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The State of American Gun Policy


First, good on Cory Booker.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) sums up his ambitious new gun control plan in one sentence: “If you need a license to drive a car, you should need a license to own a gun.”

On Monday, Booker unveiled his proposal to tackle America’s gun problem as part of his bid for the presidency, detailing a plan that sets a high bar for the rest of the Democratic field.

His plan includes the typical Democratic proposals: universal background checks, an assault weapons ban, better enforcement of existing gun laws, and more funding for gun violence research.

But Booker’s plan goes further by requiring that gun owners not just pass a background check but obtain a license to be able to purchase and own a firearm. It’s a far more robust gun control proposal than any other presidential candidate has proposed. The idea has solid research behind it, and real-world experience in nine states that currently require a license or permit for at least handguns, including Booker’s home state of New Jersey.

The plan would go toward addressing a very serious issue: America currently leads the developed world in gun violence.One big reason for that is that America has the laxest gun laws — and the most guns — of any developed country. The research has consistently found that places with easier access to guns and more firearms have more gun deaths.

So far in the 2020 campaign, guns have not, surprisingly, gotten much attention. More than a year ago, the March for Our Lives movement that came out of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting revitalized America’s broader debate about guns, pushing the issue to the forefront in the 2018 midterm elections. But so far, 2020 Democrats have mostly stuck to a tried script on gun control, even as they push for fairly sweeping ideas in other areas, like single-payer health care, the Green New Deal, and dramatically hiking taxes on the superrich.

Booker’s proposal stands to change that. Not only is it the most sweeping gun control plan out of the 2020 Democratic candidates, but it’s among the most far-reaching of any presidential campaign ever.

Second, note how completely twisted our national “debate” on guns remains. Booker’s position is, within the American political establishment, on the far left. Yet look how moderate it is! All it is asking for is basic licensing. How can anyone reasonably argue against this? But of course, the right is demonizing him as a fringe figure, a violator of the Second Amendment, a stripper of freedom. Within the Democratic Party at least, a position such as Booker’s should be moderate. But as the linked article notes, no one is even talking about guns in the primary and that is totally insane. We are only a year past Parkland, not to mention all the tragedies before and since. Yet, the politics of guns are so toxic and the problem so intractable that, like climate change, it gets shunted to the margins, even on the left.

It’s a sad state.

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