The Second Amendment is part of the Bill of Rights, a set of rights expressly singled out by the Founding Fathers for special protection. They’re not the totality of rights possessed by the people, but they are expressly laid out as rights the government shouldn’t be messing with. Unfortunately, three Senate Democrats apparently didn’t get that memo.
Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut just re-introduced the “Federal Firearms Licensing Act,” which was previously introduced in 2019 but failed to go anywhere.
“The Federal Firearms Licensing Act would put in place a certification process that includes firearm safety training and a thorough criminal background and identity check requiring the licensee be 21 years of age,” Menendez said, according to a press release. “We have a moral obligation to prevent these senseless massacres in our schools, supermarkets, places of worship and shopping malls that are tearing communities and families apart.”
For his part, Cory Booker said that “This bill moves us in the right direction and is based on a simple concept—if you need a license to drive a car, you should need one to buy and possess a gun.”
Blumenthal added that the bill would “save lives.”
For many, this may not seem like a huge deal, but it is.
First of all, let’s look at whether a licensing law would actually stop mass shootings. That’s at least part of the claim being made, after all. In the wake of Buffalo, the idea of raising the age to 21 to buy a firearm may sound attractive.
However, it should be noted that people who are interested in killing large numbers of people probably aren’t going to be deterred by the prospect of having to break a few rules. The most famous example of this reality is the Sandy Hook killer. He murdered his own mother in order to steal her firearm. Is it a stretch to imagine others would do the same?
Additionally, there are remarkably few mass shooters between the ages of 18 and 21 who lawfully purchase their firearms. Most are well above that age and wouldn’t otherwise be prevented from buying a gun. So, too, young would-be shooters are almost certainly determined enough to steal a gun or have someone purchase one for them. (You know, like underage people regularly do with cigarettes and alcohol.) That’s what the underage Columbine shooters did.
But the Democratic lawmakers claim that a licensing scheme worked well to reduce homicides in Connecticut:
“Several studies have shown that licensing laws reduce gun violence in states that have enacted them. According to the Giffords Law Center, Connecticut saw its gun homicide and gun suicide rates decrease by 28 and 33 percent, respectively, after passing a state licensing law.”
Now, if this is accurate, it would appear to be evidence in favor of the law. And, to be fair, the study cited actually does present those findings.
However, this study used bizarre methodology and cherry-picked its data, as Reason explained. The trends it observed did not hold outside of its artificially-selected time period and data set. So, it doesn’t actually back up a federal licensing regime.
Still, there are some who may believe that even if it doesn’t work perfectly, why not try requiring licenses for people to buy guns? It might seem common sense at first glance, and as Cory Booker points out, you do have to get a license to drive a car and do many other things in this country. But driving a car isn’t a constitutional right.
The right to bear arms in self-defense is both a natural and constitutional right, and we must not license away our rights. A licensing scheme, by its very essence, requires the government’s permission to exercise a given right. We wouldn’t begin to tolerate licensing the ability to speak about politics or religion, because that’s our First Amendment right. So why should we accept licensing on the right to own a firearm?
If a license can be granted, then it can be denied. (Especially if the government is planning on instituting a training requirement before you can even ask for that permission.) We need to look no further than New York to see how permitting processes can be used to block almost all people from fully exercising their gun rights.
We shouldn’t stand for this federal incursion as a matter of philosophy or principle. But there’s also no evidence to suggest it’ll even work as advertised.