George Barnett: Gun industry should self regulate

Published: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 4:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 4:45 p.m.

In 1922, faced with increasingly growing demands for movie censorship by the federal and state governments, the film industry created the Hays Office, to engage in self-censorship of its films. Codes were established, and the office, under various names and guidelines, continues today.

What if the gun manufacturers and the National Rifle Association were to establish their own gun safety and control rules? Suppose they did their own background checks and established their own registries. Both the manufacturers and the NRA and many of its members fear government regulation the same way that the film industry feared it. So, why not follow the practice that the film industry devised to solve the same kind of problem?

Consider the problems now faced by the gun manufacturers and the NRA in growing cries by the public for more extensive gun control laws. The issue of government control versus freedom is being debated in the media constantly. Demands for greater control by the left and for non-interference by the right are equally loud and strident.

Consider the benefits of self-imposed control by the industry with the assistance of the NRA. If gun owners and gun manufacturers don't want background checks done by the government, let them conduct their own backgrounds checks. Does anyone seriously think that the gun manufacturers and the NRA want guns in the hands of the mentally disturbed or criminals? No, but the idea that government can expand its powers and keep a list of all gun owners frightens some of us.

If the industry and the NRA wanted to self regulate, I am sure that the Congress and state governments would be happy to waive any responsibility to do so. Then, any background checks, any gun registries would be in the hands of the gun manufacturers and the NRA and Congress could empower them to allow government access to such records only under circumstances established by the manufacturers and the NRA acting responsibly by themselves.

The Hays office and its successors have regulated the content and portrayal of that content in films for over ninety years without significant objection by government or by the people who demanded censorship in the first place. Why can't the gun industry and its NRA supporters conduct themselves the same way, privately, and without government intervention? The industry and the NRA could also spread the creation and operation of gun safety education programs, and clinics by raising the prices of guns and ammunition only by pennies, and for heaven's sake they might even get government assistance to do so.

George L. Barnett lives in Micanopy.

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