Thursday, April 09, 2009

Not a Problem, an Opportunity

The State of Maryland has its shorts in a knot over an unintended side effect of the Supreme Court’s declaration that DC’s handgun ban was unconstitutional. Now that people can buy and own guns in the District of Columbia, there is only one licensed gun dealer. Since federal law prohibits buying a gun in a state in which the buyer is not a resident, Congress responded by passing a law that allowed DC residents to buy their guns in Maryland or Virginia.

Virginia has no problem with this. Most illegal DC handguns probably came from Virginia via straw man purchases in the first place. The new law just allows them to stop feigning indignation every time someone points it out.

Maryland is upset. The state claims it lacks the resources to do all the background checks, especially since the new ones will require searches of DC records, which are as well organized as straws in a windstorm. Times are tough in Maryland, too, and the state lacks the revenue to maintain services for its own residents. Adding the DC burden is going to be a real problem.

On the other hand, why should Virginia gun dealers get all the extra business, and Virginia all the extra sales tax revenues? There is a simple solution: charge a fee for each records search needed to buy a gun. You pay for title searches on your house. All states finance their departments of motor vehicles through license and registration fees. Why should this specific service be exempt? The only people with a need to have background checks done are gun buyers. Why should all Maryland residents, many of whom do not own guns, have to pay for those who do, especially if they are from out of state?

Staff an office adequate to the task, and charge the gun dealer for each records check. The dealer may then pass the cost along to his customers, or not, as he wishes. It’s the free enterprise system at work.

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