So the most recent attempt at “gun control” legislation died in the Senate to the lamentations of the Left and the media (but I repeat myself). Claims that “90%” of the populace supported “universal background checks” and that this legislation “might have prevented the next” rampage shooting have been thrown around, but as Senator Mike Lee put in his recent op-ed Why I Voted Against Background Checks:
Gun-control advocates point to polls that show support for expanding background checks. But members of Congress do not get to vote on broad poll questions. They have to vote on specific legislation.
As I have said in the past, when gun control laws go on a ballot they most often lose, and usually badly. (“Yes, I support more effective gun control, but not THAT!“). And that is in the popular vote, not in the houses of Congress.
It was apparent to anyone who looked that this legislation would have had no effect on the Sandy Hook massacre, yet it was the families of the victims of that slaughter that were trotted out in an attempt to force legislators to vote the way the President wanted, an outright appeal to emotion defeating reason, implying that voting against it would make one an accomplice to the next such event.
This essay is inspired in part by perennial gadfly Markadelphia, who in a comment thread raised a couple of points I’d like to expand upon. First:
If everyone had supported this bill, the cry for action would have died down considerably.
Of course it would, until the next mass shooting. Whereupon, emboldened by their success in this case, additional legislation would be passed to help “prevent the next” mass shooting that this legislation failed to prevent.
There would have been virtually no chance for a new AWB or ammo clip limit.
You see, we’ve seen this strategy employed successfully in England. A heinous act committed with firearms, followed by legislation that either had nothing to do with that act, or would have had no effect in preventing that act. But it was seen as DOING SOMETHING. It was promoted as “doing something.” As Say Uncle puts it, Gun Control: What you do instead of something. But it’s not. It’s something else.
Yet with nothing being done, the next shooting will almost certainly bring more support and voters to the side of the Diane Feinstein’s[sic] and Michael Bloomberg’s[sic] of the world.
No, I don’t think so. Twenty dead children didn’t do it. Newtown, Connecticut was not Dunblane, Scotland.
It’s pretty irritating, being shamed by people who have none themselves.
And in this battle, numbers count. Democracy, don’t you know. And democracy works for those who show up.
There is a poll on the right sidebar of that Mike Lee op-ed, asking readers whether they strongly agree, agree, don’t know, disagree or strongly disagree with the Senator’s piece. At the time of this writing, 55% agree, with 43% strongly agreeing. Only 36% percent strongly disagree. A similar poll on another op-ed supporting magazine size restrictions shows 74% in opposition to the editorial. Of the people who feel strongly enough to read or at least vote on these op-eds, those who support the right to keep and bear arms are in the significant majority. Supposedly 90% of the populace supports universal background checks? Well, according to a Gallup poll taken after the Sandy Hook massacre, Only 4% of Americans Think Gun Control is an Important Problem. Other current polling indicates that 51% of people now believe a gun in the home increases safety, with only 29% saying it makes a home more dangerous.
Politicians know who votes. Gun owners vote.
The reality is that the NRA doesn’t really give a crap about the second amendment anymore. They see the shrinking number of people buying guns (even though that smaller percentage are buying more guns) and know that any sort of increased background check system is going to be mean because some of those people will fail.
“The greatest pleasure in life is to do what people say you cannot do.” – Walter Bagehot
Last year, I sat at a bar with a friend and listened to a friend list a dozen very logical, well-explained reasons why I’d never be able to fill serious training classes with female shooters alone, or build a business based on that model, or get any respect for teaching women’s classes only.
This year, I have a completely full calendar with fully-filled classes all over the country, most of them for women only.
Life is sweet.
