How about tiered permitting keyed to firepower?

Published 10:40 am Tuesday, February 27, 2018

By Charlie Mitchell

OK. Deep breath.

In Mississippi, the state has a wringer. It puts citizens who ask to pack firearms where otherwise not allowed through that wringer. The wringer is so good that not one incident of weapons misuse by a state-certified enhanced carry permit holder has ever been reported.

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Now this: Clearing that wringer is required to tote a single-shot rat pistol into Walmart.

So, if we vet people by where they can take any weapon, how big of a leap would it be to impose the same requirements to buy or possess a hand-held weapon of mass destruction, one capable of 500 or 600 rounds per minute?

It’s not clear when common sense left the conversation about private ownership or firearms, but it’s gone.

Both sides have talking points grounded in objective truth. After every mass murder, each side voices its talking points. Seventeen more dead in Florida and people are still talking past each other instead of to each other.

Cable news (especially and shamefully) exploits conflict for ratings. Social media parrots the talking heads. And more graves, most of them for children, are dug and filled.

“Do you support the Second Amendment?” is the challenge. It’s all-in or all-out, a supporter of liberty and all things good and righteous or enemy of freedom and hater of America.

That’s the most stupid diversion in the whole non-conversation. Today’s pro-gun folks hoist the right to bear arms as an unassailable absolute. That’s a complete lie. At the federal and state levels, there are mountains and mountains of laws related to regulating, licensing, permitting and tracking firearms. The right to go bowling has fewer limitations.

People who take this bogus stance might be surprised to learn that when created the National Rifle Association was, by today’s standards, a gun-control group. The emphasis was on responsibilities, not rights.

The year was 1871 and firearms were evolving, you see. The Springfield Model 1861 had been the weapon of choice during the Civil War. In the hands of a skilled soldier, three rounds, loaded one at a time, could be fired in a minute. Repeating rifles were around during the war, but were becoming better. Because of this rapid-fire potential — six or more rounds — the NRA was founded by two former Union generals to help assure such deadly weapons were in the hands of trained, responsible people.

The record also shows the NRA — under former management — was cool with controls.

After a mail-order rifle was used to kill President Kennedy in 1963, the executive vice president of the NRA, Franklin Orth, testified in favor of the complete ban on mail-order rifles. Yes. That’s correct. Even today, the right to bear arms doesn’t include the right to order one from

Gun rights forces have also worked diligently to explain away 1934 testimony from Karl T. Frederick, NRA president at the time. Congress was placing limits on firearms favored by gangsters. “I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons,” Frederick said. “I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.”

As donor records make clear, the NRA of today backs its positions with its checkbook, so maybe that’s what put the brakes on discussion. Here in Mississippi legislators climb over each other to do the NRA’s bidding.

But think about these truths: (1) There have been limits on firearms in America almost since the nation’s founding. (2) Mississippi already has in place a system of tiered licensure, which it prefers to call permitting.

In any event, a champion who comes forward — could be President Trump, could be Gov. Phil Bryant — and proposes tiered permitting keyed to firepower — would strike a blow for rational progress. (1) No change related to the existing controls and requirements for the purchase of handguns or sporting rifles. (2) Permit and training required for any combat-styled weapon that could fire more than a certain number of rounds per second.

America would stop applying the same rules whether a weapon fires three rounds per minute or 10 rounds per second.

Would that end all violent acts committed by mentally ill people intent on mass destruction? No. But it might stop some, give those in the line of fire more time to react.

Can we have this conversation? Probably not.

If Trump or Bryant or anyone else even suggested a conversation, shouts would arise labeling them as traitors who hate America.

Not only that. Not another dime from the NRA.

Charlie Mitchell is a Mississippi journalist. Write to him at