Enlist NRA in effort to license sale of ammo

  • By Jeffrey Zalles Special To The Washington Post
  • Friday, October 9, 2015 6:20pm
  • OpinionCommentary

In August, The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof noted that gun violence claims one life every 16 minutes in the United States. Think about it. Every day, more than 90 American families are broken by gun violence. If you’re like most people, you have come to feel that achieving any significant reduction in this disturbing statistic is hopeless. Because there are more than 300 million guns in private hands in the United States. Because the gun lobby is just too strong. Because gun-control proponents have fought for years with little to show for it at the federal level.

But this can’t go on forever. We will eventually reach a tipping point whereby a majority of Americans, fed up and fearing for their safety, will finally work their will in the form of strict gun-control measures or even a rewrite or repeal of the Second Amendment.

There is a way to end the standoff before we reach that tipping point, to wipe the slate clean by quickly and drastically reducing gun violence without infringing on gun rights. But first, those who support gun rights must recognize that the biggest threat to those rights lies in the pervasiveness of gun violence, while those on the other side must accept that 300 million guns aren’t going away anytime soon.

The late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said that in the United States there was a 200-year supply of guns but a four-year supply of ammunition. So what if we stopped worrying about the guns and instead focused on the bullets? Two steps would work wonders:

First, license buyers of ammunition. This license would take the form of a photo ID, and obtaining it could be as easy as watching a video, answering some gun-safety questions, paying a small fee and passing a background check.

No doubt, gun owners would scream that such a requirement represented a big-government intrusion into their privacy and constitutional rights. But what if the National Rifle Association, and not the government, was responsible for issuing licenses? Such a role would simply represent a return to the organization’s roots. The NRA was founded in 1871 to advance marksmanship, promote gun safety and provide training to gun owners. It’s only recently that it became political.

Second, mark the shells. All bullets could be stamped with a serial number, and stores could scan a buyer’s license and a barcode on the box. Since shell casings recovered at a crime scene could easily be traced back to stores and buyers, there would be a powerful incentive to see that bullets were handled responsibly.

How might the country benefit from this system? Almost immediately, it would become increasingly difficult for those who shouldn’t have ammunition to acquire it. After a while, the guns in the possession of criminals would become virtually useless. Of course, this wouldn’t put an end to all gun violence, but my guess is that thousands of lives would be saved every year. A reduction that large could be enough to end once and for all the battle between pro- and anti-gun forces.

A focus on ammunition wouldn’t infringe on the rights of law-abiding gun owners. Instead it would guarantee the protection of those rights — while saving many lives.

Jeffrey Zalles is president of the Marin County, California, chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Opinion

June 22, 2024: The Warning Label
Editorial cartoons for Monday, June 24

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

FILE - Lion Air's Boeing 737 Max 8 sits on the tarmac at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, Indonesia, April 13, 2019. Indonesia said Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, it is lifting its ban on Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft, three years after one crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 189 people on board. (AP Photo Nicole Evatt, File)
Editorial: Boeing quality proving difficult to recapture

The company seeks to assure its rededication to quality, but recent news is getting in the way.

Comment: Schools banning cellphones; wha’ts not to like?

Parents can still make the call on whether kids have cellphones. Schools can decide their use in school.

Saunders: Biden should stop with Trump bleach-injection fable

The story requires some context, but Trump did not call for people to inject bleach to cure covid.

Comment: Court’s bump stock ruling reflects its MAGA direction

Continuing its conservative activism, the majority turned to the dictionary to legalize machine guns.

Loss of Herald staff a loss for journalism, democracy

Friday, the League of Women Voters of Snohomish County issued the following… Continue reading

Readers will notice the loss of Herald staff in newspaper

My deepest sympathies for The Herald’s newsroom staff regarding the pending layoffs.… Continue reading

toon
Editorial cartoons for Sunday, June 23

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

President Joe Biden hugs Javier Quiroz Castro, who benefitted from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, during an anniversary event for DACA in the East Room at the White House on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. President Biden on Tuesday announced sweeping new protections for hundreds of thousands of immigrants who have been living in the United States illegally for years but are married to American citizens. (Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times)
Comment: Biden looks to protect immigrant spouses of citizens

An executive order providing legal status would help families and the communities in which they live.

Herald layoffs mark sad day for local journalism

I did not subscribe to The Herald to support a company from… Continue reading

Thanks for doing the math to determine Herald Athletic Cup

I read with pleasure the article about high school sports and the… Continue reading

How can Herald continue with much smaller staff?

I am stunned by the news in Thursday’s Herald regarding the significant… Continue reading

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.