And Kathy is not alone. Does that sound like a “shrinking number of people” getting into firearms? I don’t know about anyone else, but I have added on average 2.5 firearms per year to my collection for the last several years. (I know, I know, but I can’t afford one-gun-a-month.) With the economy the way it’s been, I certainly haven’t been buying in bulk. But I and people I know have been reporting a lot of newbies buying guns and showing up at the range. The National Instant Check System (the “background check” that supposedly this bill was to strengthen) reports record usage, having “nearly doubled in the past decade.” Markadelphia, the New York Times and CNN would have you believe that a shrinking demographic is spending more than double what it used to, apparently building arsenals. I don’t think so, and I’ve said why before.
In fact, after Sandy Hook you can’t find much on the shelves in gun stores anywhere in the country, only this time ammo is harder to find than firearms. (.22 Rimfire? Seriously?) Yet violent crime and especially violent crime involving firearms has declined pretty steadily to levels not seen since the 1960’s, so it has become obvious to anyone who looks that more guns do not equal more crime. Add to that the spread of concealed-carry legislation that was predicted to bring “blood in the streets” in every state where it was proposed. Instead the worst accusation that can be made is that concealed-carry might not have contributed to the overall decline in violent crime. In view of these facts you can begin to understand why “gun control” is off the radar even for many people who don’t own them. Add to that Sept. 11, 2001 and other events, and it becomes apparent why more people are buying them. But that goes against The Narrative.
The second assertion is that “any sort of increased background check system is going to be[sic] mean less gun sales because some of those people will fail.” This is a two-parter also. First, let’s look at the NICS system and its history. Markadelphia says in another comment in that thread:
As I said above, the real problem is the ongoing violence that is non-spree related.
Oh, really? Well first let’s look at how the NICS system has been used since it was implemented following the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban (that wasn’t – but was a “good first step.”) The NICS system began operation in November 1998, touted as a tool that would help keep guns out of the hands of criminals. In the interim, background checks were handled at the state level. A Department of Justice report on the system for the year 2010 was published in 2012, entitled Enforcement of the Brady Act, 2010: Federal and State Investigations and Prosecutions of Firearm Applicants Denied by a NICS Check in 2010 (a PDF file). Pertinent excerpts:
The FBI conducted over six million NICS transfer checks in 2010 and denied over 72,000 applications, a denial rate of about 1%. The most common reason for denial by the FBI was a record of a felony indictment or conviction (over 47%), followed by fugitives from justice (19%), and state law prohibitions (about 11%) Other reasons included drug use or addiction (about 10%), domestic violence misdemeanor convictions (over 6%), and domestic violence restraining orders (over 4%)
(My emphasis.) So, of 72,000 denials, 97% were for things that falsely filling out the BATFE Form 4473 meant that the person denied had put his or her signature on a confession to a felony that comes with a 5-year sentence.
The DENI (ATF’s Denial Enforcement and NICS Intelligence) Branch screened 76,142 NICS denials received from the FBI during 2010, and referred 4,732 denials (approximately 6%) within the established guidelines to field divisions. The referred cases were made up of 2,265 delayed denials (3% of all denials) and 2,467 standard denials (over 3%). The remaining denials (71,410, or nearly 94%) did not meet referral guidelines or were overturned or canceled. Overturns occurred after review by the DENI Branch or after the FBI received additional information. The FBI canceled a small number of denials in cases where a NICS check should not have been conducted.
Field offices declined to refer 4,184 cases for prosecution. The most common reasons for declinations were no prosecutive merit (1,661 cases or almost 40%), federal or state guidelines were not met (1,092 cases or 26%), and subjects found to not be prohibited (480 cases or about 12%).
Other reasons for declination by a field office included closure by a supervisor (457 or 11%) and no potential or unfounded (396 cases or about 10%).
A total of 62 Federal charges from the 2010 cases were referred by field offices for consideration by prosecutors.
Of the 62 charges referred from the 2010 cases, 18 (29%) had been declined by a prosecutor as of December 13, 2011. A guilty plea was obtained on 13 charges (about 21%) and 10 charges (about 16%) were dismissed as part of a plea agreement . Twelve charges (approximately 19%) were still pending action by a prosecutor as of December 13, 2011.
