New regulations carry the promise of under-enforcement

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Earlier this month, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled against the continuation of Governor Evers’ mask mandate. While this sounds like a big deal, many sheriff’s departments and police have refused to enforce the mandate the entire time it was in effect, therefore allowing people to go maskless in public unless a business decided to enforce the wearing of face coverings. Where I live, there has been no change. Most people still wear a mask, but there are those who ardently refuse.

This lack of enforcement is nothing new. The big difference in the circumstance of the mask mandate is that the decision not to enforce was politically motivated.

If we look at the passage of new regulations in recent years, whether at the state or federal level, we can see a lot of well-intentioned measures that have made little difference due to a lack of enforcement. Usually this is due to inadequate funding for paying people to enforce the law.

A good example of this can be seen with legislation aimed at reining in puppy mills. Sure, there have been some of these facilities that have been shut down, but inspectors are stretched thin and many mills continue to operate.

Following recent mass shootings with a new administration in place, gun control policies loom on the horizon. Measures such as background checks, waiting periods, and even the ban of assault weapons are things most Americans support. There will be some who recommend buy back programs, and while buy back programs have been hugely successful in decreasing gun violence in places like Australia, it would most assuredly be underfunded to the point of being ineffectual here.

The most promising regulation would be requiring background checks and waiting periods, but not every seller is a brick and mortar. Private gun owners who choose to sell some of their firearms, as well as vendors at gun shows, escape these rules far too easily. But more importantly, when a dealer does a background check, who doesn’t make the cut? Red flag laws can help direct that decision, but there is still the question of who should be included in the group of people that should not be allowed to purchase a firearm.

Often times, people with a history of mental illness are seen as people who should be included in that list. However a person with this on their record is a person who has sought treatment; most mass shooters, even if they are mentally ill, have no history of treatment. The Parkland shooter may have been stopped by this, but many others wouldn’t have. The irony of refusing the sale of firearms to the mentally ill, a group that is at greater risk of being the target of gun violence, is not lost on disability advocates.

In my opinion, it would be a better strategy to deny the sale of weapons to someone with a history of domestic violence or assault on their record. But no matter what the criteria is for denying the sale of a firearm, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the seller. Without the potential for severe punishment, we are likely to see sellers who fail at doing due diligence.

When it comes to holding gun dealers and manufacturers responsible, the decision has mostly been left up to civil courts to decide with punishment often limited to paying damages. But what if the manufacturer of a weapon, or the person who sold it, could face the same kind of punishment as the shooter? It does little good to punish the shooter when so many mass shooters commit suicide or are killed during the incident, but after every mass shooting there are still people at fault who remain alive. If they could potentially face life in prison, you would see highly effective self regulation in this industry.

If we want to see real change, then we must make those who fought change come around. If we can turn an obstructionist into an advocate for change, then the problem solves itself. That is how self regulation should work. That is how common sense gun control should work.