Would the NRA accept a licensing requirement requiring high levels of gun expertise?

Re the concern about the high levels of gun proliferation and misuse in the US I’m wondering if a lawmaker proposed a bill that said that people could only have a permit to own (and use) a gun if they were able to demonstrate that they knew how to store, care for and maintain, and use the specific firearm (and ammo) they were purchasing. The owner would be required to pass a basic field competency exam, and a written test relating to the care of their specific firearm.

I’m guessing that members of the NRA (as a class) are among the more technically competent gun owners, so I’m thinking they should be willing to go along with this requirement as it would keep guns out of the hands of people who don’t know how to care for and use them, as evidenced by a lot of the clowning around with guns I see on Youtube etc. with people getting injured through mishandling guns, general stupidity and lack of proper caution.

What’s wrong with this cunning plan? How could the NRA object to gun owners being required to be competent with their firearms.

Short Answer: No.

The view of the NRA, as I understand it, is that gun ownership is not a privilege (like driving a car) but a right set forth in the Constitution. There can be some limitations on this right, just as there are limitations on speech, but only in certain narrowly defined areas, which don’t include competence. The analog would be barring the free speech rights of those who are ungrammatical, or inarticulate, or illogical.

People have to show competence to get a driver’s license, but still a small percentage of licensed drivers do incredibly stupid things, just as a small percentage of gun owners do incredibly stupid things. I don’t see how a competence test is going to eliminate that.

Mainly, though, I think the great majority of U.S. citizens would agree that the real problems with guns aren’t from idiots who clown around, or those who are ignorant or clumsy when it comes to guns, but from people (mostly criminals) who are usually quite proficient with their firearms.

ETA: Expertise isn’t the problem or the solution. Attitude is.

No. A requirement to demonstrate proficiency can be (and has in some places where it has been implemented, has been) as onerous as a poll tax. It allows arbitrary denials, when the person in question may in fact be vastly more competent than the person judging his competency.

For something like this, the provisions would have to be iron-clad. No weasel words, no “proper” this or “reasonable” that, nothing subject to interpretation that would allow arbitrary denials. Since that can’t happen it would never be accepted by the NRA, or even most gun owners for that matter.

I expect that there are more gun accidents than cases of gun violence. I would be interested to find out if I’m right.

I’d be interested as well. My expectations are the opposite of yours - seems that in the news there are 100+ homicides here annually (most from firearms), but only a small handful of accidental deaths. Perhaps it’s different with injuries rather than deaths.

Either way, I feel much more threatened by competent criminals than by incompetent fools.

I think a lot of “accidental deaths” are probably suicides.

I have read (no cite) that many ‘x number of kids are killed by guns’ count 19 year old drug dealers, even though we probably think of little kids playing around with dad’s gun when we hear them.

Just off the top of my head, the last time I checked the CDC’s statistics, I seem to recall that there were on the order of 500 accidental firearms deaths in 2006. Someone might want to double-check me on that, but I’m pretty sure it was a number of similar magnitude. Far fewer than were killed by swimming pools, for example. Not even close to being a big enough problem, in other words.

But besides that, placing a competency requirement on the ownership of firearms creates a burdensome encumbrance on a civil right (and not to mention a convenient vehicle for arbitrary denial) which should be no more tolerable than requiring people to take a literacy test before being allowed to vote. And don’t try to say that guns are different because they can kill people - I think that the present administration has shown that irresponsible voting and an incompetent and malfeasant executive can get plenty of people snuffed. :dubious:

What would be the point of such a law? Aside from paving the way toward elimination of privately owned firearms, I mean? As Stealth Potato mentioned, swimming pools cause a lot more fatalities but there are no calls to license the owners of those. Power tools are probably another one that kills a lot of people. (Just a WAG on this.)
If the goal is to preserve lives, I’d think it would be better to hit the big ones first. I think the NRA and most gun owners would see it much the same way.


If you mean causes of death, you’re way wrong. Here’s a long PDF from the CDC listing death rates per 100,000 by various causes for 2002. The death rate by accidental discharge of a firearm is 0.3 (p. 60). Suicide by firearm is 5.9 (p. 63), and homicide by firearm is 4.1 (p. 65).