(Again, my emphasis.) So out of 76,142 denials in 2010, a year in which the data that USAToday says produced 14.4 million background checks, not “over six million” (though 14.4 is greater than six), sixty-two violators were referred for prosecution. That’s (carry the three…) 0.5% of all background checks resulting in denials, and 0.08% of the denials referred for prosecution. And not all referrals yielded a sentence. Eighteen (29%) weren’t prosecuted. Nearly half (“47%”) of the 76,142 denials were due to a “record of a felony indictment or conviction.” Now, either those records are severely screwed up, or a LOT of felons signed their names to a confession…and just walked away scot-free. (Bear in mind, I’m not at all happy about what qualifies as a “felony” these days, but still….)
The Brady Campaign report Brady Background Check: 15 Years of Saving Lives (PDF) proclaims that over that 15 year period through 2008 the background check “blocked” 1,631,000 purchases, but the DoJ report states that from 2006 through 2010 a total of only 209 guilty pleas or guilty verdicts were recorded due to background check prosecutions. Moreover, the “referrals for prosecution” declined from 273 in 2006 to 62 in 2010.
“So what?” you may ask. Well, if the prohibited person wasn’t put in jail, what was to stop him or her from getting a gun some other way? I mean, if we’re not even willing to imprison the stupid felons, what’s the point? It’s as though the DoJ didn’t want the background system to do the job we were told it was created to do. And if a Federal program fails, what is the inevitable result of that failure? Do It Again, ONLY HARDER!
UPDATE: John Lott looks at background check denials and concludes that the records ARE severely screwed up. Which makes my next point more likely:
But what if the purpose of the background check system isn’t to keep guns out of the hands of criminals? Then what is it for? What if its actual purpose is “less gun sales”? Each year we’ve added well in excess of four million new or imported old guns to those already in circulation, bringing the total in private hands to somewhere in excess of 310 million by one recent estimate. (PDF) Well, obviously it’s failed there too, and thus: Do It Again, ONLY HARDER!
And when Sandy Hook occurred, what was the proposed banner legislation? Strengthened background checks! (Along with the inevitable “assault weapon ban” and magazine restriction renewal, of course.)
I concur totally that “the real problem is the ongoing violence that is non-spree related” which has been declining without new gun control laws, but apparently neither the government nor the “gun safety” groups do. Why do I say that? Well, instead of just taking them at their word, I observe their actions – with the exception of the Violence Policy Center which states plainly that its charter is the disarming of the American public. If “the ongoing violence that is not spree-related” was what was being addressed, we wouldn’t be having this argument.
It has been well documented for decades that the majority of violent crime up to and including homicide is committed by a small, identifiable population – people with prior police records of violent offenses:
* From 1990 to 2002, 18% of felony convictions in the 75 largest counties were for violent offenses, including 7% for assault and 6% for robbery.
* Six percent of those convicted of violent felonies were under age 18, and 25% were under age 21. Ten percent of murderers were under 18, and 30% were under 21.
* Thirty-six percent of violent felons had an active criminal justice status at the time of their arrest. This included 18% on probation, 12% on release pending disposition of a prior case, and 7% on parole.
* Seventy percent of violent felons had a prior arrest record, and 57% had at least one prior arrest for a felony. Sixty-seven percent of murderers and 73% of those convicted of robbery or assault had an arrest record.
* A majority (56%) of violent felons had a prior conviction record. Thirty-eight percent had a prior felony conviction and 15% had a previous conviction for a violent felony.
An estimated 70% of violent felons in the 75 largest counties had been arrested previously. Seventy-three percent of those convicted of robbery or assault had an arrest record, as did 67% of murderers, and 53% of rapists.
Sixty percent of violent felons had multiple prior arrest charges, including 40% with 5 or more, and 23% with 10 or more. About a fourth of those convicted of robbery (26%) or assault (24%)had 10 or more prior arrest charges, as did about a fifth of murderers (21%) and a tenth of rapists (10%).
