Cash for Clunkers: Glock Edition

It’s been pointed out in the aftermath of the Tucson shooting, when we’ve dared to broach the topic of gun control,  that there are a lot of guns in this country. Some 90 guns for every 100 Americans, according to the Small Arms Survey.  Which puts the number of firearms in the U.S. at somewhere near 276 million.  Even if we were to immediately ban the manufacture, marketing, and sale of guns in the country (which I’m not suggesting), we would still have a gigantic number of legal and illegal firearms out there.

If we are genuinely serious about gun control we not only have to reduce the number and type of new firearms available for purchase and we have to find a way to take shrink the number of existing guns in private hands.  And we have to do this without resorting to illegally seizing legally purchased firearms.  We should find ways to encourage people to get rid of their guns, to see that there is no upside in owning them.  This is not about the government “coming for anyone’s guns” – it’s about giving people a reason to choose to give up their guns.

This won’t happen.  The President won’t pursue gun control before a general election (one more election promise dropped).  The Republican House certainly won’t propose any sort of meaningful legislation and any Democratic bill will go nowhere.  So, I’m screaming into the void.  But it’s important to keep the flame alive for the victims of the shooting in Tucson, for the victims of gun crime that occur everyday in the United States.  We need to have an adult conversation about guns in the U.S.  So, bear with me for a couple of ideas.

Cash for Clunkers: Glock Edition.  Simply expand what many local police departments do every now and again.  Provide funding for local departments or state police agencies to hold collection events over the course of a year.  Make the incentives better – more cash or bigger gift cards.  Don’t ask questions about where the guns came from, return those that can be determined as stolen to their rightful owner and the turn the rest into steel.  It will cost a lot and won’t be stimulative, but it’ll get guns off of the street.

Or, annual “tabs” for guns.  Each year those of us who own cars must update our vehicle registration.  Through fees and taxes we pay for our right to operate cars.  Why can’t the same thing be done for guns?  Laws vary by state, but gun owners are already have to apply for various permits.  Some states, like Washington, only require owners to apply for a conceal carry permit and renew (of their own volition) every 5 years.  Other places, like New York City, have much more stringent guidelines.  Let’s standardized our permit system, charge fees, and require more frequent renewals.  Let’s also increase the penalties for non-compliance, immediately and permanently revoke your gun owning privileges when convicted of a crime.

While I would certainly like to see hand guns, semi-automatic pistols, and automatic weapons go away – it’s not going to happen.  Even though no one has yet made a rational argument about what a hand cannon like a Glock 19 or a Dessert Eagle will protect you from (is there an epidemic of special forces “wet” teams assaulting suburban neighborhoods?), we’re not going to ban guns.  But we can and we should strengthen our gun laws, ban and remove assault weapons from our communities, and reduce access to deadly weapons.  We lose nothing by enacting stringent gun laws and encouraging a reduction in private gun ownership.  And even less by discussing it.

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