There are few third rails in politics quite like gun control. Like abortion and same-sex marriage, it is a debate that is deeply rooted in faith-based, ethical convictions that are not easy to bend, never mind change.

When President Obama traveled last week to Roseburg, Oregon, where an armed man killed nine students at a community college before killing himself, he was met by some 300 protesters waving Confederate flags and rifles. I can’t help but wonder why?

Anyone who has followed the issue of guns in America knows that gun advocates have already won the debate. There are more than 300 million firearms in the United States by recent estimates – a gun for every citizen – and federal gun policy has remained relatively unchanged since the National Firearms Act of 1934 outlawed fully automatic weapons. Even the $200 tax exemption set by Congress then to own an automatic weapon has remained unchanged.

Recent challenges to gun ownership have also been poked with wide holes. The Brady act of 1993 that mandated federal background checks for all gun purchases was rendered toothless when an NRA-backed provision rendered any check not completed in three days void. If a gun dealer hears nothing in three days, he can sell the weapon legally.

For all practical purposes, there really are no barriers to owning a gun.

For the law abiding majority, this is how it should be. Gun control advocates are usually too quick to dismiss the concerns of gun advocates as hysterical, but the right to bear arms is a serious one and any move to make owning guns more difficult should be considered carefully.

That said, however, I think the NRA and gun advocates in general have taken their fear of a slippery slope – that any gun restriction is an open door to some sort of rapturous moment when the government takes away all guns – too far. And, furthermore, I think the NRA would be smart to concede a little ground and compromise before it and other gun rights groups look around to find they’ve really been left on the fringe.

The writing is on the wall. A majority of NRA members support common sense restrictions that the NRA has fought. Recent polls by Pew have shown 85 percent of gun owners support universal background checks, which the NRA strongly opposes. Gun owners also favor a universal database of gun owners, another measure the NRA opposes.

How much longer will it be before the majority begins to dictate policy on guns? And what would a marginalized gun lobby do when – not if – public policy begins to turn against them, and the public really does go for an Australia-style gun ban. Recent years have shown that policy and law in this country can change swiftly and unexpectedly.

The NRA needs to get over the idea that a compromise is inherently counter to the spirit of the Second Amendment. The group should recognize the fact that it has already won. Guns are not going anywhere. If it compromises now, it might just be able to do more to preserve gun rights in the long run.

— Pete Mazzaccaro

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  • Navy Davy

    Goal of gun control is?
    Surely not preventing shootings.
    School shootings prevention requires no laws, no money, no mental counseling, etc.
    What is needed is the people on site, at the time of a shooting, to attack the shooter.
    That’s all.
    Whether the shooter is mental, Muslim, racist, whatever, poke his eyes out, he needed that.
    Crunch his knees. Smack his eardrums to cause him pain. Knee to groin. Whatever.
    Shove his gun muzzle upwards.
    Tackle him.
    Take him down.

  • RGnome

    “For all practical purposes, there really are no barriers to owning a gun.” Plain wrong for the following reasons: Yes, some small percentage of people disqualified from owning firearms have their paperwork screwed up so that they can’t be disqualified within 3 days. But that isn’t the case for most of the people who are disqualified and it overlooks the fact that there are people who are disqualified (which is a barrier). Even in private sales it is still illegal for disqualified persons to purchase a firearm.
    And yes, NFA firearms are still a $200 tax stamp. But that is still $200 not to mention the high cost of these firearms because no new ones can be introduced.

    And for the majority of people (in Pennsylvania at least) you still have to spend the money for a firearm, travel to a dealer, submit to a background check, pass the background, and pay for said background check. All of these are barriers. We can argue about how much of a barrier these are, but they are barriers.

    But to get to the main point that the gun rights side should accept universal background checks. They are an annoyance and they cost money, and I could live with that, but they are needed for the slippery slope. Because they introduce the possibility of a searchable database of firearms purchases, and that is needed for confiscation.
    Background checks are not going to make a dent in firearms misuse. So after they are made universal then what? The next up is banning ‘assault weapons’ (whatever that means at the time) and ‘large capacity’ magazines. And you’ll notice that we are already on that slippery slope of banning firearms, because a partial ban is still a ban.
    But that isn’t going to stop the misuse of firearms either.So then what? What else will law abiding gun owners need to ‘compromise’ on?
    I’ve suggested before opening the NICS system (the federal background check system) to the public on an allowed/disallowed basis. Many private sellers would actually welcome the chance to be assured that they weren’t selling firearms to a disqualified person and it wouldn’t cost time and money to travel to a dealer ($40 at my local shop). That is an actual compromise, both sides get something. Gun control advocates get more background checks and gun rights advocates get a useful system that can be constantly confused by random searches.
    If people would stop talking about bans firearms owners might make some more concessions. Very, very grudgingly in some cases,but it would be possible. We aren’t there.

    • cvb1325

      I think the thing that is often forgotten is that the gun safety/control people have room to bargain too.
      The most popular amendment of the failed Manchin-Toomey Act (S.649, The Safe Communities Safe Schools Act of 2013) was the Cornyn amendment (S.Amdt.719) to allow concealed carry reciprocity. It came the closest to passing the senate with 57 votes.
      If a person can be trusted to responsibly carry a concealed weapon in Philadelphia, why would that individual not be trustworthy in Camden or Manhattan? I suspect the right may be willing to trade universal background checks for the ability to carry in deep blue states.

    • cvb1325

      oh, another area for gun safety/control to bargain with is on is universal firearms education in public schools; that’s something the NRA has wanted for years.
      Much like sex education, it’s not necessarily applicable to every kid in an immediate sense. However, we would probably have fewer cases of accidental shootings if everyone middle school age and older knew how to safely handle and unload a weapon (many people don’t know the difference between the magazine release and the safety).
      It would also demystify guns for those that don’t have much experience and make them no more frightening than condoms!

  • Luieburger

    Compromise? When we have more people carrying guns legally than ever before, the loosest gun laws in years, and the lowest murder rate in decades? Compromise when ALL of the facts support gun rights, and none of them support gun control? HAH!

  • TL671

    We’ve been “compromising” for 81 years (NFA1934). At least the gun grabbers version of compromise, we keep getting further restrictions on our right, they give up nothing. Maybe it’s time that gun grabbers actually compromised on anything.

  • PMazz