A majority (57%) of violent felons had been arrested previously for a felony. The percentage with a felony arrest record ranged from 40% of rapists to 63% of robbers. Fifty-nine percent of those convicted of assault and 58% of those convicted of murder had at least one prior felony arrest.
Forty-four percent of violent felons had more than one prior felony arrest charge, and 22% had at least five.
Criminal violence is a behavior, but it’s much easier to attack a physical object, a deodand, rather than face politically incorrect facts. It’s much safer to attack the law abiding gun owner in rural Arkansas or suburban Houston than Crips or Bloods in South Side Chicago, for example.
Yes, “the real problem is the ongoing violence that is non-spree related.” Like the 319 school-age children shot in gun-control haven Chicago between January 1 and June 15, 2011. Twenty dead schoolchildren in Sandy Hook? What about the 24 dead children in Chicago, where no one can legally own a handgun, much less an “assault weapon”? Where everyone in Illinois who wants to legally own a gun must have a Firearms Owner ID (FOID) card. How’s that working out? And bear in mind, criminals are legally exempt from registering their firearms because to do so would violate their Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.
Apparently, dead children don’t really matter to gun control supporters unless they’re little white kids killed with an AR-15 or an AK-47. I’m a racist for pointing this out, but I refuse to be shamed into ignoring it.
As noted, overall violent crime is down. Homicide is at rates not seen since the 1960’s, and where homicide does occur is largely in densely populated urban areas, mostly by a small, easily identifiable demographic. All of this is in the face of a nationwide easing in the restrictions on firearms and their carriage. If “the ongoing violence that is not spree related” was the concern, then the gun control forces should be pleased. Instead they are desperate because “the ongoing violence that is not spree-related” isn’t, in their minds, “the problem.”
Back in 2006 when I wrote The Other Side, I noted the single article of faith shared by all members of that Other Side™:
There are too many guns.
That’s the single thing our side needs to keep in mind, the lens through which we need to analyze every action their side takes. Because they concern themselves exclusively with “gun deaths” and “gun violence,” the problem is too many guns. From that perspective, it’s a tautology: fewer guns must mean fewer “gun deaths” and less “gun violence.” I’ve quoted this before, but it’s appropriate once again – from the conclusion of the gun control study commissioned by the Carter Administration in 1978, published in 1983 and titled Under the Gun: Weapons, Crime, and Violence in America:
The progressive’s indictment of American firearms policy is well known and is one that both the senior authors of this study once shared. This indictment includes the following particulars: (1) Guns are involved in an astonishing number of crimes in this country. (2) In other countries with stricter firearms laws and fewer guns in private hands, gun crime is rare. (3) Most of the firearms involved in crime are cheap Saturday Night Specials, for which no legitimate use or need exists. [Still true. – Ed.] (4) Many families acquire such a gun because they feel the need to protect themselves; eventually they end up shooting one another. (5) If there were fewer guns around, there would obviously be less crime. (6) Most of the public also believes this and has favored stricter gun control laws for as long as anyone has asked the question. (7) Only the gun lobby prevents us from embarking on the road to a safer and more civilized society.
The more deeply we have explored the empirical implications of this indictment, the less plausible it has become. We wonder, first, given the number of firearms presently available in the United States, whether the time to “do something” about them has not long since passed. If we take the highest plausible value for the total number of gun incidents in any given year – 1,000,000 – and the lowest plausible value for the total number of firearms now in private hands – 100,000,000 – we see rather quickly that the guns now owned exceed the annual incident count by a factor of at least 100. This means that the existing stock is adequate to supply all conceivable criminal purposes for at least the entire next century, even if the worldwide manufacture of new guns were halted today and if each presently owned firearm were used criminally once and only once. Short of an outright house-to-house search and seizure mission, just how are we going to achieve some significant reduction in the number of firearms available?
