A recent letter to the editor in the Post-Journal by Kevin P. Bimper suggests that there should be mandatory registration, insurance, inspection, etc. for guns, because in Mr. Bimper’s opinion, guns are like cars. I disagree with both his reasoning and conclusions:
Guns are like cars … the only difference is guns are referenced in The Bill of Rights (Amendment II, ”…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms…”); therefore, guns should be treated like cars, the only difference being gun control should be coordinated by the Federal Bureau of AT&F. ‘
At the state/county level, we should have Firearm Bureaus, which would operate like Motor Vehicle Bureaus (hopefully, more efficiently, though). People should be required to register, insure, and have inspected, their firearms, just as they’re required with their motor vehicles; people should be required to have Learner Permits or Shooter Licenses, just as they’re required to have Learner Permits or Driver Licenses. Firearms should include handguns, shotguns, rifles, AK-47s (illegal but still in existence), collectibles, etc., just as motor vehicles includes cars, trucks, vans, SUVs (legal but should not be in existence), classics, etc.
Mr. Bimper understates the importance of the Second Amendment. Guns are not just “referenced” in the constitution, but instead the individual right to gun ownership is enshrined in our bill of rights, and exists as a preexisting right at common law and as a basic human right. The Second Amendment right to gun ownership is no less important than the First Amendment right to freedom of speech/religion or the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.
As such, imposing burdensome registration requirements, which are ripe for abuse, would not be reasonable, especially since gun registration bear no relationship to crime prevention, as criminals don’t register their gun or obey gun control laws. Indeed, the Supreme Court case of Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 (1931) squarely addressed the type of unreasonable infringement of a fundamental right (freedom of speech) that Mr. Bimper’s suggestion can be analogized to. In Near, the Supreme Court struck down a “prior restraint” on free speech, which is where the government tries to force a person to refrain from publishing their writings without first getting governmental approval. The court explained that while it is true that harms such as libel can arise from having a free press, the harms from allowing the government to control what is published would be worse. Given the great potential for abuse of such a gun control plan, especially given the abuses of existing gun permit systems, I don’t see this being constitutional if/when the Second Amendment is incorporated into the 14th Amendment and applied against state/local government.
It is also important to note that there are many factual differences between the gun situation and the car situation, as I previously discussed in connection with such mandatory gun insurance proposals. Whether looking at this from a constitutional standpoint or just evaluating the reasonableness of this proposal on its face, I’m compelled to say that this gun control plan is not the great idea that its author believes it to be.
My thanks to Anders for pointing out this gun control plan.