Gun control: making a statement, not an impact
Don’t worry. We’re going to be safe. Jaime Foxx, Beyonce, Gwyneth Paltrow and other celebrities have joined forces with New York City Mayor Bloomberg to “Demand a Plan” for new gun control. They helped make a video, then left the studio in the company of their armed bodyguards, to go to mansions surrounded by armed security. Gosh, what a powerful statement.
As a nation, we learn nothing. Individuals see obvious, workable solutions to the problems of mass murders, such as allowing more private citizens to carry. But the nation as a whole stumbles from one weak, passive, worthless gesture to another. We see horrible crimes committed against the most innocent, most vulnerable members of society, and we pass new laws that make a statement, not an impact. Then another massacre happens, and another, and we refuse to accept that empty statements, even those made by celebrities, don’t stop massacres.
Someone killed twenty people at a school? Ban guns at schools (but don’t actually check to make sure nobody has a gun). Someone killed twenty people at a theater? Ban guns at movie theaters (and enforce that ban by putting a sticker – a sticker! – on the door that says No Guns Allowed). Someone used an “assault rifle” to commit a massacre? Ban assault rifles (but don’t actually remove them from society, because it can’t be done; more on that later). Empty, worthless statements. No impact at all.
Yesterday, columnist Leonard Pitts published an article titled “America must find courage to confront its love for guns”, and said this: “And Bob McDonnell, Virginia’s Republican Governor, suggests the teachers should have been armed (as if the problem is that there were too few guns in that school).” Well yes, Mister Pitts, once Adam Lanza shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary, one serious problem was a lack of other guns in that school. One more gun, in the hands of a trained teacher, could have put an end to that massacre long before the 26th victim was murdered. More guns, wielded by good people, put an end to the Luby’s massacre. And the University of Texas massacre. And the San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre. And the Utah Trolley Square Mall massacre. And the Portland, Oregon attempted mall massacre. But let’s ignore that, and demand new gun control laws. That’ll work.
Wayne LaPierre, since stating the painfully obvious truth that “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” has received more hate and vitriol from the media than Adam Lanza. The loudest voices in America are so opposed to the very concept of armed self defense that they can do nothing but heap derisive scorn upon those with the audacity to suggest good people use guns to defend themselves from bad people. “You think regular people should be allowed to carry guns? In public? That’s ridiculous! We need to ban guns, stupid!”
This takes me back to an argument I had years ago with a childhood friend who was vehemently opposed to any private gun ownership. After hitting her with a few hypotheticals about using guns for self defense, which she refused to budge on, I asked her point blank: “If you knew, for certain, that someone was coming to your home to kidnap, rape and murder your daughter, would you get a gun to defend her?”
Her answer was, “No! I will not have a gun in my home for any reason!”
My friend’s attitude accomplished two things: it convinced her of her moral superiority over people like me, and emboldened anyone who wanted to victimize her and her family. At the moment, her attitude is rampant across America, and its adherents are accomplishing the same two things. They’re expressing their scornful, arrogant, condescending superiority over the rest of us. And they’re emboldening future mass murderers.
Let me be clear about something: I don’t think everyone who supports gun control is an evil idiot intent on destroying the United States. Some people I respect and care for very much, like my father, reacted to the Newtown shooting by demanding new gun control. One of my best friends told me that when he heard the news, his first thought was, “This is too much. We need to ban all assault rifles, right now. Nobody should be allowed to own one.”
My father is an Air Force veteran who has been shooting since he was a child. My friend is a two-time Iraq vet who owns several assault rifles, has paid thousands of dollars to attend advanced training courses from civilian tactical trainers and has a concealed handgun license. Neither is an “anti-gun liberal”. My father backed off his call for gun control after talking to me about the realities, my friend realized his reaction was pure emotion and also backed off. But much of the emotional, inflammatory reaction from the public isn’t toning down.
I should point out that I’m not one of those line-in-the-sand, never give an inch, “I’d rather die than see one new gun law” gun owners. Most of us accept that there is such a thing as reasonable, effective gun control; if not, we’d be clamoring for unrestricted ownership of fully automatic weapons. If a law accomplished the two goals of reducing crime and protecting our 2nd Amendment rights, I could support it. The problem is, I can’t imagine any new legislation that would accomplish those things.
Now I’m going to make a statement that will anger many people: new gun control legislation is inevitable. I don’t see any way the anti-gun portion of our government will back down without having “won” something that they believe will reduce gun violence. With a democratic president and majority of the federal government run by democrats (and especially the attorney general’s office), it is more or less unthinkable that we won’t see new gun control laws enacted. The first thing we should expect is a rebirth of the expired “Assault Weapons Ban” (AWB). This law is a perfect example of how new gun control makes a statement, not an impact.
The vaunted AWB of 1994 didn’t ban ownership or trade of assault rifles. It simply outlawed the sale of new guns with certain features such as bayonet lugs, flash suppressors, integral grenade launchers and two piece stocks (plus it restricted pistols and shotguns with certain features, but the ban is less well known for that part). The effect on people like me who already owned an assault rifle was negligible. I didn’t have to turn mine in, or even hide it. I could take it to any public shooting range, show it off to a cop on the firing line, then take it back home. There was no penalty for having or legally using one. If I wanted to buy a new one from a dealer, it wouldn’t have a bayonet lug or the other features I mentioned. Other than that, I could own all the AK-47s or AR-15s I wanted.
