License them already!

German Lopez (who’s just been killing it on gun policy the past few days– because he’s been writing great articles on the topic for years), with a good look at Cory Booker with some bold gun proposals that would actually make a difference in gun deaths:

But Booker’s plan goes further by requiring that gun owners not just pass a background check but obtain a license to be able to purchase and own a firearm. It’s a far more robust gun control proposal than any other presidential candidate has proposed. The idea has solid research behind it, [emphases mine] and real-world experience in nine states that currently require a license or permit for at least handguns, including Booker’s home state of New Jersey…

Booker’s proposal would require people to obtain a license to purchase and own a gun. To obtain a license, people would go to designated outposts — similar to the passport system — to get a federal license, administered by the FBI. Applicants would need to pay a fee; submit paperwork, a photo, and fingerprints; sit for an interview; pass a comprehensive background check; and go through gun safety training to get a gun. The license would be valid for five years, although it could be rescinded if someone breaks the law or otherwise proves to be a danger.

That’s similar to what states that currently mandate licenses for guns already do. Booker’s home state of New Jersey, for instance, requires that people obtain a permit from local or state police to buy a gun. The process entails extensive vetting in which applicants submit personal details (including about their past), go through a typical background check, and waive confidentiality for psychiatric and mental health records…

Beyond licensing, Booker’s plan would also establish a national database to register and track guns. This, again, is a key component of Massachusetts’s law: By providing a way for law enforcement to track all guns in the state, they’re also able to know which weapons to take away if someone’s license is revoked due to, say, criminal activity…

Critics say that licensing and other restrictions put too much of a burden on gun owners. But in Massachusetts, for example, more than 95 percent of applicants get approval. While the process does take time and effort, advocates say it does a better job weeding out potential wrongdoers than simple background checks…

In short: Establishing a background check system, as the US has already done on a national scale, likely has an effect. But making the system more comprehensive or universal doesn’t seem to have a significant effect on its own, at least at a population level. Researchers say that could be linked to several factors, from the difficulty of enforcing universal background checks to poor record-keeping for some states’ existing laws.

Similarly, other research has suggested that while an assault weapons ban may have some impact on the deadliness of mass shootings, it would have little to no impact in other areas. That’s in large part because the great majority of gun deaths — more than 70 percent of homicides — involve handguns, not assault rifles.

That’s not to say that the non-licensing measures would do nothing. In fact, universal background checks are an inherent part of the licensing systems that exist so far: Such background checks are necessary to verify that someone really should be able to obtain a license.

But licensing specifically would likely be far more effective than the typical proposals put forward by Democrats. A Johns Hopkins study, which found that comprehensive background checks alone correlated with more firearm homicides in urban counties, found that licensing systems were the one policy associated with fewer firearm homicides.

Also, really liked Frank Bruni’s take from his latest newsletter

Shortly after the El Paso blood bath, The Times resurfaced a compelling analysis by my colleagues Max Fisher and Josh Keller that was first published in November 2017. Three statistics from the article, which I cannot recommend highly enough, jumped out at me. Two are from this paragraph:

“Americans make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns. From 1966 to 2012, 31 percent of the gunmen in mass shootings worldwide were American, according to a 2015 study by Adam Lankford, a professor at the University of Alabama.”

Yes, that’s a correlation, and it doesn’t establish causation, but it’s damned hard to dismiss, especially when married to the article’s revelation that the United States had 270 million guns and 90 mass shooters from 1966 to 2012, while no other country had more than 46 million guns or 18 mass shooters in that time period. (According to more recent articles, like this one, there are now 393 million civilian-owned guns here, or 1.2 for every person.)

We need much stricter laws regarding guns not just to address specific situations but also to address the larger picture, one in which guns are so wildly prevalent and weirdly blessed that of course they wind up in the hands of the wrong people. Inevitably those people think first of guns when seized by their murderous impulses. And naturally people around them fail to spot or wonder about their acquisition of those weapons. With this many guns in circulation, what’s to notice?

All these guns are also complicit in our current rash of suicides. They additionally lead to accidental deaths galore. Remind me: What’s the upside? This amount of guns goes far, far beyond self-protection or anything the Second Amendment was sanctifying.

Besides which, that amendment was written in an era so different from ours that to fetishize it the way the N.R.A. and many Republicans do is an act of historical perversity and a willful abandonment of common sense. My colleague Bret Stephens, a conservative, made this point among many others in an excellent column nearly two years ago that argued for the repeal of the Second Amendment.

So I don’t care, nor should you, about whether individual gun-safety measures insure against discrete tragedies in the future — as if we could know that. I care about an end, finally, to this country’s needless, self-destructive glorification of guns. Legislation is one tool with which we can try to accomplish that. Let’s use it.

On a related note, both Jeffrey Toobin and Adam Gopnik have very smart things to say about the Second Amendment.  Conservatives through long effort literally changed the meaning (completely at odds with history– “well regulated militia” anyone?) and liberals can gradually work to change that back.

Far more importantly, though the landmark 2008 case of DC vs Heller did not strike down gun licensing or banning of particularly lethal weapons (here’s looking at you assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition).  It established the individual right to own a gun for self protection and it was clear (if vague) that reasonable limits could be placed on this without undermining that right.  The state licensing laws that Lopez writes about have not been struck down by courts.  Assault weapons bans have not been struck down by courts.  The 2nd amendment is not the key impediment.  It is the gun culture that Bruni identifies and Democrat’s overreactive fear of it, that needs to change.  But we can get there.  And we sure need to to end this stupid, pointless, wanton slaughter.

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Photo of the day

So, at a recent crafts fair visit (I love crafts fairs!) I was especially impressed by one vendor’s display of his recent photos to Australia.  Somehow, I had never heard of the Twelve Apostles rock formations.  They are amazing!  I so want to go there some day.  Anyway, here’s a really cool shot of them I found on Flickr.

The Twelve Apostles (Australia)

M. Kuhn

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