David Kopel: Take Dangerous People, Not Guns, Off the Streets

David Kopel: Take Dangerous People, Not Guns, Off the Streets

During the Senate Judiciary’s hearing on gun violence on Jan. 30, the Independence Institute’s David Kopel made two poignant observations: First, the gun control plans being proposed in the wake of Sandy Hook necessitate gun registration. Second, the current plans are misdirected because the problem isn’t guns, the problem is dangerous people on the loose. 

Regarding gun registration, Kopel claimed universal background checks cannot work, as a matter of fact, unless they are accompanied by universal gun registration: “Mandating universal background checks can only be enforceable if there is universal gun registration, and we know that universal gun registration, in every country in the world where it’s existed, has been a serious peril to gun ownership.”

Kopel said the solution to this is to make universal background checks available to private sellers who choose to use them, but not to force private sellers to use them. 

Leaving a choice to the individual seller saves the nation from heading down the path of forced registration.

Regarding mass shootings and other heinous crimes, Kopel make it clear that mental health problems cannot be erased by expanding background checks. 

Said Kopel:

If you look at mass murders where suicidal people try to end their lives in the most infamous way possible–in Tucson, Virginia Tech, Newtown, Aurora–you have a very strong thread of mental illness running through that.

…So the long term solution is not just about background checks. It’s about why these people are on the streets in the first place. All of these killers could have been civilly committed under the civil commitment we had several decades ago. Those laws were changed, but… we [need to] move back to a more sensible position that strongly protects the due process rights of people against involuntary commitment, but also gets dangerous people off the streets.

The solution is not taking guns off the street. The solution is taking dangerous people off the street.