To members of the gun subculture who have been around guns all their lives and have owned and used guns as long as it has been legal for them to do so, the indictments of gun control advocates must appear to be incomprehensible, if not simply demeaning. We should not be surprised to learn that they may resent being depicted as irresponsible, nervous, potentially dangerous, prone to accidental or careless firearms handling, or as using their firearms to bolster sagging masculine self-images. Of course, from their viewpoints, they have none of these characteristics and in all likelihood resent being depicted as a demented and bloodthirsty lot when they are only guilty of embracing a set of rather traditional, rural, and masculine values. Indeed, one can only begin to understand the virulence with which gun control initiatives are opposed in these quarters when one realizes that what may be at stake is a way of life.
Or a system of government.
Logically, if the problem is “too many guns,” then the only logical solution must be to reduce the number of uncontrolled ones to some arbitrary value indistinguishable from zero. Yet we peons won’t comply, and we tell our elected representatives so. We also tell them with our wallets. Gun store shelves are empty. NRA membership has surged. And the Violence Policy Center has problems making payroll. What is left for gun
ban control safety forces to agitate with?
As Professor Brian Anse Patrick explained in his book The National Rifle Association and the Media: The Motivating Force of Negative Coverage, the media overwhelmingly sees itself as the clergy of the Church of State:
Journalists acquire importance in the mass democratic system precisely because they gather, convey, and interpret the data that inform individual choices. Mere raw, inaccessible data transforms to political information that is piped to where it will do the most good. Objective, balanced coverage becomes essential, at least in pretense, lest this vital flow of information to be thought compromised, thus affecting not only the quality of rational individual decision-making, but also the legitimacy of the system.
Working from within the perspective of the mass democracy model for social action it is difficult to specify an ideal role model of journalistic coverage other than a “scientific objectivism” at work. An event (i.e., reality) causes coverage, or so the objective journalist would and often does say. Virtually all of the journalists that I have ever talked with regard coverage as mirroring reality.
An ecclesiastical model most appropriately describes this elite journalistic function under mass democracy. Information is the vital substance that makes the good democracy possible. It allows, as it were, for the existence of the good society, a democratic state of grace. Information is in this sense analogous to the concept of divine grace under the pre-Reformation Roman Catholic Church. Divine grace was essential for the good spiritual life, the life that mattered. The clergy dispensed divine grace to the masses in the form of sacraments. They were its intermediaries, who established over time a monopoly, becoming the exclusive legitimate channel of divine grace.
Recollect that the interposition of intermediaries, the clergy, along a vital spiritual-psychological supply route was the rub of the Reformation. The clergy cloaked themselves in the mantle of spiritual authority rather than acting as its facilitators. Many elite newspapers have apparently done much the same thing, speaking and interpreting authoritatively for democracy, warranting these actions on the basis of social responsibility.
Journalists, particularly elite journalists, occupy under mass democracy this ecclesiastical social role, a functional near-monopoly whose duty becomes disseminating and interpreting the administrative word and its symbols unto the public. Democratic communication in this sense is sacramental, drawing its participants together into one body. We should not overlook the common root of the words communication, community, and communion.
What might be termed as the process of democommunication has aspects of transubstantiation an interpretive process by which journalists use their arts to change the bread and wine of raw data into democratically sustaining information. Democracy is a kind of communion. Objectivity and social responsibility become social necessities, legitimating doctrines much like the concept of papal infallibility, which had to emerge to lend weight to interpretive pronouncements.
In this light, even the laudable professional value of objectivity can appear as a nearly incredible claim. Both claims, objectivity and infallibility, function to lend credence, authority, and an impeachment-resistant moral/scientific base to organizational or professional products. Both are absolute in nature. Both also serve the quite necessary social function of ultimately absolving from personal responsibility or accountability the reporter, whether ecclesiastical or secular, who is, after all, merely duty-bound to report on the facts. As it is in heaven, so it will be on Earth; and as it is on Earth, so shall it appear in The New York Times.
