The voters have spoken. I will admit my relief at seeing the phrase “President-Elect Donald Trump.” There has been a lot written out there on Trump’s position with the 2nd Amendment. He recently announced a 2nd Amendment Coalition, which includes some heavy hitters in the industry and government.
It seems the next four years will be good to us gun owners, or at least not as antagonistic as the last eight have been. With that said, what are my hopes and dreams for new policies? What follows are my top five realistic and workable policy changes. I realize there are a lot of folks out there who want to go balls to the wall and declare constitutional carry and a removal on all restrictions, but that path is about as realistic as Dianne Feinstein’s plan to tell, “Mr. and Mrs. America to turn them all in.”
Like the prohibitionists’ incremental limitation of rights, our best path is the incremental expansion of rights. The prohibitionists institute a new restriction, which both sides really know won’t do anything, wait a few years and then claim that more must be done. Rinse and repeat until they get to their ultimate goal of a British-style ban on ownership. Our path should look similar, except that we return rights back to the people and demonstrate that nothing resulted. There will be no blood in the streets, there won’t be a sudden uptick in bank robberies with exotic weaponry. We make the case that these rights belong to the people, and we expand them while also attacking the economic, social, and criminal root causes of violence.
With that said, here are my top five suggestions:
50-State CCW Reciprocity/National CCW License
This is something that has already been identified by the incoming administration. The main argument against this has always been that a state like California thinks that the training/permitting requirement from a state like Montana is too lax and allows an individual to obtain a permit in one state that would otherwise not be able to do so in a more restrictive state. This is, frankly, a silly argument. The same could be said of obtaining a driver’s license.
When I received my license in Florida, I took a short multiple question test and drove around a parking lot for five minutes demonstrating that I know how to stop, use signals, park, and perform a three point turn. My wife, from another state, had to drive on highways, city roads, parallel park, and do way more than I did. Both of our driver’s licenses are good in all 50 states and even foreign nations. It’s good for commerce.
The answer for CCW lies in the establishment of a suggested common national training and qualification standard. Note that I didn’t say it’s a requirement, but a suggestion. The reasoning here is that the states remain free to enforce whatever standard they wish on carrying within their own state, as is their right, but to also allow for a common accepted standard agreed upon by all the states. The existing Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) could be the lead on establishing the standard, creating the training, and certifying instructors. Once this is done, any CCW license with the requisite CMP-certified training standard is recognized in all 50 states.
Stopping the End-Run on Commonly Used Firearms
When the Heller decision was handed down in 2008, followed by McDonald in 2010, it was expected to be a new era in 2A rights. We believed that those decisions signaled the high court’s intent to squash many of the 2A infringements seen all over the country. The “common use” language gave us hope that assault weapons bans would be torn down on the coasts; after all, how can you get any more “common use” than the most popular rifle sold on the market?
However, those decisions ended up being very narrowly interpreted (or outright ignored) and the states have gotten away with it with relative impunity. California, for example, has continued to strengthen its already over-the-top laws that have forced residents to choose from as list of outdated pistol designs rather than the best the market currently has to offer. Several states have broadened the definition of “Assault Weapon,” implemented broader registration schemes, and even talked of confiscation of the newly-minted contraband. When the laws have been challenged, the high court chooses not to engage and emboldens the lower states to continue on their merry way.
My hope is that the appointment of new supreme court justices would stop this end-run and get the country on the same page. Furthermore, I would love to see a more concrete definition of “in common use” and preempt the states from infringing upon it. Of course, such a concrete definition has risks as well, as actually defining it may cause problems for newer designs down the line that have not yet reached the status of “in common use.”
Streamlining the NFA Process
There is no denying the huge increase in NFA-related purchases in the last decade, particularly relating to suppressors and short barreled rifles. There has already been a bit of a groundswell to remove suppressors from the NFA, and we should support that act, but I’m thinking bigger picture.
