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After last year's massacre in Parkland, Florida, and the kids who inspired us to believe the NRA might actually be on the ropes (it helps a lot that they're so busy self destructing!), we're happy to see Cory Booker come out with a truly bold gun reform proposal. Where most Democrats have been talking up universal background checks -- which are still a good idea! -- Booker's proposal goes much farther than any of the more incremental approaches currently out there, including Kamala Harris's, which we liked just fine. Harris called for expanded background checks, an end to liability immunity for gun manufacturers and dealers, and closing a number of significant loophooles in who can pass a background check. But Booker's 14-point plan says, "Hold my beer. I'm gonna try something BIG." How about requiring a license, nationwide, for gun ownership, plus registration of all firearms? Get ready for the usual idiots to scream, but the research on gun safety laws suggests those ideas would work. And they would probably also hold up to legal challenges -- they have so far, on the state level.


And no, this isn't a gun confiscation plan, never mind all the NRA rhetoric about how gun licensing/registration is always the first step before 1) seizing all the guns and 2) becoming Hitler (who loosened gun laws, though yes, he barred Jews from owning guns. Pretty sure the Jew-hating, not the gun laws, is what made the Nazis bad). Well, we're not going to become a fascist dictatorship like Australia or New Zealand just yet, thank Crom.

Booker's proposal is pretty simple, really. In fact, a key chunk of it was proposed last year by Sen Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), who wanted to take his state's firearms laws national, not that we mind Booker making it a campaign plank. In short, anyone wanting to own a gun would have to get a license through a conveniently located office, like getting a passport.

[Applicants] would submit fingerprints, provide basic background information, and demonstrate completion of a certified gun safety course.

The FBI would then verify submission of required materials and run a comprehensive background check before issuing a federal gun license, after which the license-holder could freely purchase and own firearms. The license would be valid for up to five years before renewal with regular, automatic checks to flag non-compliance with license terms.

In addition, the Booker plan is careful to note that states would be free to enact more stringent licensing requirements, but that if his proposal becomes law (yes, yes, and withstands the inevitable lawsuits), state laws would have to be at least as strict. Federal supremacy clause, baby!

As for the Second Amendment worshipers you can already hear whining "what part of shall not be infringed don't you understand," it's worth noting that 13 states already require some sort of permit or license for people to buy firearms. Three -- New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois -- require a state license not just to purchase, but to actually own the things. The Giffords Center explains the difference: "Unlike a permit to purchase, a license to own a firearm must remain valid for as long as the person owns the firearm." So far, those laws have held up in court, though of course the Trump administration is doing all it can to change the actual courts.

Beyond licensing gun owners, Booker's plan would also require that all firearms be registered in a national database -- again, much like the Massachusetts law. (While that registration and database provision isn't explicitly mentioned in the campaign's outline, Vox reporter German Lopez says the campaign confirmed to him that a national registry is part of the plan. Yeesh, people, put it in the document!) As Lopez notes at Vox, such a registry

is a key component of Massachusetts's law: By providing a way for law enforcement to track all guns in the state, they're also able to know which weapons to take away if someone's license is revoked due to, say, criminal activity.

Please cue all the paranoid fantasies about mass arrests of gun owners and immediate civil war, not that gun humpers need an actual registration law to trigger paranoia. Remember, mass confiscation and tyranny were also supposed to result from background checks, the election of Barack Obama, solar eclipses, and the disappointing box office for the 2012 remake of Red Dawn. May as well actually register the damn things.

Booker would also require all gun owners to report lost or stolen guns, noting "evidence that shows a correlation between the enactment of state reporting laws and major reductions in illegal gun trafficking." (Booker people Citation needed! Never mind, we found it!) In addition, people would be limited to purchasing no more than one handgun a month, also to prevent trafficking. Gee, how will anyone amass the arsenal they need to prevent tyranny that way?

Booker also brings technology into it, calling for incorporating "microstamping" technology in all new handguns sold in the US, to allow police to track shell casings to the guns that fired them. The tech has been around for over a decade, but it's been resisted by the NRA, because of course tyranny.

Oh, yes, and the NRA? Booker wants the IRS to review its tax exempt status, because fuck if it acts like a nonprofit educational and social organization. Beyond that, his plan also calls for modernizing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), giving it some teeth to really go after rogue firearms dealers, and finally funding the agency adequately.

The Booker plan also includes a number of ideas floated by other candidates, like, yes, universal background checks for all gun sales (which passed the House earlier this year), a ban on assault-style semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity magazines, expanding "extreme risk" or "red flag" protection orders that would allow judges to temporarily take guns from people who are a risk to themselves or others, and closing the "Boyfriend loophole" that allows some domestic abusers to stay off the background-check database (another key part of Harris's plan). Also like Harris, Booker would like to repeal gun manufacturers' immunity from liability suits. Oh, and while we're at it, how about getting rid of the ban on funding gun-related public health research at the National Institutes of Health? Booker wants that, especially more research on how firearms-related suicides can be prevented.

It's a hell of a lot of stuff in a pretty brief plan, and it's certain to make the gun-humpers mad, but they're always mad anyway. And as Lopez notes at Vox, the research on the efficacy of firearms licensing indicates a pretty clear link between licensing and gun violence rates:

In Connecticut, researchers looked at what happened after the state passed a permit-to-purchase law for handguns — finding a 40 percent drop in gun homicides and a 15 percent reduction in handgun suicides. In Missouri, researchers looked at the aftermath of the state repealing its handgun permit-to-purchase law — finding a 23 percent increase in firearm homicides but no significant increase in non-firearm homicides, as well as 16 percent higher handgun suicides. All of that suggests that gun licensing saves lives.

And for all the NRA babble that more laws never help, the reality is that in states with strong gun laws (and which aren't right next to states with crappy gun laws feeding illegal sales), there are fewer firearms deaths. And if Booker's proposal is more audacious than any other mainstream Dems have dared to put forward, that's just fine, as gun reform activist Igor Volsky suggests.

Congratulations to Cory Booker for giving that Overton Window a nice shove!

[Cory Booker campaign on Medium / Vox / Giffords Center / Vox / Giffords Center]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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