Or as former President of CBS News Richard Salant put it:
Our job is to give people not what they want, but what we decide they ought to have.
I go through this in detail in my January 2008 essay The Church of the MSM and the New Reformation, but the gist of it is, journalists overwhelmingly have what Professor Patrick calls “an administrative control bias,” and see government as the solution to all problems by controlling everything centrally. They are anti-gun not because they’re Leftists, but because they’re authoritarians (a distinction almost without a difference, I know,) and “Guns simply invite administration.” I mean, seriously.
And government itself is, by definition, run by authoritarians. St. George Tucker in his 1803 Constitutional law review Blackstone’s Commentaries wrote:
The right of self defence is the first law of nature: in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest limits possible. Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction. In England, the people have been disarmed, generally, under the specious pretext of preserving the game: a never failing lure to bring over the landed aristocracy to support any measure, under that mask, though calculated for very different purposes. True it is, their bill of rights seems at first view to counteract this policy: but the right of bearing arms is confined to protestants, and the words suitable to their condition and degree, have been interpreted to authorise the prohibition of keeping a gun or other engine for the destruction of game, to any farmer, or inferior tradesman, or other person not qualified to kill game. So that not one man in five hundred can keep a gun in his house without being subject to a penalty.
It’s always been that way. As Mao Zedong put it,
And authoritarians are loath to share power.
So the authoritarians in government, aided by the authoritarians in the media and their useful tools in the “gun safety” movement work together in their attempt to reduce the number of guns in private hands to some value indistinguishable from zero. But how to go about it? Using England as the archetype:
- Make gun ownership difficult thus reducing the number of lawful gun owners through attrition.
- Increase the difficulty and expense involved in complying with regulations,
- Keep making ownership more and more onerous through rule changes and fee changes.
- Carry out publicized prosecution of gun owners for petty or trivial violations, producing a chilling effect on other owners.
- Demonize guns and gun ownership in the media.
- Once the population of gun owners has been decreased sufficiently to make their population politically ineffective, crank up the regulation even further – impose licensing and registration.
- Once the population of legal gun owners is small enough to be politically impotent, start confiscation.
Look at what it takes for a person who already owns guns to buy a new rifle in Australia:
Shooting Buddy arrived down from “up north” yesterday so this morning we decided to attack the paperwork for the new rifles.
The forms have to be completed on-line and then you take them to the Post Office for them to be sent to Firearms Branch.
I logged into the online forms process on one of my computers and the form didn’t display – not to be discouraged I woke up one of my other computers and tried again and this time it worked.
We decided to do Shooting Buddy’s application first. The form is interactive, so depending on how you answer questions additional ones come up. I am sure there are questions on there that weren’t on the form last time I did it, that or I’ve blanked it out of my mind! You have to answer questions about names / previous names / addresses / previous addresses (sure, list all previous addresses with dates!) / criminal convictions / medication / VROs etc, etc.
Once you get through these type of questions you actually get to the bit to do with the firearms. To be honest this bit was quite simple – as you require a Firearms Serviceability Certificate for each firearm which contains all the relevant details (make, model, serial number, calibre) you don’t actually have to fill this in on the form – only the Serviceability Certificate Number (and attach it to your application).
I only ended up having to ring the Firearms Branch twice during the process. Once was regarding how to put the ‘other licencee’ information (i.e. my information) in and the other time was at the end of the process as the guy on the phone had mentioned an additional form (Co-Users Permission Form) to me but the application process did not refer to this form at all. (Yes, you do need to submit it).
After filling in the six pages of information for Shooting Buddy we went to print it, which requires it to contact via the Internet to Firearms Branch and get a unique barcode – and for some reason this didn’t work and we lost all of the entries and had to start again. Filling it in the second time was a bit quicker!
Validated and printed and then it was time to repeat the whole process for me.
