What would people think if lawmakers proposed giving others a
constitutional right to drive a car anywhere, at any time, even
through your front yard at four in the morning?
Three years ago, a Minnesota Senate committee attempting to
please the gun lobby, passed a bill giving a "fundamental
constitutional right" to hunt, a right that could not be
restricted even as to location or time of day.
Did these politicians really think the public wants to
guarantee everyone a constitutional right to hunt at 5 a.m. in
their neighborhood park?
In Minnesota, seven of every ten people say our laws make it
"too easy" for people to get guns. These are hunters
and sportsmen as well as people who don't want a gun in their
home. Yet many politicians are paralyzed with fear of the NRA.
But now, after Columbine and other high profile shooting
sprees, more and more politicians are rethinking their blind
opposition to gun control. Presidential candidate Bill Bradley
and former candidate Elizabeth Dole both publicly called for
passage of stronger gun control.
Now may be the time to establish a gun registration system,
similar to auto registration. There are many lawful uses for both
guns and cars, but both are deadly when misused.
With cars, we require the operator to be trained and licensed.
We register the vehicle, and re-register it when transferring to
a new owner.
But for guns, there is no licensing and no registration. This
is a loophole that enables criminals to obtain guns from a
private citizen, with no background check, no waiting period --
no means of enforcement at all.
Why don't we have a gun registration system? Because the gun
lobby has used its political clout and fear tactics to fight even
modest regulation. They say, "first they'll register your
guns, then the next thing they'll do is take 'em away."
Sure. Just like they did with cars...
Actually, the government does take away cars, but only from
people using them illegally. In Minnesota, drug dealers and
repeat DWI offenders forfeit their cars. Shouldn't we do the same
for criminals with guns too?
There are a number of lawmakers working on this issue. I have
pending legislation to license gun owners and register firearms.
It extends waiting periods and criminal background checks to
private gun sales. In addition, it puts a lifetime ban on gun
ownership for people convicted of violent crimes.
These modest proposals do not punish responsible gun owners,
any more than vehicle registration punishes responsible car
owners. But these proposals will help stop the arms race on our
streets where gangs and drug dealers are more heavily armed than
Despite public support for gun control, the gun lobby
continues to fight progress. It is well-organized and
intimidating. Lawmakers raising this issue are accustomed to
nasty phone calls. The NRA works to discredit these proposals,
and those who offer them. I am a moderate on gun control, yet I
have received an "F-" rating on the NRA report card,
because I seek responsible gun laws.
In the wake of Columbine, there has been a perceptible shift
in momentum on the issue. It's time for public officials to stand
up to the NRA, Charlton Heston and all.