To a large extent, gun control is something that people believe in. It is embraced in principle without attention to practicalities, implementation and enforcement problems, and costs. Many people assume that effective, cost-efficient gun controls are available for the taking, if only the opposition of the evil gun lobby could be overcome. There are no scholarly articles and few advocacy documents that provide the details of particular gun controls and grapple with questions of implementation and enforcement.
I approach gun control as a problem of regulation. In the pages that follow, I will examine the administrative challenges, enforcement dilemmas, and unintended consequences of the whole range of gun control options. The bad news is that this book is hard work. The good news is that the hard work will be repaid. It is no doubt far easier, and certainly more satisfying, to debate gun control in principle, to locate oneself on the moral high ground and to demonize those who take the opposite position, than to deal with the extraordinarily difficult problems of designing, implementing, and enforcing a regulatory regime that would successfully deny access to firearms to some or all civilians, or keep track of the whereabouts and ownership of every weapon. It cannot be overemphasized that when it comes to considering the future of U. S. firearms regulation, we are not writing on a blank slate. The question we must address is not whether an armed citizenry is a good or bad idea or what policies would make sense for a brand new country that has few, if any, guns. We must confront a much tougher question: What options are available to the United States at this point in its history?
Many readers are likely to wonder why the United States cannot just adopt the gun control policies that work in European countries, Japan, and