No problems this time and once that paperwork was also printed and supporting documentation photocopied, we headed off down to the Post Office.
So for my application I had a five page printed form, a Firearms Serviceability Certificate for my firearm, a copy of Shooting Buddy’s Firearms Serviceability Certificate, the Property Letter and the Co-Users Permission Form signed by Shooting Buddy.
Shooting Buddy’s collection of paper was similar but he had a six page printed form as he had different answers to some of the questions than I did.
At the Post Office we had a short wait in the queue (apparently we were in the wrong queue but given that there was no signage showing two queues I didn’t worry about that too much). Then the lady behind the counter had a look through my Firearms Application form and attachments (slight change from the last time I did this process where the initial response was “Do we process theses?”) and then she asked me for 100 points proof of identification. No where in the online forms or documentation do I recall reading that I needed to supply this, however, luckily I did have enough cards in my wallet to prove that yes, I am who I say I am. (Interestingly enough the “Working with Children” Card does not count (even though it has photo, address and signature and itself was obtained with a 100 points ID check). My Medicare card – First Name & Surname only – and Credit Card – full name only – were taken in preference.
Once she had scanned the form’s barcode, entered the reference numbers off each of the identification cards, asked for $72.50 and printed me a receipt it was Shooting Buddy’s turn.
The legal hoops one must go through in Australia and the UK are designed not to reduce violent crime, but to control the number of legal guns in circulation – to make legal ownership so onerous that very few people will make the effort.
Now look what it takes to buy a BB GUN in New Jersey:
“You’ll need a license for that,” the clerk informed me when I asked to see a modestly-priced BB gun. Surprised but undaunted, I whipped out my drivers license and slid it across the counter. At which point it was obvious to me that it was obvious to him I’m not a gun person.
“To buy a gun in New Jersey you need a Firearm Purchaser ID Card from your Township’s police chief. Even a BB gun. Can’t even take one down to show you without it.”
For better or worse, there would be no BB gun that day. Not for me anyway. Without a comprehensive criminal background check first I couldn’t buy one. I couldn’t even look at one. Not even a pink one.
Read that whole piece, and note that the author was pissed off enough to go through with the ridiculous effort and expense to get a New Jersey Firearm Purchaser ID card. But how many people are dissuaded? And yet Chris Christie wants to make it more difficult. Why? Well, he says:
It’s hard for me to sit here today and say, ‘If all these things got imposed we’d see an ‘X’ percentage drop in gun violence in this state.’ I don’t know. Bad people are going to do bad things and so, would greater penalties deter people? You hope they do.
And I think he’s being honest about that (wrong, but he believes it), but look at another example, Massachusetts:
In 1998, Massachusetts passed what was hailed as the toughest gun-control legislation in the country. Among other stringencies, it banned semiautomatic “assault” weapons, imposed strict new licensing rules, prohibited anyone convicted of a violent crime or drug trafficking from ever carrying or owning a gun, and enacted severe penalties for storing guns unlocked.
“Today, Massachusetts leads the way in cracking down on gun violence,” said Republican Governor Paul Cellucci as he signed the bill into law. “It will save lives and help fight crime in our communities.” Scott Harshbarger, the state’s Democratic attorney general, agreed: “This vote is a victory for common sense and for the protection of our children and our neighborhoods.” One of the state’s leading anti-gun activists, John Rosenthal of Stop Handgun Violence, joined the applause. “The new gun law,” he predicted, “will certainly prevent future gun violence and countless grief.”
The 1998 legislation did cut down, quite sharply, on the legal use of guns in Massachusetts. Within four years, the number of active gun licenses in the state had plummeted. “There were nearly 1.5 million active gun licenses in Massachusetts in 1998,” the AP reported. “In June , that number was down to just 200,000.” The author of the law, state Senator Cheryl Jacques, was pleased that the Bay State’s stiff new restrictions had made it possible to “weed out the clutter.”
