Proposed gun referendum is an idiotic idea

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

I’ve heard a lot of dumb ideas lately, not the least of which is Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed constitutional amendment.

But I also came across an idea that I’d likely have called the dumbest suggestion yet, but with Newsom’s proposal, it’s too close to call.

You see, we’ve got someone who thinks what we need is a referendum on guns.

This essay seeks to answer the question of what Americans are willing to do by the simplest method: asking them. No specific method is proposed. The mechanism for query is the referendum. The proposed Referendum is intended to resolve this issue by finding out what Americans really want. All Americans in all states and territories would have the opportunity to respond to the referendum, which would be written, organized, and administered by a Central Committee chartered by Congress. This essay aims to present some initial ideas that may be elaborated to determine a more developed version of the referendum the people may vote on.

The Gun Violence Referendum would be organized by a Central Committee whose responsibilities would be difficult and important.  The Central Committee would be broad-based with a similar role described in Warren Commission. The chair would most likely be the chair of the Supreme Court. Congress would determine the size and exact makeup of the Committee.

The Central Committee would determine specific questions on the Referendum. They would range from the very easy to the most challenging. An easy question might be, for example, would you be willing to register your firearm? A more challenging question might be, for example, would you be willing to surrender your firearm to authorities? Other questions that have been considered include if teachers should be armed in schools. This essay does not favor any specific questions. That will be up to the respondents.

The Central Committee will determine how the Referendum will be administered and how the results will be tallied. The ultimate goal will be to determine a set of statements the general public will agree with and incorporate into new legislation that will supersede all previous federal and state legislation.

Now, to a lot of people, this probably looks like a decent suggestion. Why not ask the question and allow the people of the United States to decide if they want gun control or not?

Well, I’m glad you asked because I’m going to explain very simply why it’s an idiotic idea.

It’s stupid because we don’t determine rights by public referendum. Ever.

Our rights are protected by the Constitution. Several are specifically enshrined in that text, untouchable by either Congress or popular vote, at least in theory. The Supreme Court–who this individual thinks should be part of this process–is guided by that document, not the whims of a fickle public.

This is by design. Our Founding Fathers knew the problems of democracy and took care to make sure people couldn’t just vote away people’s rights simply because they wanted to, which is basically what we’re talking about here.

The author argues that this is the only proposal that aims to break the deadlock on the issue, but he misses the fact that a deadlock on our rights is pretty much what we should have.

Let’s also look at our system of government for a moment for another clue why this is a bad idea.

We have two chambers of Congress. One is based on population and the other gives each state an equal voice. As a result, smaller states’ senators can protect their constituents in that chamber so that more populated states don’t drown out their voices.

The needs of Alaska are very different than the needs of California, after all, and people kind of suck at giving up things that benefit them because they hurt someone else. So, we keep a check on larger population centers.

A referendum, however, would empower states like New York and California while drowning out states like North Dakota and Montana.

We don’t use the popular vote on a national level for a reason and what is a referendum besides a popular vote?

But hey, this is a Ph.D. from California we’re talking about, so why should we be shocked to see something so stupid?