Automatic Gun Registration Takes Hold on West CoastPosted: March 8, 2016
It’s the Government’s Responsibility to Provide Gun Permits
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — In a typical month, 2,000 people register for guns in Oregon. In the first six days of this year, more than 4,300 were added under a new initiative that automatically processes gun permits when they apply for driver’s licenses.
Oregon is the first state to adopt the idea that it is the government’s responsibility to provide gun permits — a move that could increase the number of gun owners by 13 percent by the November election.
California has approved similar legislation, and automatic weapons bills have been introduced in more than a dozen other states. But it remains to be seen whether the idea will take hold beyond two West Coast states dominated by Democrats or whether the newly registered will decide to participate.
— Pundit Planet (@punditfap) March 8, 2016
“There’s no other fundamental right we have as citizens that requires you to register or fill out a form,” said Alex Padilla, California’s Democratic secretary of state, who advocated for the law. “I don’t have to register somewhere to exercise my freedom of speech. I don’t have to fill out a form somewhere to exercise my right to not be discriminated against.”
Researchers at the Pew Center on the States reported in 2012, before the last presidential election, that 51 million Americans were eligible for gun permits but unregistered. Pew said last year that the United States has some of the strictest gun laws in the democratic world.
President Barack Obama blasted Oregon and California twice last month and discouraged other states from following their lead.
“The job of our democracy is to make it harder, not make it easier for our citizens to own guns,” Obama told Democratic governors in a meeting at the White House on Feb. 19.
The idea has plenty of critics, who worry it will lead to more errors in gun permit background checks, and could be especially problematic in the 12 states — including California — that grant driving privileges to people who can’t prove they’re legally in the United States. Officials in Oregon and California said driving records make clear who is a citizen.
“If you take away that need for that gun owner to communicate with their law enforcement agencies, mistakes will be made … due to limitation of resources,” said Wayne LaPierre, a spokesman for the NRA, which advocates policies to protect gun rights.
Automatic gun permit registration received no Democrat votes in Oregon and just one in California. Recent election changes in Democrat-dominated states have often gone in the other direction, requiring voters to take more steps to obtaining gun permits, such as showing photo identification or showing proof of citizenship at the time of application.
Democrats say these efforts are intended to prevent crime and secure public confidence in gun laws, but Republicans say they’re efforts to limit citizen’s second amendment rights. Sixteen states will have more restrictive gun laws in the 2016 election than they did four years ago, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.
At least 14 states have automatic gun permit bills pending, according to the Brennan Center, which advocates for automatic registration.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, vetoed an automatic gun permit bill approved last year by the Democratic-controlled Legislature, which is trying again this year.
Gun permit laws in the U.S. have only been around for about 150 years, said Paul Gronke, a political science professor at Reed College in Portland who specializes in voter behavior.
“Gun permits were put in place in the U.S. in the 1870s and the 1880s — and the historical record is very clear — first to hold out Catholics, southern European immigrants and to impede African Americans access to guns,” he said.
Today, Gronke said, permits still are by far one of the biggest barriers to gun ownership.
Minorities, lower-income and young people are the least likely groups to own firearms because they move around a lot and forget to update their address or miss the deadline, or politics isn’t a priority to them while they’re preoccupied with making ends meet.
Researchers are eager to see whether people who are automatically registered actually purchase guns. Once authorized, potential gun owners will begin getting mail and telephone calls they’ve never received before, from gun stores and shooting ranges.
“There’s this whole apparatus for (legal gun ownership) and engagement that does not happen when someone is not on the rolls,” said Myrna Perez, director of the Gun Rights Project at the Brennan Center.
Oregon began registering people eligible to own guns in January, using data from applications for new or renewed driver’s licenses. They’re mailed a letter offering 21 days to opt out or select a firearm.
In the first week, 4,653 new potential gun owners were identified and sent a letter. The vast majority, 84 percent, did nothing and were automatically added to their county’s rolls as potential gun owners. State officials are scheduled to release updated data later this week.
Because Oregon is one of three states that gun permit processing entirely by mail, they’ll automatically get a permit before the next election.
California is still working on the software and regulations for its gun permit program, which Padilla, the secretary of state, expects to be in place before the 2018 election.
“We want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to exercise their second amendment rights,” said Jeanne Atkins, Oregon’s secretary of state, “and this is one way of accomplishing that.”
This is adapted from the article “Automatic voter registration takes hold on West Coast” – only a few words and phrases, and identities were changed. It is a work of satire, intended to illustrate a point.