That’s what law-abiding gun owners are to our elected officials: “clutter.” And the number of law-abiding gun owners was cut by over 87%. But criminals?
But the law that was so tough on law-abiding gun owners had quite a different impact on criminals.
Since 1998, gun crime in Massachusetts has gotten worse, not better. In 2011, Massachusetts recorded 122 murders committed with firearms, the Globe reported this month — “a striking increase from the 65 in 1998.” Other crimes rose too. Between 1998 and 2011, robbery with firearms climbed 20.7 percent. Aggravated assaults jumped 26.7 percent.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for gun-control activists to admit they were wrong. The treatment they prescribed may have yielded the opposite of the results they promised, but they’re quite sure the prescription wasn’t to blame.
Gun laws strengthened, “gun death” and “gun violence” increased. Of course they won’t admit they were wrong, even when faced with the fact that the Boston Marathon bombers were armed without having gotten handgun licenses first. Or explosive licenses, for that matter. The philosophy cannot be wrong! Do It Again, ONLY HARDER!
They won’t admit that they were wrong because this is the outcome that is desired, because from an authoritarian perspective, “guns simply invite administration.” The “Fast and Furious” scheme that “walked” guns across the border into Mexico with no effort to interdict or trace them was, without a doubt, a government effort to inspire outrage over “lax gun laws” – laws that the Department of Justice and Homeland Security deliberately violated in order to put these weapons into the hands of drug cartels. The body count, attached to guns traced back to border gun shops was to have inspired calls for a renewed assault weapon ban and stronger gun laws. This is the only analysis of the program that makes any logical sense, but it blew up in the administration’s face when a Border Patrol agent became one of the bodies. Violators of the existing background check system aren’t prosecuted because the powers-that-be aren’t interested in disarming the criminals, only the law-abiding.
Declining violent crime is the death-knell for gun control, and its supporters know it. Worse, the authoritarians in government know it, too. Add to that the spreading public realization that gun control doesn’t make society safer, and another nail is hammered into the coffin. The UK has universal licensing and registration, has banned full-auto weapons, semi-auto rifles and shotguns, and all handguns, yet these laws seem to have no effect on the number of guns still in criminal hands. Criminals there can get machine guns, pistols and hand grenades, and they’re still trying “to reduce the number of guns on the streets,” by closing “loopholes” in the “strictest gun laws in the world” though officials admit “where there’s a will there’s a way”. Economics 101: Supply and Demand. More people every day realize that we don’t need to follow their failed example.
More than 300 million guns are in an unknown number of private hands here. The vast majority of gun owners are not licensed. The vast majority of firearms are not registered. Their trail ends at the Form 4473 in a dealer’s file cabinet or box somewhere, and what happened to them after that is known only to the current owner. It’s been this way for decades. But in order to “control” something, you must know where it is, and who has it.
And the only people who will tell you who they are and what they own are the law-abiding. “Universal background checks” are the gateway to a registration system, despite denials by the parties supporting both.
“Gun Control” isn’t about guns, it’s about control. It isn’t about disarming criminals, it’s about disarming the law-abiding. It isn’t about making the public safer, it’s about controlling us. We’ve had almost two decades of increasing gun ownership and declining violent crime rates, and that has resulted in a population that in the majority does not view firearms as talismans of evil nor gun owners as social pariahs. As Teresa Nielson Hayden put it back in 2002:
Basically, I figure guns are like gays: They seem a lot more sinister and threatening until you get to know a few; and once you have one in the house, you can get downright defensive about them.
And as the GeekWithA.45 put it in 2005:
In a truly civil society peopled primarily by enlightened, sober individuals, the carriage of arms might be deemed gratuitous, but it is nonetheless harmless.
In a society that measures up to anything less than that, the option to carry arms is a necessity.
America has achieved an armed population sufficiently large enough and motivated enough to effectively resist the authoritarian urge to disarm it. It is a never-ending struggle though, because The Other Side will not stop.