Yesterday I started fisking a Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy “Fact Sheet” on the lawsuits against gun manufacturers brought by cities, counties, and individuals. I only had time to do three of the “myths,” but I promised I’d get back to it.
“Myth: Once the gun leaves the manufacturers’s hands, there is nothing the manufacturer can do about who buys it, or how it is used.
“FACT: In fact, there are many things the manufacturers can do. Gun makers can design their products with built-in safety devices so they can’t be fired by young children or other unauthorized users. Like the makers of most other products, they can play an active oversight role with their dealers. Research shows that many criminals obtain guns that were first sold by a fairly small number of unscrupulous or careless gun dealers. Manufacturers can and should refuse to supply guns to these dealers. They can also train dealers to better identify and discourage illegal gun buyers.”
Uh-huh. I’ve already covered what these people think “built-in safety devices” should do – render a gun unable to shoot. If you have a gun for self-defense, it has to work when you need it. That’s why the police are exempt from these requirements. They want this ostensibly to prevent “young children” from firing a gun accidentally. Yes, this does happen, but let’s look at the realities, shall we?
First: There are an estimated 65,000,000 handguns (just handguns) already in private hands. Any modifications to new guns will have no effect on this existing pool. If guns are as dangerous as we are led to believe, requiring us to modify newly manufactured existing designs to protect young children, then there must be an epidemic of accidental deaths of the young children who are exposed to the threat these guns pose. We’ve been told over the last decade that 10, 11, 12, 13 kids a day are the victims of guns. And this has been swallowed hook, line, and sinker to mean accidental deaths of small children.
“And what about the more than 4,000 children who die in gun-related accidents each year? That’s 11 kids a day. And we’re not talking about crimes, or intentional shootings. We’re talking — or not talking enough — about accidents.” – Jean Hanff Korelitz, What a few good women can do, Salon.com, March 13, 2000.
Let’s define “children” as I must assume The Johns Hopkins Center means – kids too small to know about the dangers of guns, but still able to pull a trigger. Let’s be generous and put that upper limit at, say, 10 years old. (When I was 10 I knew where my father’s guns – and ammo – were, and how to load and unload those guns. I also knew what those guns could do. But for the sake of argument…) I’ll leave the lower limit at zero, as the worry seems to be small kids shooting themselves or other small kids.
According to the Centers for Disease Control WISQARS website in 2000, out of a population of 42,971,230 children 10 years old and below, there were 41 accidental deaths by firearm. In 1999: 32. In 1998: 59. In 1997: 54. In 1996: 51. In 1995: 58. In 1990, as far back as age-specific data goes, there were 105. I’m not going to sit here and say “these numbers are insignificant.” I’m not a heartless bastard no matter what you might think, but I am going to say that trying to attack this problem through forcing gun manufacturers to put new “safety features” on new guns is like trying to kill a mosquito with an icepick. While blindfolded. When the mosquito is in another room. It’s obvious upon reflection that “child safety” cannot be the intent.
And it’s not like the industry hasn’t been addressing this problem. Accidental gun deaths aren’t due to defective weapons, but to unsafe handling and storage. And those aren’t the responsibility of manufacturers, but end users. We don’t need integral trigger locks and magazine disconnects, we need to better educate gun owners and their kids. And by and large the industry and trade associations and the NRA have provided safety training to gun owners and their families. That’s something you cannot say about Johns Hopkins or Americans for Gun Safety or any other “gun control” organization.
The number of accidental deaths by firearms has been declining since we started keeping track in the early 1900’s. It’s at its lowest point ever currently. But so long as Americans have and exercise the right to
arms anything, tragic accidents will occur. We don’t seem equivalently concerned that far more children in that age group die by drowning (801 in 2000.)
Second: “Research shows that many criminals obtain guns that were first sold by a fairly small number of unscrupulous or careless gun dealers”? Why is this the responsibility of the gun manufacturers? Note the wording. “First sold” means those guns might have been straw-purchases, where a person who is not prohibited from buying a gun does so for someone who is. It might also mean that an honest citizen bought a gun from a dealer, and then innocently sold it to someone who was prohibited. If you were not aware, private citizens do not have access to the background check system. Only licensed dealers do. Or, the guns could have been stolen from the store or from the original purchasers. Also what the Johns Hopkins Center doesn’t tell you is that it’s the responsibility of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to regulate the dealers. It’s their job to close down “unscrupulous” dealers. But instead they seem to spend most of their time harrassing innocent victims and stomping kittens, so much so that Illinois Democratic Congressman John Dingell detailed some of these abuses and called the BATF “jackbooted American fascists” in House testimony in 1995.
Further, the BATF numbers showing “a small number” of dealers as being at fault are often not “dealers” at all. They’re distributors – middlemen between the gun manufacturer and the guy with a storefront. Now I ask you: If a distributor sells to dealers in Miami or the suburbs of Chicago, isn’t he far more likely to be the source of guns that end up used in crimes than a distributor who sells to dealers in, say, Nebraska? If a dealer is the problem, then why doesn’t the BATF pull their license?
Third: “Manufacturers can and should refuse to supply guns to these dealers.” One manufacturer might, but the dealer would then be forced to pick up a different line. That hardly solves the problem. So all manufacturers should refuse to sell to that dealer, right? Really? Nope. That’s grounds for a lawsuit on the basis of restraint of trade and collusion. And the dealer would win.
Finally, “They can also train dealers to better identify and discourage illegal gun buyers”? Let’s say you’re a gun dealer in a suburb of Chigago. A young black man enters your establishment and is dressed like a gang-banger. He wants to buy a 9mm handgun, and his ID shows that he is over the age of 21. He fills out the paperwork and the dealer runs the background check, which comes out clean. The dealer suspects that this handgun is going to be used, sooner or later, in an illegal manner. So he should refuse the sale, right?
He runs the very real risk of a lawsuit for “profiling.” It’s not politically correct to refuse to sell someone anything legal on the grounds that you don’t like the way they look.
Get this straight: regulating the trade in guns is the business of the legislature. The gun control organizations have pursued this path for decades, but they’ve run into a brick wall. So now they’re trying to A) bankrupt gun manufacturers and/or B) use judicial activism to accomplish what they cannot through legislation. And it’s wrong.
More later, maybe.