Gun Control

Gun Control Legislation

The Centrist Independent Voter policy position on gun control supports the Heller decision by the Supreme Court. That decision made it clear that there is a constitutionally protected, individual, right to bear arms. It also clearly states, as President Biden noted last night, that that right is not unlimited.

Now that Congress is considering passing legislation to codify some of the limits on gun rights, I think that CIVPAC should take sides on what those limits should be. Here is my list:

1) Banning the sale of high powered, semi-automatic rifles (i.e. assault weapons), or at a minimum raising the age to purchase these guns to 21, with waiting periods for anyone else wishing to purchase an assault weapon;

2) Banning the sale of high capacity magazines and bump stocks;

3) Raising the age to purchase any gun to 21;

4) Universal background checks with no loopholes for gun shows or online sales;

5) Red Flag laws that can prevent those who are under court orders from getting guns;

6) Regulation of “ghost guns,” (unregulated firearms that anyone-including minors and prohibited purchasers-can buy and build without a background check);

7) Making those who, through negligence or intentionally, allow their firearms to be used by others, legally liable for crimes committed with those firearms. This would, also, apply to those who illegally sell firearms.

Why Not Remove Liability Protection for Gun Manufacturers?

Much of this list overlaps with President Biden’s proposals. One thing that is missing is removing liability protection for gun manufacturers, for the use of guns in the commission of crimes. I view that part of the Biden package as a reward to the plaintiffs’ bar. The plaintiffs’ bar is to the Democratic Party what the NRA is to the Republican Party.

The reason why the liability protection for gun manufacturers exists in the first place is because many believe, with some justification, that without it law suits would effectively make the sale of firearms prohibitively expensive. Many view removing this protection as a slow form of banning the purchase of guns altogether. We do not hold automobile manufacturers liable if one of their cars is used to rob a bank or kills someone in an accident caused by the driver. It is not necessary to provide this kind of protection for automobile manufacturers because no one believes a jury would hold automakers liable under these circumstances. The same cannot be said for juries trying to find someone to punish after a mass shooting in which the perpetrator is dead.

At the same time, it would not be unreasonable to hold manufacturers accountable if they intentionally marketed legal guns that could easily be converted into illegal guns, when there was a way of manufacturing the gun that could easily prevent this from happening. The key here is to find a good faith method of regulating the industry that is not a gift to the plaintiffs’ bar and provides clear guidelines to the industry about what is legal and what is not.

For a thoughtful history of the Second Amendment and battles over gun control, see Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America, by Adam Winkler. Winkler is a professor at the UCLA School of Law and has been ranked as one of the twenty most cited legal scholars in judicial opinions, including landmark Supreme Court cases on the First and Second Amendments.

4 thoughts on “Gun Control

  1. Agree on all counts but have some thoughts
    1) The analogy to cars is VERY GOOD (and I’ve heard Mike say that before)
    2) The gun-show-loophole seems hard to fix.
    3) What about very small transactions- like a father gives his son his gun- not sure how
    that should be regulated or even if it should be.
    4) Pardon my ignorance- what are `ghost guns’ ?
    5) Red-flag laws would need to be written very carefully.
    6) Agree that Adam Winkler’s book is very good (disclaimer- he’s my cousin)

  2. I added a definition of “ghost guns” to the post. Thanks for the suggestion.

    If a father gives a gun to his son, the father should be liable for the son’s use of the gun until the son is 21. Also, if the father gives his son (of any age) a gun knowing that the son is prohibited from purchasing a gun (because the son is a felon or mentally unstable) the father would be treated as if he sold the gun to a prohibited purchaser. That would be my suggestion. I would also apply these rules to mothers, daughters, aunts and uncles. A number of these mass shooters have gotten guns from parents. It is a major issue.

    Agree that Red Flag laws need to be written carefully, but I think that can be done in a reasonable way.

  3. I am fine with this. Personally I would go much farther to put us in line with other modern countries. The right to bear arms, as written in the constitution, may or may not be interpreted correctly currently. I don’t think it is a god given right; maybe the constitution itself needs to be amended.

    I doubt these modest, reasonable suggestions will make much progress in Congress. A couple weeks after large mass killings, people seem to forget and the issue goes away.

  4. On the political realism scale I think passing this kind of legislation is far more likely than a Constitutional Amendment. I also think accepting the Heller decision as settled law could help move some gun rights advocates to accept some degree of regulation.

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