The recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla., which took the lives of 17 students and educators, is among the worst this country has ever seen. It has mobilized young people throughout America, yet leaders of both political parties have once again retreated to their corners, largely unwilling to compromise.
New gun restrictions proposed by Democrats have mainly focused on restricting the types of weapons sold. While magazine-size restrictions and assault rifle bans may reduce casualties in the deadliest shootings, Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho was still able to kill 33 with two handguns. Restricting sales of AR-15 assault rifles would likely just cause shooters to use different weapons.
While many Democratic proposals may fail to resolve our national crisis, the Republican pro-gun position has often exacerbated the situation. Republicans may talk about mental health reform, but just last year the Trump administration revoked an Obama-era order that would have kept guns out of the hands of 75,000 people with mental disabilities. During the Obama administration, Republicans fought tooth-and-nail against policies that would work, like a national gun registry, out of a paranoid fear that the government would take guns from the law abiding.
So here we are as a nation stuck in yet another partisan battle. Those on the left want better controls on the types of guns sold, and whom they’re sold to. Far too many on the right don’t believe the government should (or even could) implement a gun control regime.
But what if there’s a way to give both sides what they want? To both guarantee the right of law-abiding citizens to self-defense and keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them? I propose a compromise: Ban the sale of guns to anyone who does not go through a certified training program and background check, and (to gain Republican support) automatically allow those who do so to obtain a national concealed carry permit.
Pro-gun activists would get a major win: a national concealed carry program not subject to local restrictions. From Baltimore City to rural Arkansas, certified gun owners could carry a firearm for personal defense and not be subject to heavy fines for crossing county lines. As all law-abiding citizens would still be able to obtain guns, the compromise would not infringe on the Second Amendment, particularly if we made efforts to keep the cost and time commitments reasonable.
Opponents of our loose gun laws would also get a major win, as we could severely restrict gun sales without amending the Constitution. Implementing this compromise would also require establishing a national gun registry so that guns could be associated with permit holders and spot-checked in the field. Since obtaining a permit would require evaluation by a trained instructor, we would be better equipped to weed out those who shouldn’t be obtaining firearms in the first place and to hold people accountable when they do.
The result of this compromise would be that those who followed the law and wanted some ability to defend themselves could do so. People we know shouldn’t have guns (those with mental health issues, convicted felons, etc.) would have a significantly harder time making it through both training and a background check. We would simultaneously expand the right to bear arms for those able to do so responsibly and severely curtail that same right for those who aren’t.
Practically, Democrats have been losing this fight. Handgun bans have been struck down in major cities. The federal assault rifle ban was allowed to lapse in 2004. Some ability to publicly bear arms has been affirmed as a constitutional right by the Supreme Court. State legislatures have also significantly reduced restrictions on the ability to carry arms, with some states even moving to open carry.
America’s gun-crime problem is too pressing for us to do nothing. We can no longer afford to remain frozen in mindless partisan gridlock. It’s time for compromise.
Ted Walsh is a graduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park, running for Democratic Central Committee in Baltimore’s District 46. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.