Perhaps it's because I see nothing on the horizon that threatens controversy, since the discussion of a nascent smoking ordinance surely won't ruffle any feathers. Or perhaps it's because I just can't stand the implications of the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the D.C. handgun law. But whatever the inner current, I'd like to make a modest proposal which has plenty of obvious local effect but little chance for local birthing.
The National Rifle Association has become the recognized voice for all in the U.S. who own guns or hunt. Find a gun owner or a committed shooting hobbyist and I'm not sure they would assign such high position to this organization but the media are sure willing to make the assumption that the NRA offers the definitive view of the place of firearms in our country. It's kind of like the Beef Council's opinion of "what's for dinner", but the media in its varied forms is not known for discernment.
My modest proposal is an odds-on loser with the NRA. I don't, however, think I've seen this particular trial balloon aloft. I think only infrequently about guns, and then mostly the thought that I don't want one launching a lead projectile in my direction. (I don't see the need to hurl lead in the direction of other living creatures either since we've long established that protein can be harvested from many other sources, nuts, cheese, Krogers to name a few. But truly that's another topic for another day.)
My proposal is simply this: a license for firearms users and stiff, hefty, onerous fines and sentences for those caught in possession of a firearm and no license.
The NRA wants nothing to do with gun registration. It wants nothing which could lead to confiscation of firearms; this is the scenario that ends in someone's cold dead fingers being pried from the barrel of a gun. Is it possible the NRA could stomach licensing of firearms users?
The license would be issued to those without felony records, who have no history of serious mental illness, and who have completed a gun safety course offered by qualified instructors.
This would place the use of a deadly instrument into the hands of those at least nominally and minimally qualified to do so; similar to the licensing of operators of automobiles. Those caught in possession of a firearm of any kind, but without a license would face a fine and/or sentence, possibly including forfeiture of the gun.
Since this in no way states that the owner of a license is also the owner of a gun, it could not be construed as registration of firearms. It could prevent the purchase of guns at gun shows if a purchase is attempted by an unlicensed buyer.
Of course the standard refrain could often be true here. A criminal would likely not have a license for the gun used in a crime. So what? At least law abiding citizens would have to prove they are nominally competent to own a gun. That's an improvement over what we have now. And it might prevent some of the needlessly tragic accidental shootings of children by children as the parents are better educated about safety. It might possibly have prevented an incident such as the shooting last week in Henderson, Kentucky, which was carried out by a man with mental illness.
Licensing of gun users seems like a sensible response to the obvious danger posed by the proliferation of guns in America. This proliferation suggests a climate not too unlike the Wild West. The NRA's response to the Supreme Court case, on the other hand, is just plain nuts. The NRA has filed suit against the Public Housing Authority in San Francisco to disallow a gun ban within public housing property.
If the NRA gets its way, its theory goes, more people will be armed and those who pull a gun are thereby more likely to be shot down by their fellow citizens, thus insuring safety for the residents of public housing. And they wonder why people call them "gun nuts".