Momentum Growing for Gun Control
by Senator John Marty
October 20, 1999

What would people think if lawmakers proposed giving others a constitutional right to drive a car anywhere, at any time, even through your front yard at four in the morning?

Three years ago, a Minnesota Senate committee attempting to please the gun lobby, passed a bill giving a "fundamental constitutional right" to hunt, a right that could not be restricted even as to location or time of day.

Did these politicians really think the public wants to guarantee everyone a constitutional right to hunt at 5 a.m. in their neighborhood park?

In Minnesota, seven of every ten people say our laws make it "too easy" for people to get guns. These are hunters and sportsmen as well as people who don't want a gun in their home. Yet many politicians are paralyzed with fear of the NRA.

But now, after Columbine and other high profile shooting sprees, more and more politicians are rethinking their blind opposition to gun control. Presidential candidate Bill Bradley and former candidate Elizabeth Dole both publicly called for passage of stronger gun control.

Now may be the time to establish a gun registration system, similar to auto registration. There are many lawful uses for both guns and cars, but both are deadly when misused.

With cars, we require the operator to be trained and licensed. We register the vehicle, and re-register it when transferring to a new owner.

But for guns, there is no licensing and no registration. This is a loophole that enables criminals to obtain guns from a private citizen, with no background check, no waiting period -- no means of enforcement at all.

Why don't we have a gun registration system? Because the gun lobby has used its political clout and fear tactics to fight even modest regulation. They say, "first they'll register your guns, then the next thing they'll do is take 'em away." Sure. Just like they did with cars...

Actually, the government does take away cars, but only from people using them illegally. In Minnesota, drug dealers and repeat DWI offenders forfeit their cars. Shouldn't we do the same for criminals with guns too?

There are a number of lawmakers working on this issue. I have pending legislation to license gun owners and register firearms. It extends waiting periods and criminal background checks to private gun sales. In addition, it puts a lifetime ban on gun ownership for people convicted of violent crimes.

These modest proposals do not punish responsible gun owners, any more than vehicle registration punishes responsible car owners. But these proposals will help stop the arms race on our streets where gangs and drug dealers are more heavily armed than the police.

Despite public support for gun control, the gun lobby continues to fight progress. It is well-organized and intimidating. Lawmakers raising this issue are accustomed to nasty phone calls. The NRA works to discredit these proposals, and those who offer them. I am a moderate on gun control, yet I have received an "F-" rating on the NRA report card, because I seek responsible gun laws.

In the wake of Columbine, there has been a perceptible shift in momentum on the issue. It's time for public officials to stand up to the NRA, Charlton Heston and all.

jmsig.gif (2217 bytes)

 Previous issue 


 Next issue 

Permission to quote or reprint material from To the Point! is granted if the author is credited.
Copyright � 1999-2020, John Marty