In another discussion the proposal of universal gun registration (mechanism was requiring all gun transfers go through an FFL with background check, but the purpose was to ensure there was an unbroken chain of 4473’s to identify who owns a particular firearm–registration by any other name). The claimed goal was to ensure that legal firearms were not “inadvertently” sold to prohibited persons. The usual “to keep guns out of the hands of criminals” argument.
In the course of the discussion I made two counter proposals:
1) If a person can lose their rights under the 2nd Amendment via due process of law (and the 5th does allow losing liberty, which would include exercise of various rights, via due process of law), then said person can also lose their protection under the 4th. Why not, then, make a person convicted of a violent felony subject to search at any time for any reason, including the simple whim of the searching LEO? A person thus convicted who obtained a firearm would then be under constant threat that someone might pick them for today’s search and if found with said firearm, go back to spending a long period behind bars.
2) Why not have a “violent offenders registry” on the same model as the “sex offenders registry”? If everyone knows who the local violent criminals are, well, then only someone who is a criminal himself would sell a firearm to them, right?
Two different approaches. Sure, they’d have their own problems and issues that would need to be worked out. But they would be at least as effective, probably quite a bit more so, than the registration scheme at keeping guns out of criminal hands. (But then, it wouldn’t take much.)
Naturally, the “registration proponent” in that discussion did not address either of these proposals. Didn’t even acknowledge them at all. Nope, only “registration” was to be on the table.
So if registration is the only thing that will be considered and alternate proposals for achieving the same stated goal without the need of registration are dismissed out of hand as if they had never even been made, then one has to wonder what unstated goal remains that isn’t served by the alternate proposals.
Crime is a complex issue. The “solution” is likewise going to be complex. As much as some people want simple answers and others feed that desire in order to use it to get what they want politically the reality is that there are no simple answers. There is certainly no one answer, no magic pill that will make the problem go away.
Here are a few things we can do:
Concentrate law enforcement on actual violent offenses. That means we need to roll back the long list of crimes that are little more than annoyances. California made it an offense to “misgender” someone? An actual criminal offense? Every bit of effort spent enforcing as a criminal violation something that is, at worst, rudeness, is effort not available to catch murderers and rapists and get them off the streets. Since every crime out there is something that, in the extreme of non-compliance, police will kill over, you have to ask yourself: is this law worth someone being killed over? It won’t happen every time, but sometimes it will reach that point. Is it worth it? Eric Garner was killed for refusing to comply with a law regarding the taxation of cigarettes. Was that tax worth someone’s life? If it’s not, it needs to be taken off the books and the problem dealt with by means other than “pass a law.”
As part of that, we need to end the stupid war on drugs. Yes, the drugs in question are horrible. They destroy lives. But a lot of the problems associated with them–particularly the crime and violence–are not because of the drugs themselves but because they were illegal. We saw that with Prohibition. The “roaring 20’s” were “roaring” because of the crime associated with the illegal alcohol trade. In addition to the crime generated not because of the drugs themselves, but simply because they are illegal (not talking about illegal use of drugs here–that would be tautological–but things like gang wars over drug trade which is an “add on” from their being illegal), there’s also the severe damage to the US Constitution from the “war on drugs”. No knock warrants, many times delivered to the wrong house or based on false information, leading to innocent people, and their pets, being terrorized, abused, and even killed. “Asset forfeiture” where a person can be deprived of cash or valuable property simply on suspicion, without even being charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime. And if they’re able to get the property back at all (good luck with that) it’s only after spending extensive time and money fighting to have it returned (which is yet another way of depriving them of their property).
On that subject of law enforcement, we need to work on the “us vs. them” mentality of the police. Instead of “us” being the law abiding and “them” being the criminals we have an “us” of police and a “them” of everybody else. If I may make a movie allusion here, Robocop had it right in his prime directives. First was “protect the innocent”. Second was “serve the public trust”. Only number three was “Uphold the law.” (Of course, there was that fourth one, but we won’t get into that here.) We need to go back to “community policing”–“Peace officers” rather than “Law Enforcement Officers”.
Let people defend themselves, and have the means to effectively do it. Look, the vast majority of people are decent human beings. They’re the “good guys”. In a level playing field the bad guys are forced to work on at the fringes because otherwise if even a modest fraction of the majority who are decent turn on them and they end up out of circulation. But we don’t have a level playing field. The “good guys” face restrictions that the bad guys ignore (because they’re bad guys) and the “fringes” become a lot larger. (I know. I know. “If we let people be armed then…” Except all those dire predictions of what will happen if we let people be armed to defend themselves? They never materialize. Fender benders don’t turn into shootouts. Barfights don’t turn into gunfights. And blood does not run in the streets. Yes, I know “country X has strict restrictions and it has much lower crime than we do”. Well see above about “no simple answers” and go take a look at what their crime was like before they passed the restrictions. Hint: you’ll look long and hard without finding a place where they had high crime, passed gun control, and as a result had low crime. They had the low crime before they had the weapons restrictions. The weapons restrictions were not the cause.)
A lot of this crime is related to mental health problems. That, in itself, is a complicated issue. First off, not all mental health problems lead to crime. Most people with such issues live their lives perfectly law abiding (or at least as law abiding as anyone else–when the law is so pervasive and self-contradictory as it is, can anyone truly be “law abiding”?). There are several things that can help in that area. Many years ago, because of concerns about abuse, it was made extremely difficult to involuntarily commit an individual to in-patient mental health care. The abuses were real, but the need to be able to make such commitments was also real. The actions taken to alleviate the former we threw away the latter. We need to be able to ensure that those who are a direct and present danger to self and (particularly since we’re talking about crime here) others get the help they need to stop being such a danger. The flip side of that is some people are afraid of getting help because of fear of losing their rights (RKBA is a big one here: ever been treated with antidepressants? Lose your guns. VA says you can’t handle your own finances? No guns for you.) Such fears keep some people from getting the help they need early, when its more likely to be correctable lest they permanently lose their rights. Again, we need to find a way to deal with people’s problems without driving them away for fear of such consequences. And even if now they are a danger and have to have their rights suspended for that reason, they need to be able to have confidence that they can recover and have their rights restored.
There certainly is a lot more that can be done, but that’s a good start. Those are things that are likely to have an actual, real, effect on violent crime as opposed to “gun control” which won’t. Indeed, can’t.
So, when someone of the political class, in response to a horrific crime, calls for “gun control” rather than things like the above, it’s not crime they’re looking to control.