–it’s an easy, reasonable talking point: regulate guns like cars. Simple, smart, effective. And if you get someone who wants to argue, ask them if they think we shouldn’t require licensing, registration, renewal, and insurance for cars–if we should just allow a free-for-all on the roads?
My guess is they don’t–and if they do, maybe they’re not the sort of people who should be weighing in on these matters. Right?
Thanks for reading! Cheers!