Rants & Raves
The Gun Control Debate
As I write this, the United States is engaged in a controversial debate over gun control. The terrible tragedy of Sandy Hook and a number of other shootings in recent years have once again led our society to a debate over just exactly what rights are granted by the second amendment. Ideas proposed range from banishment of assault weapons to universal background checks to better mental health screening. It would probably not be far-fetched to say that there are likely many people who would argue for a complete repeal of the second amendment.
The reality is that none of these proposals has the slightest chance of solving the problem. First, letís look at banishment of assault weapons or any guns for that matter. Of course, we have the gun advocatesí response that such rules violate the second amendment and only serve to prohibit law-abiding citizens from getting guns. But there is another response the gun advocates are missing, and this response firmly establishes that they are correct. There is a black market for guns of all types. There always has been, and there always will be. Legal requirements mean nothing in a black market. Any new laws passed will affect only gun dealers and law abiding citizens. They will not affect the black market. In fact, black market gun dealers are probably doing their best to promote new gun laws, for those laws will boost their business. Guns are extremely easy to get, if you are willing to break the law. If you are not willing to break gun registration laws, you are hardly willing to commit the more serious offense of murder. And if you are willing to commit murder, gun registration laws are not a deterrent.
Another related and extremely strong argument against new gun laws can be found simply by looking at drugs. We have extremely restrictive drug laws. And yet drugs can be obtained illegal quite easily. The world of pharmaceuticals is a dichotomous world, consisting of the legitimate business of physicians, drug stores, pharmaceutical companies, and consumers. The other pharmaceutical world is the black market, which consists of manufacturers, exporters and importers, dealers, and consumers. Drug laws, which are surely some of the toughest laws we have in this country, have almost no impact on the sale and usage of illegal drugs. Estimates are that about a fourth of all crimes are drug-related. The world of illegal drugs is a violent and devastating world. I donít have to tell you that. In fact, there are some experts who believe that if drugs were illegal we could control usage much better and cut out a lot of the violence and the enormous profits made in the production and distribution business.
So, how could anyone with an iota of common sense believe that restricting guns would cut down on gun violence? The next time any person tells you that it would, you can suggest we should first try to ban drugs. We can see how that works and if it works well, youíll be the first to jump on the anti-gun bandwagon. Of course, some anti-gun zealots will simply scratch their heads and say something like, ďBut drugs are illegal. I donít understand your point.Ē Then you know youíre talking to an idiot.
And of course, theyíll say, ďWhat about universal background checks?Ē Sure, like black market gun dealers are going to conduct background checks.
You may think I am just giving the same NRA response. I am not. Its president, Wayne LaPierre, does a terrible job of presenting the case for guns. He should be arguing that these proposed restrictions on guns are the same kinds of restrictions on drugs that have absolutely no impact on drugs and drug violence.
I wish there had been people at Virginia Tech and at Sandy Hook with guns, but those were apparently gun-free zones. There is virtually nothing that invites a shooting more than establishing a gun-free zone. Perhaps someone with a gun could have stopped the violence, just as they did at the Appalachian School of Law. I wish someone standing next to Congresswoman Giffords had had a gun. Perhaps that person could have stopped the shooter.
Now letís turn to mental health screening. Whenever an incident like this occurs, we have the benefit of examining this person after the fact and seeing an all-too-familiar profile. We think that surely we could have spotted the danger in time. No, we cannot. For every maniacal killer in history, there are thousands of people with similar mental profiles. Almost none of these people hurt anyone. In fact, they are far more dangerous to themselves than others. If we do try to identify unstable people who we think might commit violent crimes, they will surround themselves with lawyers who will argue that their civil rights are being violated. And frankly, almost all of them will have a good point.
The immense pressure to do something to prevent Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook massacres is making us lose our common sense. We think surely if guns were harder to get, there would be fewer guns out there. We think if people with histories of violence were incarcerated or hospitalized, they could not commit these crimes. But if we take the actions proposed, it will not solve the problem. They will only violate the rights of legitimate gun owners and people with mental problems who will never hurt anyone.
So where does that leave us? Is there nothing we can do? Well, for one, we can enforce the laws we have. Criminals are getting out on bail way too soon and way too often. Trials take too long. The day before I wrote the first draft of this, the FBI raided a bunker in Alabama and freed a five-year hostage. The criminal who took him is dead. Thatís a good thing, because if he werenít, he would surround himself with lawyers who would spend 10 years filing motions before this guy could get tried. He is clearly guilty. What is there to debate? Good grief! Itís 2013 and he we havenít even tried those who planned the September 11 attack. The Constitution guarantees the right to speedy trial but in reality, no accused person wants one. Until a trial has occurred, the accused is considered innocent even if he lingers in jail. As long as one is deemed innocent, he has hope. Perhaps the Constitution should be amended to require a speedy trial.
In any case, the laws we have, if properly enforced, would likely reduce the chance of these killings, but in no case, restrictions on guns and better mental health evaluations are not going to help. Guns can be as illegal as drugs and gun-related crime will be as rampant as drug-related crime. At least guns possessed by law-abiding citizens can be used to stop crime. Drugs possessed by law-abiding citizens cannot be used to stop drug abuse and drug-related crime. And if mental health officials think they can stop these murders by identifying potential murderers, they havenít seen anything until they see the lawyers, briefs, and motions, theyíll have to fight, a fight they are almost surely going to lose.
Let me leave you with one final thought. First a question: do you know why the second amendment was written? Most people think they know, but they donít. Ask that question to a typical person and you would probably get a reply along these lines: ďMost people back in that time had guns because they needed them for hunting.Ē
Nope, thatís not the reason. Not even close.
The purpose of the second amendment is so that citizens can protect themselves against the government. Our founding fathers vividly recalled the tyranny that runs with an all-too-powerful government. In crafting our own new government, they knew that they were creating a central government that would branch out into decentralized sub-governments, with unstoppable power through the military and a police force. This fact alone would virtually guarantee that government would control the people, not the other way around. They wanted a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. They knew that an unarmed populace was conducive to government control of our lives. They were keenly aware that less than two decades earlier, the minuteman rose up and protected the rights of the people against an all-powerful government, which centered on the king and his strong-armed minions in Massachusetts. It was an armed population that created our freedom, and only through an armed population can we preserve it.
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