Fayetteville, AR -(AmmoLand.com)- March for Our Lives, an organization founded by a “group of students”[read Bloomberg] who were the victims of the Parkland school shooting, has a plan for peace in America called C.H.A.N.G.E., six bold—according to them—collections of actions that they believe will reduce the number of gun deaths.
Predictably, it’s a hash of demands that have been made for years, vague wishes for easy fixes, and generally a desire to make legal gun ownership as difficult as possible.
The specific proposals are all too familiar:
- a license to purchase guns and ammunition that must be renewed annually with background checks and that requires personal references to receive,
- raising the minimum age for ownership to twenty-one,
- a ten-day waiting period for the transfer of a firearm, firearm storage requirements,
- bans on online sales, a maximum of one gun purchase a month,
- bans on “assault weapons” and “high-capacity” magazines,
- and the kind of red flag laws that lack protections for due process.
March for Our Lives also wants to see a National Director of Gun Violence Prevention appointed to “operationalize and empower existing federal agencies,” whatever that is supposed to mean? Also they hope to see a domestic peace corp formed that would do unspecified things to reduce violence. And then there’s the proposed mandate that would require owners of “assault weapons” to sell them to the government, while “encourag[ing] voluntary civilian reduction of handguns and other firearms.”
In other words, there’s nothing new here, other than a lot of juvenile optimism.
It’s good for young people to get involved in the adult world, but part of doing so is a realization of how complicated life is. March for Our Lives offers the licensing program in Connecticut and the gun control laws of Australia and England as examples to support their faith in the concept, neglecting to consider the details. Connecticut did see a decline in the homicide rate following the passage of a licensing requirement for handguns, but the entire country experienced the same decline, and most states don’t share that law. A license to carry a firearm outside the home was introduced in England in 1870 and a license to own a handgun in 1903.
Regulations ratched up from there, ending up in the repressive system that exists today. And yet, the homicide rate in that country has been basically flat since 1775, and I’m being generous to the gun control side here, since as the laws became stricter in the mid-twentieth century, there was a slight rise in the murder rate, followed by the same decline in the 90s that the whole world enjoyed. And in Australia, there were spikes in homicides after the 1997 laws were enacted, but a decline began again in the early 90s, and there was no accelerated decline due to the new controls.
If the honest goal is to reduce rates of violence, this is a good desire, but having a goal is not the same thing as having a good plan to achieve it. Policies must come with sound reasoning that shows that they’ll work. The March for Our Lives activists will likely regard me as old fashioned if I point out that what they propose would be a major curtailment of rights, but they should think about the consequences were they to achieve a significant reduction in private gun ownership in America. They identify police violence as one of the types that they want to reduce, but have no problem seeing agents of the government as the only people who legally possess “assault weapons.”
In my observations done as a child and as an adult, I haven’t seen the line, “you’ll understand when you grow up,” ever work, and I doubt it would succeed here. What may win young people over is to appeal to their desire for independence and their willingness to live and let live? Millennials, for example, see GSRM (gender, sexual, and romantic minority) rights as obvious and see no reason why marijuana should be illegal. Private gun ownership fits into this easily. A government that can take away one’s stash isn’t a government that has to be scrupulous about which kind of stash it seizes.
If we can’t win the rising generation over, gun rights will be increasingly curtailed. And even if it takes them decades to achieve that, the American legacy matters too much to me to say that I’ve got mine and let the future tend to itself. There is no need to allow March for Our Lives to win this fight, and we in the gun community have work to do in persuading young people to come to our side.
About Greg Camp
Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc.