Monday, June 10, 2019

Confiscating Illegal Firearms

The New Republic's Alex Shephard notes

In broad strokes, Democratic candidates tend to support universal health care, large investments to fight the oncoming climate catastrophe, increasing taxes on the wealthy, and democratic reforms aimed at guaranteeing broad voter access.

In the broadest of strokes, Democratic candidates support also gun safety legislation.Removing firearms from individuals who should not be in possession of them should be a major priority of presidential candidates. 

At first glance, it is. On National Gun Violence Awareness Day, twelve Democratic candidates tweeted out their opposition to people being killed by firearms.  (If this seems like the least they can do, consider that President Trump was silent.... and that there actually are 23 Democratic presidential candidates.)

Proposals could include expansion of background checks; raising the minimum age for purchase; a ban on assault weapons; "red flag laws"; and licensing of gun owners, as recently advocated by Cory Booker.

And at least one other thing, which never will be recommended: stop-and-frisk.

The federal government could encourage jurisdictions, perhaps with grants, to implement stop-and-frisk policies for the sole purpose of confiscating illegal weapons and the individuals who possess them.

There must be two conditions, however. The procedure would have to include measures to ensure that it does not violate the US Constitution by being racially discriminatory. Additionally, it must preclude any arrest or summons for violation of any law, most notably for possession and/or distribution of illegal drugs.

Determining which areas are subject to stop and frisk can be determined objectively, considering such factors as the rate of gun violence and the prevalence of street gangs.  Nonetheless, the program should be monitored to ensure that within any one area, individuals are stopped and searched randomly or in some such manner so that it doesn't involve a disproportionate number of individuals of any ethnic group, unless there is an awfully good reason related to public safety.

Nor can the program be perverted or distorted to be an anti-drug initiative or even one directed toward crime in general. It would be a gun safety measure, with the goal of getting illegal firearms out of the community with the ancillary aim of arresting and prosecuting individuals who have violated gun laws.

Republicans are frightened, or supportive of, the National Rifle Association, and confiscation of guns from dangerous persons is not something that organization would tolerate.  And Democrats have de facto sworn off any policy which can be legitimately or illegitimately criticized as racist. Alas, the latter includes any policy which could disproportionately inconvenience young black males, even while it probably would disproportionately benefit African-American neighborhoods.

It won't happen. But it should.

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