Brooklyn Law Review

Article Title

Going Gunless


Dru Stevenson


Firearm policy in the United States is subject to longstanding political gridlock. Up to now, most of the legal academic literature has focused on the constitutionality of various—or any—regulations regarding firearm possession, sales, or usage. This article inverts the problem and proposes a system for voluntary registration and certification of nonowners, those who want to waive or renounce their Second Amendment rights as a matter of personal conviction. The proposed system is analogous to both the registration of conscientious objectors during wartime conscriptions, and the newer suicide prevention laws whereby individuals can add their names to a do-not-sell list for firearm dealers—though the proposal made here is broader and more permanent. Voluntary registration, with official certification, would serve three important purposes. First, this would help create social identification markers for the gunless-by-choice movement, something that historically has been missing; formal signals and labels of identification with a movement are necessary for a movement’s success, especially with prohibition or abstinence movements. Second, registration and certification as gunless would be a personal moral commitment marker; all societies provide ways for solemnizing one’s vows and solidifying one’s resolve on serious, lifelong moral decisions. Third, certification allows for a market signaling effect, providing useful information that can trigger a beneficial response from the private sector; market responses, in turn, provide useful information about otherwise hotly-debated beliefs, such as whether guns in fact enhance or reduce safety for individuals and public places. This article develops each of these points and offers a unique and simple regulatory and statutory alternative for a new system of registration and certification.