This past week, the Senate failed to reach the 60 votes needed to adopt a bipartisan compromise to expand background checks on sales of firearms, despite the unusual move by Republican Senators Mc Cain (AZ), Collins (ME) and Kirk (IL), who opposed the tide of no votes in their own party to back the bill.
The compromise bill was originally presented by Senators Joe Manchin, D-W.Va and Pat Twomey, R-Pa. The bill had widespread support among the mayors of the major cities, including NYC Mayor Bloomberg, who raised the prospect of defeating a number of non-cooperating senators at the polls. After the vote was cast, Mayor Bloomberg indicated that more children will die without the added protection of a background check when guns are sold. Bloomberg’s initiative would seem to indicate the issue is not concluded.
There is an alternative to resolving the issue of universal background checks: a national referendum. National referenda have been employed principally in Switzerland. The idea of a national referendum has yet to take root in the USA, simply because there hasn’t been sufficient consensus for one by the various states. The national referendum might be a practical way to resolve conflicts between the coequal branches of the federal government. Such applications would serve to break difficult bottlenecks on federal legislation deadlocked in Congress. Inevitably, citizen participation in the government will result in the exercise of the national referendum in the not too distant future.
Another possibility is for each of the individual states to enact tough licensing and registration requirements for gun owners, similar to the requirements which must be met to drive an automobile. The registration process for a gun should require the passing of a written exam, testing the discharge and use of the gun, formal gun registration and the presentation of an insurance card as evidence of insurability for accidental or negligent use.
Traditionally, insurance companies have had a good record of weeding out bad drivers by simply canceling their insurance or raising rates in response to rising claims and/or traffic tickets resulting in point accumulation. A similar registration procedure is needed for gun owners in order to limit unauthorized use/access or negligent use. The various states could begin toughening gun registration requirements now, without any further congressional involvement.
Universal background checks would be helpful to have right now. Nevertheless, there is a myriad of practical alternatives available to the various states and localities in the event that the federal government is unable to arrive at the requisite consensus to move the Congress into action for the foreseeable future.
But for now, the background check debate can open up on a number of new fronts.Powered by Sidelines