Let’s start with the fact that none of the party platforms are worth the paper they are written on. Seldom if ever is the platform of a given party ever delivered when the realities of governing in a democracy are confronted. Having said that, the editorial written by Dave Mathews (“GOP has the most reasonable approach to gun legislation,” The Daily News, Sept. 14) makes the mistake of basing favor for the Republican plank on the fact that the Democrats’ gun control plank “fails to take into account that micromanaging a legal industry in the U.S. — whether if it be firearms or Wall Street paper — seldom works.”
The ratification of the 21st Amendment, which mandated on December 5, 1933, that prohibition be repealed and the subsequent legislation governing the manufacturing, marketing and sale of alcoholic beverages is a classic example of micromanaged governance that works. Congress recognized that in repealing prohibition there must be rules and regulations that kept organized crime out of the ethanol business while at the same time controlling all aspect of ethanol commerce. A three tier system was set up that separated the manufacturer from the wholesaler and the wholesaler from the retailer. The result is a federal umbrella over all aspects of the alcohol industry enforced by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives with specific laws, rules and regulations administered on a state by state basis.
Every aspect of the manufacture and sale of alcohol is handled within the myriad of rules and regulations both federally and at the state and local level. We’re talking about ingredients, percent of alcohol content, packaging, shipping, interstate commerce, advertising, etc. Add marketing practices including, inducement, novelties, retail location, advertising, special event marketing, legal age of consumption and hours of service, issuance of credit, possession of firearms, licensing, etc., and one can easily see that the manufacture and sale of ethanol is the most highly regulated industry in the U.S.
But contrary to The Daily News editorial, this type of micromanagement seldom works; when in fact, it does work. Yes, there are inconsistencies from state to state and some of the laws now on the books at the state level seem outdated as they relate to the repeal of prohibition, but the fact is that the legislative oversight of the ethanol (alcohol) industry has functioned very well these past 83 years.
So, as it relates to gun legislation, without taking a pro or con stance on the issue, all I would say is that reasonable legislative oversight is certainly doable and many would say necessary. Just how far any such legislation needs to go relative to the Second Amendment is a topic for another column. It seems to me that an umbrella related to the Commerce Clause, but pushing down the specifics to the states would work, but there will certainly need to be similarities to state regulation of alcohol and the Commerce Clause must be able to uphold interstate commerce compatible with enacted state laws.
Mike McAfee lives in Galveston.