I have described myself as a right leaning centrist and even used to call this blog a commonsense conservative. During the Trump era, conservatives moved to the right in a way that made me uncomfortable with that title, and I changed the name to what you see here, the card-carrying centrist. It was not intended to signal a change of positions – until today.
In all my years writing and thinking about politics and policy, I have stayed away from second amendment issues. I was not raised in a gun culture home and went shooting a few times and really hated it. Guns never found an exciting spot in my imagination. That being said, my position as a commonsense conservative often put me in discussion with second amendment proponents and in general, I supported their positions. Unlike a lot of other controversial issues, gun rights are clearly mentioned in the constitution, and that carried a lot of weight for me. I also noted that the places with the toughest gun laws, like Chicago, also had the highest instances of gun violence leading me to conclude that gun control laws hurt the good guys and did nothing to stop the bad guys.
Well, let me tell you dear readers, my opinion has changed. Following three mass shooting in the last two weeks, we need to take some serious action to reduce the easy availability of guns – particularly to young and mentally troubled people. There are a number of steps that make sense and I recommend all of them as listed below.
First, background checks need to be intense. It should be harder to own a gun than it is to drive a car. In addition to mental health and criminal records, a gun license application should require interviews or letters of recommendation confirming that the applicant is capable of responsible gun ownership. As a friend said about the Uvalde shooting Tuesday, “Somebody in that dude’s family knew that him having a gun was a bad idea.” We have to try to unearth those sources before handing out weapons.
Second, there needs to be a waiting period between the time that someone seeks to buy a gun and they receive a gun. It should be fairly long, like a month, it should be publicly disclosed, and the public should be invited to weigh in on the application. This would not mean that only popular people could own guns. Concerns would be vetted by qualified civil servants, only valid ones would be considered, lies would be removed, and perpetrators of harassment would be prosecuted.
I will suggest that these first two changes would be more successful than the existing red flag laws which have been demonstrated to be unreliable.
Third. No one under 21 can get a gun. You can’t legally drink a beer until you are 21. We all know that law exists because teenagers’ fearlessness, hormones, and inexperience lead them to do stupid things. Same here.
Fourth. No more assault weapons in homes – automatic or otherwise. I am not saying you can’t own them. I respect the rights of collectors. However, they must be stored in a licensed and regulated gun club, kept under lock and key, and accessed only within the property of that establishment. Honestly, I think it would be cool to own a howitzer, but it would be even cooler if it came with someplace to shoot it.
Fifth. No more gun shows – or at least as they exist today. If you want to go to a convention center, look at guns, place some orders, and experience some controlled shooting, newly designed gun shows would be the perfect place for that. But if you order a gun there, you have to have a license, wait for 30 days, have your application published online, and – if it is an assault weapon – have it shipped to the gun club where you are a member. Vendors who violate the regulations go to jail.
Finally, all these things would dramatically increase the cost of gun licensure and that’s OK. Government taxes people all the time. People in many states pay $1,000 per year in taxes and fees just to drive to work. There is no reason a starting gun license can’t cost $1,000 per year.
None of these things would prevent gun lovers from the joy they find in their hobby. But they would help to ensure that guns are not used against society. I remember a discussion I had with an anti-gun mom a few years ago. She argued that government should “just do something, anything – even if it is ineffective nonsense – just to show that the issue isn’t being ignored.” I disagreed with that argument, and I still do. Laws must be effective and few. Smaller government and fewer laws are good in general. But gun control is an area where we need more and toothier laws quickly. I don’t want to again experience the pit in my stomach that has been there the last few weeks.