Regulating things that hurt society: Exploring the Second Amendment (Society’s Slideshow)

By Dave Palmer

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

These 26 words are the center of much discussion and controversy lately in our country. So much so, that President Obama sees the need to discuss it in the upcoming February 12 State of the Union Address, and has prompted him to sign executive orders dealing with universal background checks and other regulatory controls.

This prompted Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association and others to cry foul. The claims range from the preposterous (and unfounded) idea that President Obama is “coming for our guns,” to the more likely assertion that criminals won’t follow gun regulation laws.

It is at this point that I gave pause to consider all the things in our society that are regulated because they have hurt our children, hurt society, or simply have licensing requirements to purchase and/or own it. In all cases, there is compulsory cooperation and consequences when these people don’t cooperate.

Cars are the most notable example. You must have a valid driver’s license to even climb behind the wheel. If you want to own the vehicle, you have to purchase a license plate, purchase insurance, and obey all the traffic laws. If you sell your car, you have to report it to the Secretary of State, and transfer the title of ownership to the new owner.

Wait a minute,  criminal’s won’t follow these laws!

If you fail to follow the licensing or title requirements, you could go to jail. If you fail to follow the traffic laws, you get a fine or wind up behind bars if the offense is serious enough. Nobody comes to get your car if you don’t have a license plate for it, and despite the fact that criminals might not obey these laws, there are law enforcement agencies to catch these people.

Ok, I’ll admit, if you use a car for its intended purpose, it won’t hurt or kill people. All right, then let’s focus on something that hurts and kills people when it’s used for its intended purpose: cigarettes.

If you want to buy a pack of smokes from the store, you have to be 18 years old and be able to provide photo identification that proves your age. Prices of the cigarettes are controlled by the state, and taxes collected on their sale.

Once again, there’s that problem of criminals not following the law. Not all stores ask for ID all the time, and some will sell to people who are unable to produce a valid picture ID. Besides, an 18 year old could buy cigarettes for his 16 year old friend.

Of course, those who knowingly sell to minors could be hit with a fine of several thousand dollars if they are caught. Anyone caught buying cigarettes for a minor could be found guilty of contributing to the delinquency of  a minor. A minor caught with cigarettes will be charged with being a minor in possession of tobacco.

Still not convinced? Then tell me what happened to lead paint. Why is it that children’s toys are immediately recalled if they are found to be dangerous? Why is it that there is a strict limitation on the amount you can purchase of ammonium-nitrate and fertilizers that contain that chemical?

The answer is simple. They have all hurt someone, or perhaps a group of people. They present a danger to society, and so therefore have been regulated. Criminals may not follow these laws, but they sure as heck know that if they are caught, they will more than likely have to pay the piper.

All of these facts illustrate the need for a universal background check for purchasing guns, a photo identification that every gun owner must renew periodically, paper licensing for all guns, and state databases that make records of who owns which guns, and more strict penalties for people who buy guns for criminals (straw purchasers) as well as for those caught with unlicensed weapons.

Will criminals follow all of these laws? Probably not. There is really no way to prevent every single instance of lawbreaking behavior. After all, in Great Britain, no one is allowed to have a gun, and there are still 68 deaths by guns every year. However, that’s no excuse for doing nothing about what is clearly a huge societal problem in this country.

To argue that passing regulation is pointless because criminals don’t follow regulations is akin to suggesting that we take out a stop sign because one out of every ten people blow right through it. Criminals are obviously not paying attention to the sign, so what’s the point?

Of course, very few people in the community where that fictional stop sign is would suggest taking it out. Instead, they would contact their local police department and tell them to locate a cruiser at that corner to make sure people stop. Those who still don’t stop will get a ticket, and perhaps be found in a stolen vehicle, without insurance, or without a driver’s license.

Therefore, increased regulation and enforcement makes sense. It not only encourages law-abiding behavior, but also makes sure that those who are caught in criminal behavior will be dealt with accordingly. Everyone who breaks the law is still not caught, but the neighborhood is still safer.

Write your U.S. Representative and Senators and tell them to support commonsense regulation and strict enforcement of gun regulations, both old and new. The Second Amendment provides for regulation in its text. Let’s use the Constitution for something besides a showpiece in the Library of Congress.