The Driver’s License

A young man named Colin Goddard was on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal the other day.  He is a survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting rampage who now works with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Goddard still has three bullets in his body.  His French teacher was one of those killed.  He, of course, thinks background checks on people buying guns is a fine idea.

Much of the national debate stemming from the Newtown, Connecticut shootings is focusing on increasing background checks, particularly with sales at gun shows.

That idea is a hot button issue for many gun rights advocates.  Thousands of guns are sold every year to people whose backgrounds are not checked–many of them sold as a person-to-person transaction, but thousands are sold at gun shows.

Those of us who cover discussions in government councils often hear passionate arguments on this issue from many people with rigid positions that seem to leave no room for cool discussions of actions that could keep even one gun out of the hands of one person who might use it for another mass shooting–and whether such a policy is worth inconvenience to thousands who don’t have those possibilities.

What does this have to do with a driver’s license?

One of the callers to the program was a woman who noted that whenever she is pulled over by a policeman, she has to produce her driver’s license.  The policeman can then get her entire driving record and any records of outstanding warrants in a matter of minutes through his in-car computer.  Her point was that doing a background check for purchasers at gun shows, in particular, shouldn’t be that onerous an operation, given the rapidity with which police can check her record at a traffic stop.

We hear the driver’s license used in the legislature a lot to justify voter photo ID legislation.  You have to identify yourself for all kinds of other things in our society, say the legislation’s proponents.  You have to show a driver’s license.  Why shouldn’t you show some kind of ID to vote?

We have no hard data to support this thought, but it does seem anecdotally that many of those who think a person should show a driver’s license at the polling place are many of those who don’t think background checks should be done for firearms purchases. We’ve never been to a gun show.  But we’re sure most of those who do go to them and who buy guns probably don’t walk there.


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