Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Perfect Example of Why Pure Democracy is Flawed

In the Federalist Papers, James Madison warned of the "tyranny of the majority". He said that the Constitution, with its defined checks and balances, would prevent such a perversion of our form of democratic rule.   Thomas Jefferson said that "Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%."

Inconsistent with the beliefs of both of those Founding Fathers, there is now a trend to take issues to the public in the form of ballot initiatives. Initiatives that wind up on the ballot with just a few thousand signatures.  Initiatives that lack legislative debate and expert testimonies and questioning. And, initiatives that that can be passed into law with the slightest of margins by an ill-informed and/or uniformed electorate.

In my opinion, a ballot initiative in Nevada, called Proposition 1, is a perfect example of what Madison and Jefferson were concerned about.  Proposition 1 requires that, with little exceptions, all gun transfers between private parties be subject to a federal background check by the FBI.  Only 55,250 signatures got the initiative on the ballot in November, and it won by garnering just 50.45% of the popular vote.  In other words, only 9,899 votes passed it into law.  Therefore, gun owners in the state were being subjugated by the slightest of majorities.

Now, because of the lack of forethought and thorough investigation, the initiative is in trouble. The FBI has said it will not process background checks between private parties because that would be inconsistent with the Brady Bill; the very federal law that established background checks in the first place.  Quite frankly, the FBI would need increased funding and manpower to do so. This, then, leaves the State of Nevada with the only option of establishing its own background check system which, in itself, could be flawed because it may not be able to include crimes committed in other states.  I doubt very seriously that the FBI will allow states access to its own background check database for both cost and security concerns.  Further, there will be a cost to the state of Nevada to establish their own system.   Something never considered in the original ballot initiative.    In addition,  all the law enforcement agencies in the state will be required to enter data into another background check system; placing an additional burden in many of our already over burdened police.

Simply speaking, we should not be putting initiatives on ballots without due consideration of what its consequences will be.  Not even to mentioned, of course, is the fact that "only law abiding gun owners" will comply with the law.  Because of that, there is no reasonable expectation that increased background checks will even marginally reduce gun violence in the State.  Putting initiatives on ballots just because they "sound good" will  continue unless state legislatures take steps to reign them in.


Nevada's voter-OK'ed gun background checks blocked:

Signature Requirements for Ballot Measures by State:,_2016

Thomas Jefferson on Mob Rule:

Madison on Tyranny of the Majority:

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