The law was amazingly effective though. For the entire 10-year length of the ban, there was not a single massed bayonet charge in the streets of America. Rifle grenades were not used, even once, to commit a massacre. Criminals who used “post ban” rifles, with no flash suppressors, made a brighter flash and louder noise with each shot used to murder someone. The law mandated a one piece stock, rather than a separate shoulder stock and pistol grip; this undoubtedly saved the lives of hundreds of millions of innocent Americans. The proof is that hundreds of millions of innocent Americans are still alive.
I hate to joke about this, because it isn’t funny. It’s depressing. The law did literally nothing to remove assault weapons from society (which was, I think, what supporters of the ban wanted people to think), didn’t stop their sales, and didn’t prevent any crime at all. An empty statement, with no impact.
And even if the law had totally removed assault weapons from society, consider these facts: the worst school shooting in the history of the United States, Virgina Tech, was carried out by a coward armed with two pistols. The 1991 Luby’s massacre in Killeen, Texas was carried out by a coward armed with two pistols. The Fort Hood shooting was carried out by a coward armed with two pistols. The Sikh temple shooter was armed with one pistol. Even Charles Whitman, the University of Texas Tower shooter who was a former Marine and actually had extensive training, didn’t use an “assault rifle”. The only military-style weapon he had was a World War II-issue M1 Carbine, not exactly what people picture when they think of assault weapons.
What I’m getting at is this: if you think a new assault weapons ban will stop mass shootings, you’re wrong. But a new law proves that, by golly, the government is doing something. “Assault weapons have been banned. You’re safe now.” Meanwhile, millions of assault rifles remain in the hands of law-abiding owners and an unknown number are illegally owned by criminals. The ban makes no impact. Just a statement.
Perhaps you agree with what many people had to say about the past AWB, that it was “too watered down” to be effective. Maybe your reaction is to say, “This time we need to ban and confiscate all guns, not just assault weapons.”
Good luck with that. By some estimates, there are enough guns in America for every last man, woman and child. Aside from the constitutional violations required to remove them from society, how can it be practically accomplished? Even totalitarian dictatorships, with massive secret police forces, no constitutional protections and leaders willing to imprison or kill their citizens on a whim, have failed to fully disarm their populations.
I’m going to give you a hypothetical. Let’s say a law is passed that bans the possession of any firearm that could be used to commit a mass murder. Let’s also say there are 200 million guns in the U.S., which is a very low estimate.
This new law excludes certain guns like single-shot rifles, pistols and shotguns because they’re not suitable to commit mass crimes. Let’s give a very high estimate and say those guns make up a quarter of all firearms in the U.S. That leaves 150 million guns to be confiscated.
Now let’s say the owners of 50 million of those guns (again, a pretty high estimate) decide to comply with the new law and voluntarily turn in their weapons. That still leaves 100 million guns.
Police agencies now begin their campaign to find and confiscate those remaining 100 million guns. This duty is in addition to working accidents, responding to crimes, enforcing traffic laws, deterring crime through random patrols, arresting drunk drivers, breaking up bar fights, putting bank robbers in jail, providing security at public events, all the things that regularly occupy our time.
Now let’s suppose that not a single police officer in America would refuse to confiscate these weapons. Considering that many police officers are themselves gun enthusiasts who regard the 2nd Amendment as the bedrock of our other constitutional freedoms, this isn’t likely. But let’s go with it for the hypothetical.
Now the police will try to remove 100 million guns through gun buybacks, consent and warrant searches, and the normal seizures of weapons used in crimes. How long this would take is anyone’s guess. But considering the recent proud announcement by the city of Boston, that its police had seized over 500 guns this past year, I imagine it would take centuries.
But we’ll be optimistic and assume that police across America seize one million guns per year. It will still take a hundred years to get those last 100 million guns. During this hundred years, law-abiding citizens will be disarmed (except for weapons unsuitable for defense) but others will still have access to millions of weapons. Does this sound like a workable solution to anyone?
Again, I don’t oppose all gun control. But if we’re going to implement some (and we inevitably will, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth) it should be effective, not just a symbolic offering. And it must not, for any reason, leave the public defenseless in the face of a mass murderer. Thus far, I haven’t heard any ideas for gun control that immediately disarm criminals, and that don’t erode the rights and safety of the very people who need to be protected.
A new ban on assault weapons isn’t a solution. Neither is telling people not to defend themselves. Any “solution” that compels citizens to “run, hide, or just keep getting shot until the police show up” isn’t a solution at all. It’s simply another means of providing more and easier targets to murderers. If we’re going to find a real solution to the problem of mass murderers (and we need to), it must include provisions for more qualified citizens to carry weapons in public, and in schools. Nothing else is an effective deterrent. Any new law that doesn’t recognize this fact is just another empty statement, with no impact.
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Tags: active shooter, Adam Lanza, assault weapons ban, gun control, gun crime, mass murders, mass shootings, newtown, school shootings