And astro, you do know that several states already have such laws in place (like Massachusetts), don’t you? Not specific per model of firearm, but the whole attend a safety & shooting class before getting a permit part. I have no idea what the NRA’s position was when MA passed that law 10 years ago - they’ve pretty much written MA off anyway.

What the OP describes is more or less what you have to do to get a public carry permit (not just owning or buying a gun) here in Minnesota. You have to demonstrate a minimum standard of marksmanship (hitting a man sized target at a certain distance), and you have to succesfully pass a class where you’re drilled in the laws of what constitutes justifiable brandishing or shooting.

You have to pass a test to get a Basic Firearms Safety Certificate in California.

Personally, I wouldn’t mind such a test under very strict conditions:

a. total transparency
b. total supremacy
c. total accessibility

IOW, a federal test with totally objective standards (that are reasonable) that would allow concealed-carry anywhere in the US, trumping all state and local laws. If it didn’t do that, forget it.

One of the things that the OP is advocating is “…able to demonstrate that they knew how to store, care for and maintain…” Think of the potential for de facto banning that opens up. What does that even mean? A safe? If it’s a state-mandated safe and they won’t pay for it, that’s a financial barrier to entry. How about if your gun is perceived as “too dirty” when offered for inspection? For that matter, how do they check on your storage arrangements?

Also, the are these tests going to be mandated with each and every firearm purchase ("…the specific firearm (and ammo) they were purchasing")? Add $200 to each and every firearm sold for administrative charges, plus the cost of storage, plus waiting lists for classes, lost time… even as a one-time cost that would be very expensive. Imagine if most of that had to be repeated with every weapon. Shooting is expensive enough as it is.

Oh, the possibility for abuse is there. But what if the “demonstration” was answering a few questions on a written test? Ditto the ammo part. Answer three questions correctly, pay $3 for processing, and buy 10,000 rounds for your M1. I would gladly do that to get Universal Concealed Carry.

Any system can be abused. But to totally toss out an idea just because you can think of the extremes is silly.

They might agree but statistically, IIRC, of deaths caused by handguns, their primary purpose is suicide and number two was killing friends and family members.

I’ve always like the idea of a “drivers license” for gun ownership. We have licenses to verify s driver of a car has reached a certain level of safe operation with his two-ton land missile. I see an analogous license being required for gun ownership as reasonable.

That said, it’s never going to happen. The gun lobby says driving is a privilege while gun ownership is a right - therefore my example isn’t applicable. The more paranoid ones say that a license is, in effect, a comprehensive list of gun owners and that’ll make it easier to put them up against the wall when the totalitarian regime is installed.

To be fair, you can own a car without having a drivers license. You just can’t drive it on public streets.

So a proper analogy for a drivers license is really a carry permit of some sort. Anyone can own a gun, but you have to be properly approved by the state to carry it around in public (either openly, or concealed, depending on the locality). Those already exist in lots of places.

I understand one of the NRA’s main objections to licensing to be fear that such a list of lawful gun owners could be used to confiscate guns should the feds some day decide to do that.

According to that objection, no licensing requirements would be acceptable.

Bigger issue with the licensing: that’s a ridiculously onerous requirement. Having to take a seperate test and so on for every model of gun?! Right now there’re some twenty-odd guns upstairs, which all fall into four categories: shotgun, semi-auto pistol, revolver, and rifle. Getting a seperate test for each one, or even each model, is a worthless nuisance.

What do you mean by specific firearm? If I owned a Colt .45 semi-automatic pistol would I need to get a separate permit to own a 9mm Taurus semi-automatic? What is so radically different about a .45 caliber and a 9mm pistol and ammunition that would require a separate permit for each one?

Not only no but hell no. It makes no sense and appears to simply be a back door method of getting rid of firearms.


Yup. I frankly don’t believe this suggestion is about safety.

What, pray tell, is to be done about the 300,000,000 firearms currently in private possession in the US? Would I need to pass a test to keep my fathers .22 caliber bolt action rifle after he dies?