I realize that repealing the National Firearms Act of 1934 is probably not going to happen. But it was written nearly a hundred years ago, and there are provisions of it that can surely be updated to take advantage of modern technology. The NFA background check system is notoriously backlogged for months, with many people waiting up to a year to take their already purchased property home. This simply shouldn’t be the case, since the NFA background check is essentially the exact same thing as the modern NICS check that every firearms owner does when they purchase from a licensed dealer. The reality is that NFA paperwork ends up sitting in a file on someone’s desk until an examiner can get around to checking it. Add to that, individuals must then do the same paperwork, pay the same fees, and wait the same extended amount of time for every NFA purchase they make. It is a waste of time and resources.
So here is what I would prefer: If we’re going to maintain some kind of system for tracking NFA items and owners, then make it a one time thing. Have that person apply for an NFA license and perform the required background checks at the time of application. Once the license is granted, then the license holder is entitled to purchase any NFA items they wish. With each purchase, another form (like a 4473) is completed with the dealer that links the NFA item with the license. Cash and carry. Easy.
Repeal of the “Sporting Purposes” Clause
A little known component of the 1968 Gun Control Act was the introduction of language that gave the ATF authority to determine if imported weapons were suitable “for sporting purposes.” Hunting and organized target shooting (read: NRA High Power) were considered sporting purposes. Target shooting, plinking, and competition like today’s 3-Gun were not. Things like large magazine capacities, the ability to rapidly reload, and menacing appearance were considered military features not suitable for sporting. This act basically stopped the importation of foreign surplus weapons that weren’t already very old designs (i.e. the ubiquity of Mosin-Nagants).
This language was later added to in the 80’s, and then served as the basis for most of the Assault Weapons Bans in the country.
Frankly, this language is obsolete and was written in a pre-Heller decision era. Here’s a good summary of the Heller findings as written in by the Illinois Supreme Court in People vs Aguilar (emphasis mine):
In District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008), the Supreme Court undertook its first-ever “in-depth examination” of the second amendment’s meaning Id. at 635. After a lengthy historical discussion, the Court ultimately concluded that the second amendment “guarantee[s] the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation” (id. at 592); that “central to” this right is “the inherent right of self-defense”(id. at 628); that “the home” is “where the need for defense of self, family, and property is most acute” (id. at 628); and that, “above all other interests,” the second amendment elevates “the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home” (id. at 635). Based on this understanding, the Court held that a District of Columbia law banning handgun possession in the home violated the second amendment. Id. at 635.
Nowhere does it mention “sporting” in the finding. In fact, the high court ruled that the 2nd Amendment explicitly allows common citizens to own weaponry for the purposes of self defense. As such, we should remove language from our laws relating to firearms being used primarily for “sporting purposes” and allow people to own any firearm that best suits their needs.
Promote the Safe Participation in the Shooting Sports
Education is the key to the future. There are very few problems in this country that are not solved through better education and exposure. It is ironic to me that the very same people who scream for better education as it relates to sex, drugs, and other controversial issues will happily advocate for the abstinence route when it comes to firearms. I understand why they behave this way. They want to remove shooting from the collective culture so that it dies out with the aging generations who actually enjoy it. The young generations, they hope, will not have the interest or means to participate and therefore the “obsolete” 2nd Amendment will die a slow and gleeful death.
I’m pretty sure they don’t understand the influence of Call of Duty, Battlefield, and Nerf. Hell, I initially became interested in shooting because of my years competitively playing Counter-Strike. I remember convincing my father to buy a H&K USP 9 Compact as his first gun, because that’s what the good guys started with in that game. I still kick myself for not offering to buy it off of him before he passed away.
If you really want to make a difference, then stop fighting our historic culture and embrace it. Encourage participation in the shooting sports by better utilizing the CMP, NCAA programs, and helping provide more and better places for citizens to participate in the wide variety of sports out there. Show the country that the shooting sports are a safe and enjoyable way to interact with firearms. Help them lose their mystique, and empower the common person to take care of themselves and their communities.