I have just finished reading a lively and provocative Medium column by my friend Ladd Everitt, and I feel obliged to respond. Not that I have any real difference with him on the issue of gun violence; rather, I believe hi solution to the problem could be somewhat more nuanced, more realistic and most of all, possibly even coming true. So I left Ladd a handclap but now I’m going to give him a slightly different point of view.
Before getting down to the solution, however, I do want to say that his comments about the shenanigans which led to a Brady law that did not include a mandated waiting period are right on. At the time that Brady was passed, I happened to be living in New Jersey, where every purchase of a handgun required a separate application to the county sheriff whose approval process could take maybe a couple of days, maybe a week, maybe longer, who knew? But I never felt that this was some kind of burden being imposed on me; if anything, it gave me an excuse to go back to the store where I was going to buy the gun (my favorite being a wonderful outdoor sports emporium, Ray’s Outdoors, on Route 22 in Plainfield, the location now being a strip mall or some other nondescript place.)
What made the idea of a national waiting period chancy from the very start was not so much the opposition of the NRA, whose job it is to object to every gun-control bill, but to the requirement that the waiting period would be imposed so that local law enforcement could run a background check. Talk about an unfunded mandate – there was simply nothing in the bill which spoke to how local or state law enforcement agencies would bear the costs of this effort, which was one of the factors which doomed the waiting-period provision from the start.
Ladd’s argument for a national licensing system along the lines of other Western nation-states is made by just about every GVP advocate all the time. But why reinvent the wheel? We already have such a system, which happens to be the licensing procedures established in 1934 with the National Firearms Act, usually referred to as the NFA. This law, the first attempt by the feds to get into gun regulations big time, enumerated certain types of weapons, in particular, full-auto guns, for which private ownership required a serious background-check process by the feds. You may recall that last year Donald Trump’s idiot son tried to get silencers removed from the NFA list but the idea was buried thanks to what happened in Las Vegas on October 1st.
The fact is that the gun-control systems found in most Western nation-states happen to have been developed before or shortly after World War II and were modeled on our NFA. Why do these countries experience much lower rates of gun violence? Because they put handguns on the list of weapons which require both detailed background checks and an explanation for why the gun is needed at all. The original draft of the NFA also had handguns on the proscribed list, but this provision disappeared before the bill became law.
The problem with Ladd’s idea about national registration is that we would end up with a process which would be cumbersome, costly and complicated because of the millions of guns purchased each year, many of those weapons don’t contribute to the occurrence of gun violence at all. A concealable handgun like a Glock 43 or a Ruger LC9 is the weapon of choice for shooting someone down, ditto an AR-15. But does anyone really believe that a bolt-action hunting rifle like a Remington 700 or a Ruger 77 is a threat to public safety or public health?
We don’t need a whole new gun registration system in order to bring our horrific rate of gun violence down. We just need to regulate the sale and ownership of the most lethal weapons by listing them with the NFA.