Today we present a breakthrough in editorial technology: A two-for-one editorial. As you read the following, think about how you might fill in the blanks.

 

Over the past year, America has seen a shocking increase in the number of accidents and outright illegal activity involving ______. Yet those who negligently or recklessly use ______ rarely are held accountable because they cannot be found afterward. That needs to change.

Most people who own ______ are responsible with them. But as with so many things, some people are less careful.

The federal government therefore might require ______ owners to register them. Those records would exist solely for the purpose of finding the owner when things go wrong. A registered serial number would allow law enforcement to find the perpetrator or at least get one step closer.

There’s no denying that this is a difficult issue, one that requires a careful balance between respecting personal liberty and government oversight. When the government demands any registration, it had better have a very good reason. People ought to be able to pursue their interests without the wary eye of the feds watching over their shoulder. Yet if ______ owners are putting others at risk, it’s reasonable to require them to register.

In striking a balance, then, public safety must take precedence.

Lawful owners might even see some benefits. If police are better able to find those who are not as lawful, it could improve public perception for the rest. Likewise, if a ______ is stolen, having the serial number registered could help with returning it to the rightful owner.

Registration does not mean restricting access. Lawful purchases would not and should not be hindered.

Americans already are familiar with registering some of their property. Car owners must register their vehicles with the state precisely because cars are potentially dangerous. Indeed, with cars, there also is licensing. Which might be a good idea for ______ owners, too.

The burden of registration on lawful owners is minimal. The potential safety and law enforcement gains are great.

 

Now your two-for-one. Fill in the blanks with either “drone(s)” or “gun(s),” and the logic holds. Unfortunately, only drones are likely to require registration any time soon.

The Federal Aviation Administration last week revealed that it will work with manufacturers and hobbyists to develop sensible registration rules for drone aircraft. The remote-controlled fliers have become increasingly popular. Some owners flaunt the rules and fly where they aren’t supposed to fly.

For example, the FAA receives about 100 reports per month of drones flying near airports. If one were to be sucked into a jet engine or hit a windshield, a tragic accident could occur. Airports work to keep birds out of their airspace; why not other flying objects? There have been troubling reports of drones over crowded sporting events and drones interfering with firefighters. Criminals have even used drones to smuggle drugs and sneak contraband into prisons.

In those types of cases, if the drone crashes or is captured, registration would help law enforcement.

Although universal gun registration would provide similar benefits, no serious proposal has much of a chance of passing in Washington. As much as President Barack Obama might bemoan the “routine” response to gun violence, to date political reality stands in the way of registration or any other modest reform.

In the meantime, register drones. License them, too, just like cars. One day the nation will wake up and do the same for guns.

Editorial by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch


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