Classical republican theory restricts arms ownership to those it deems responsible enough to uphold public order. Our system of guns as a consumer good, and our democratic presumption of good citizenship, puts guns into unsteady and untrained hands.He's right about what classical theory suggests, and the wisdom of it. He's also right that the government as it stands is completely unfit to exercise this responsibility. The compromise he suggests is pushing it to the NRA. Virginia, oddly enough given that it's the site of the latest famous killing, had exactly that kind of law: a concealed carry permit is not "shall issue," but requires demonstration of being properly trained by an organization like the NRA. When I lived there, I hired an NRA instructor to come and "teach" me proper gun handling and safety so I'd have the certificate on file in order to get a license to carry.
Making sure a person is qualified to own a gun is something responsible societies do. Many families, gun clubs, and organizations like the NRA do the work of training responsible, conscientious gun owners. It's plausible that some kind of mandatory socialization in gun clubs for potential gun owners would be a good first step at preventing gun violence. It's more plausible than simply wishing for more 'good guys with guns' at every possible location for a tragedy. As things stand, this constructive, social gun culture does not encompass the totality of gun owners; gun shops certainly don't inquire about your sociability and training.
I know what conservatives are thinking: "So you think the government has the power to disqualify citizens from gun ownership?" The government will prove terrible at this task, and it defeats the purpose of an armed citizenry. And to be sure, I don't want a government that can put a gun owner in prison for having the wrong politics. And of course, this power of restricting guns — like restricting the franchise to "responsible, invested citizens" — echoes a historical tie between gun control and racist efforts to confine blacks to a lower status. And yet, we still ought to consider stronger guarantees of responsible gun ownership. Perhaps tests that aim at qualifying the character of a gun owner, rather than searching only for a criminal disqualification.
If we had a better government, the best way to do this would be to revive common militia service. If we get back to a small, limited government on real constitutional principles including the right to bear arms, that might be the right way to proceed. For now, I wonder if it can be pushed to private organizations like he suggests, or if we're stuck with "consumers" instead of "citizens" because the government is already too untrustworthy to be allowed to determine who counts as a "good citizen." We can't trust them to prosecute clear examples of misconduct if the 'citizen' is well-connected politically, like Mrs. Clinton. We can't trust them to prosecute nobodies fairly, as in Orange County.
There's a huge national crisis in government because the government has failed almost across the board. Currently they are talking about filibustering a vote against the Iran deal, rather than debating it and voting honestly. Even though their victory is almost assured by the math, they can't allow their opponents to have a debate and a vote.
The government is sick to the core. We can talk about what a healthy government ought to do, but we can't do so while failing to take notice of the disease in our own.