“By calling attention to ‘a well regulated militia’, the ‘security’ of the nation, and the right of each citizen ‘to keep and bear arms’, our founding fathers recognized the essentially civilian nature of our economy. Although it is extremely unlikely that the fears of governmental tyranny which gave rise to the Second Amendment will ever be a major danger to our nation, the Amendment still remains an important declaration of our basic civilian-military relationships, in which every citizen must be ready to participate in the defense of his country. For that reason, I believe the Second Amendment will always be important.”
– John F Kennedy
After a rash of multiple-victim public shootings in the last few months, the “we must do something” mentality has reached near-consensus levels. From armed guards at schools to blanket gun bans to national registry to mental health awareness, everyone has an solution. If we must do something, let’s do something smart. I would like to propose a moderate, comprehensive plan to address several gun-related issues that might satisfy the “do something”ers, as well as disparate ideological forces all at once.
One of the most popular gun control measures proposed recently is a national registry of all gun ownership (or sales). I’m skeptical that having a list of who owns what gun would prevent anyone from using them in a crime, only make them easier to track after, but let’s consider it. An acquaintance (and political adversary) of mine, Patrick Goff, suggested making gun registration part of a militia membership. Innovative! Synergistic! Bipartisan! Brilliant!
The Second Amendment to the US Constitution reads:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
At the time of the founding, there was no standing army (and generally, the founders were against having one), so the military defense of the nation and the people was ensured by the people themselves being armed, and called to service when necessary. One argument against the individual right to arms is that without a “well regulated militia” that right is no longer applicable. Then what if we in effect re-created the militia with the national gun registry that so many suggest? You would register your gun with your state’s National Guard, who would then issue you a (cheesy as it sounds) membership card as an honorary member of the National Guard militia.
This might sound like a national military conscription, and there’s certainly the threat that a different administration and Congress might want to turn it into one, but it wouldn’t be. We already have the Selective Service System that enables a nationwide draft upon congressional approval. Militia membership would not require any action or service from the member, only serve as an incentive to register your guns.
To give further incentive to this arrangement, militia membership might provide modest tangible benefits. The member could be entitled to a free gun safety/target practice/self defense course at the nearest National Guard base once every three years. Concealed carry permitting could be streamlined by militia membership. (If you have ideas for other benefits, leave a comment!)
Of course this proposal does not solve gun violence, cure mental illness, or keep guns out of the hands of criminals, but it does represent a huge, potentially bipartisan step forward in responsibility and awareness.