Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Yes, we can compromise

A conversation at Snowflakes in Hell:

Joe Huffman said:

If ID were required to purchase a firearms and all government issued ID had a “firearms endorsement” check box just like “corrective lens required” then NICS as we know it would fade away.

To which Sebastian replied:

I agree with you. I’ve also heard the suggesting that plastering “Firearms Prohibited Person” on the state IDs of those convicted of disabling offenses, which I think I like better, since you can force a license re-issue with that stamp as soon as someone earns the conviction.

In a constitutional framework where you could have a simple licensing regime, as you describe, or as I’ve described previously, you could actually effectively get universal background checks, as our opponents claim to want badly, without NICS. You would also eliminate the need for a lot of burdensome regulations, like restrictions on buying in-state vs. out of state, etc...

But licensing has been a taboo subject because there was always a completely justifiable fear that it would be used to discourage gun ownership, and to track gun owners. But I can think of ways of handling licensing that would be completely non-burdensome. Certainly less burdensome and problematic than now.

I'm completely on board with this. Background checks are one of those common-sense ideas that turns out not to work in real life, like assuming a heavy rock will fall faster than a light one. It makes sense that checking every purchaser will stop criminals from getting guns, but then you try it and see no change whatsoever in crime trends, because it turns out that everybody knows somebody with a clean record who'll make the purchase for him. They don't work, and the way they're administered at present puts some serious burdens on the Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

The true benefit of background checks is the damage they do to other gun control arguments in the court of public opinion. When average Americans--who generally believe in the right to arms for self defense--learn that every dealer sale involves a check on the purchaser, they tend to rightly assume that we're doing all we reasonably can to keep guns away from criminals while respecting the individual's right to self defense, and mentally dismiss most of gun controllers' panicmongering. That's why the panicmongers fixate so much on private sales at gun shows, which have almost no relation to crime: it's the only place they can play the CRIMINALS FREELY BUYING GUNS game. So if it's possible to get the equivalent of a universal background check system while doing away with all or most of the pointless burdens of the current system, I'm all for it.

We're typically against the idea of "gun permits" because the states that have them (like New Jersey) make them difficult, expensive, and time consuming to obtain, to discourage the law-abiding from owning guns. But if it was a simple and automatic status-based note on your driver's license, then we could give anti-gun advocates exactly what they say they want while simultaneously addressing almost all of our concerns. If licensing and background checks are really about nothing more than stopping sales to prohibited persons, and aren't about eroding lawful gun ownership, then I eagerly await anti-gun groups' endorsement of this plan. They want to "close the gun show loophole"? Here's an easy path to getting exactly that.

Incidentally, I prefer a prominent "Firearms Prohibited Person" warning on disqualified IDs to a firearms endorsement check box for purely social reasons: imagine the sociological implication of looking at a person's firearms-purchaser status as a quick-and-dirty measure of his character. When, for example, waitresses checking ID on booze orders start thinking "this guy isn't allowed to buy guns; I'd better make sure he doesn't skip out on the check", that could go a long way in dissolving the remaining effects of the media demonization of gun owners from the 80s and 90s.


  1. It had better be "default= permitted." Rumor going around that Bayonne is telling people they are out of stock on blanks for FIDs and Permits to Purchase. Shame if all the DMV has the day you go to renew is the "not checked"-type licenses, yeah?

  2. Oh, and I have no problem with private people carding for gun sales, the way I do with a generally-accessible NICS system.

  3. the big, red "NO GUNS" bar should just be printed on the face of the card along with the rest of the unique info, so there would be no issue of which type is in stock.

    Assuming it's an automatic quantity on everybody's government-issued ID, the "oh, sorry, we have no forms" trick is largely solved on the spot. I expect the general public in anti-gun states would be significantly less tolerant of "no driver's licence issues or renewals" than "gun owners have to wait, but you keep doin' what you're doin'".

  4. That was my point, I suppose. That an unmarked license is permission to buy.

  5. Excellent. It's a bit shocking, once you get to thinking about it, just how easy this "issue" would be to fix if the gun control advocates really wanted what they say they do.

  6. IF they really were serious about safety and balancing rights, anyone with a clean record could purchase and carry, and schools would teach the Eddie the Eagle (or equivalent) to all