Thus far in this discussion, we have yet to genuinely consider a compromise. I am not even sure if we remember what a compromise looks like. Because in this case, it isn’t the elimination of private firearms, and it isn’t a continuation of essentially no regulation. Nor does it look like Donald Trump’s description of a trade deal, where we “win” by sticking it to the other guy. The idea is not to beat the opposition, particularly when that opposition represents your own countrymen. The idea is to arrive at a solution that satisfies both sides, and then we all win. The one arena this doesn’t apply to is the current election process, where this type of work does little to strengthen a campaign. Which is why our leaders are disinterested. They don’t have time to waste on work that will not keep them in office.
It starts by considering the essential pieces of the opposition’s viewpoint. You have to understand that viewpoint, you have to validate it as a logical ideology, even if you don’t share it. Not easy.
On the one hand, we have literally millions of firearms in circulation that were designed with one purpose: to kill things. We need to control these. This is not an unrealistic position, and even if we say that we have a right to bear arms, the manner in which we interpret our constitution’s protection of other inalienable rights – like speech and press – allows for that control.
On the other hand, we have a need to maintain our ability to protect ourselves, both from others in society, but perhaps more so from the potential actions of our government itself. This is also a very valid stance, built upon the fundamental ideology of our nation. And it means that we cannot allow the government to regulate that right if we are to guarantee our ability to resist that very entity.
OK, so we need regulation, and it can’t be the government that does it. Why is this so difficult to resolve? Have a private regulatory agency. It is so obvious, the fact that it has not been done should make you ask the questions I want you to ask: WTF have these people been doing? How long do we intend to go like this? How many decades more will we perpetuate a system that puts leaders in place who are gifted only at campaigns, and are dissuaded from actual compromise?
A private regulation for firearms is actually preferred. For one, it doesn’t cost you the taxpayer any money, where government regulation does. The financial burden should be borne by those who chose to participate; you have a right to have a gun, but if I am not interested, I shouldn’t have to pay for it.
Second, it is far easier to include assessment of mental health, an absolute essential component of effective regulation, which would be extraordinarily complex for the government to implement with today’s healthcare privacy regulations.
Most importantly, you already have the infrastructure, the technical knowledge, and the motivation to do it effectively. And you have all of that wrapped up in an organization that has fought so hard against the government intervention that they simply cannot refuse being asked to take on the task themselves: the NRA.
I for one understand that I am walking into a barroom brawl. This topic – like many of our most contentious – is not being calmly, rationally discussed anywhere. Both sides have been marginalized through our climate of political inflammation. No one stands in the middle. We only have two types of people: those that believe we should all hold hands, sing songs of love and peace, and commit to a diet of wild-grown nuts and lettuce. And then we have those that feel we should rally our efforts to provide fully loaded assault weapons to everyone as they are released from local mental hospitals and prisons, with maps to the nearest churches and schools.
The NRA (aka the “gun lobby”) is currently pushing for national concealed carry reciprocity, and that legislation is being fought by the “anti-gun lobby.” If you look at the arguments on both sides, you will see that neither is really considering the position of the other. Everytownresearch.org begins with a dramatic story of a nut-job who goes on a shooting rampage. I have to ask, does anyone really believe that this guy was careful in considering the legalities of his actions? Maybe this legislation is peripheral to the real discussion, and by simply shouting insults instead of listening, we are in effect shooting ourselves in the foot.
A better overview of the issue is (somewhat ironically) posted on Aljazeera.com. If we calm down and consider things just a bit, we might see that reciprocity primarily affects law-abiding citizens (sorta by definition), and primarily if they happen to be travelling. But I am not here to even work on this issue, I am simply pointing out how peripheral it is to the real issue: a complete lack of ongoing assessment of a gun owner’s competence. Because both sides are simply hurling insults, we are stuck in a stalemate, and politicians churn over laws that in reality have virtually no effect on anything but our psyche. The passing or suppression of this legislation, like the assault weapons bill of the 1994, will have exactly zero impact on gun violence, and will instead have its greatest effect at voting booths.
We have to rationally evaluate what we are trying to do and come together in a productive manner. And that means leaving the playground behind.
The National Rifle Association is largely misunderstood by those on the left side of this discussion. But that misconception is brought on by the same political environment in which it operates. For those who believe the world would be a better place had the gun never been invented, the NRA is a bastion of insanity, seemingly staffed by lunatics who thrive on senseless violence. For supporters of the second amendment, the NRA represents the primary force in preventing brainwashed sheeple from allowing the corrupt government to systematically disarm its subjects prior to bending them to a sinister, self-gratifying plan. Perhaps the real truth lies somewhere in the middle.
If you are going to stereotype the typical NRA member, at least get it right: they are patriotic, knowledgeable, organized, fervent supporters of our constitution. If you don’t know any members, if you haven’t been to a class such as a course for concealed carry, if you aren’t truly educated about that which you oppose, then you need to listen prior to passing judgement. Likewise, those on the other side of the aisle need to recognize that yearning for peace, regardless of the implausibility, does not make you a lesser American.
An artful compromise satisfies the needs of each side. On the one hand, we want regulation of firearms. On the other, we want the freedom to defend ourselves independent of intervention from the government.
There is delightful irony in privatizing firearms regulation: those arguing against that very regulation have no more argument. Furthermore, the process would build that same organizations membership base and involvement. Think about the implications of that fact: if the NRA set in place the licensing system for ownership of firearms and purchasing of ammunition, its membership would grow dramatically. And no, that’s not a bad thing. At present, anti-gun folks dread this, but remember that the increased participation would be commiserate with increased scrutiny, and isn’t that what we are really after? Personally, my primary criticism of the NRA is the fact that they have not been leading the way down this road.
We cannot pretend that the gun lobby does not exist. What? Did you think we stepped into some utopia where these things are not genuine factors in the forces that shape our society? (I am encouraging us to work towards that goal, but until then, let’s be realistic, shall we? And that’s for another blog). Requiring regular training to maintain licensure would only serve to increase the sale of guns and ammunition. And gun manufacturers, despite the meme’s to the contrary, don’t actually want to sell guns and ammo to bad guys, they just want to sell guns and ammo. And this would let them do that, again, in parallel with ongoing evaluation of said owner’s fitness.
What would the requirements for licensing look like? My suggestions would include regular demonstration of competence (every two years?) to maintain a license for purchasing any firearm or ammunition, which would include some form of a mental health exam. The more dangerous the weapon, the more stringent the requirements, not unlike a driver’s license. If you want to drive an 18-wheeler, you need a bit more training. The details would need to be hashed out, but keep in mind: at present we have nothing. Anything is better than nothing.
Compromise is easily achievable. We just have to make an attempt to come together, to work together, to validate the opposing point of view, to find a solution that satisfies both of those views. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be good for anyone’s campaign. Because genuine solutions aren’t good for campaigns, winning is good for campaigns. And when it comes to our government, anytime one side wins, we all lose. Even the victorious.