Columnist Thomas Sowell writes about what he calls a "fact-free" crusade on gun control. He opens his April 16th column by claiming:
Amid all the heated, emotional advocacy of gun control, have you ever heard even one person present convincing hard evidence that tighter gun control laws have in fact reduced murders?I submit that we don't have all the answers on guns and violence. But what we do know for a fact is that the American people have spoken. We want universal background checks for people who wish to purchase guns. 90% of Americans support universal background checks, including 75% in gun-friendly New Hampshire. I furthermore submit that the public is smart enough to know the difference between taking guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens and taking guns out of the hands of criminals.
Think about all the states, communities within states, as well as foreign countries, that have either tight gun control laws or loose or non-existent gun control laws. With so many variations and so many sources of evidence available, surely there would be some compelling evidence somewhere if tighter gun control laws actually reduced the murder rate.
When Sowell says in his column that many of the same people who want more gun control also want more lenient penalties for crime, he is setting up a straw man. I certainly do not think that. From a Constitutional perspective, what a person puts in their own bodies is none of the government's business and to claim otherwise in the absence of substantial public safety issues is an invasion of privacy. I therefore submit that in order to combat crime and gun violence, we need to legalize pot so that our law enforcement can concentrate its resources on dangerous criminals, such as murderers, terrorists, thieves, and sexual predators. Given the ongoing sequester cuts, we have to learn to focus our resources on the most important things. Judges could still order people not to consume it like they can alcohol and the state could still prosecute for driving under the influence and states could still regulate and tax pot. But dangerous criminals are the ones who need to be locked up for their own safety as well as the safety of the American public. I am not at all in favor of lenient sentences for dangerous criminals.
We do not have all the answers to gun violence, but what we do know whether it be a red state or a blue state, is that most of us know people whom we would not want anywhere near a gun. Universal background checks make perfect sense -- they screen people who are a threat to society based on their mental illness or history of using violence from law-abiding citizens who wish to protect themselves.
And as a January Gallup poll shows, the American public has spoken on most of the other aspects of President Obama's gun control law. This includes the following:
--Increased spending for mental health programs (82%);
--Increased training for police officers and other emergency responders to respond to active shootings (79%);
--Increased penalties for straw purchases (75%)
--Spend $4 billion to put 15,000 cops on the streets (70%);
--Spend $30 million to help schools develop emergency response plans (69%);
--Ban possession of armor piercing bullets (67%).
Sowell complains about there being a "stampede" in favor of passing this legislation. But in fact, this is simply a matter of people who still listen to the wishes of the American people, too many of whom have been a victim of gun violence or know someone who is.
All of the above measures are completely Constitutional. None of these provisions infringes on the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms in any way, shape, or form. It simply keeps guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals while allowing law-abiding citizens to purchase guns for their own self-protection.
There are two aspects of Obama's initiative that I am skeptical about. The first is the Assault Weapons Ban. The problem with the Assault Weapons Ban is that it wound up excluding too many hunting weapons and was overly broad and unconstitutionally vague. What an "assault weapon" consists of is a subjective matter that will never be settled. I am with Sowell here:
Banning so-called "assault weapons" is a farce, as well as a fraud, because there is no concrete definition of an assault weapon. That is why so many guns have to be specified by name in such bans — and the ones specified to be banned are typically no more dangerous than others that are not specified.And the other aspect is the limiting of guns to 10 magazines. The problem lies in the stated purpose of the 2nd Amendment -- the creation and maintenance of a "well-regulated militia," or national guard. That means that Americans are entitled to keep and use whatever is standard issue for National Guard members, which is 30 rounds. The risk of limiting rounds to 10 is that the underground will still be able to get 30-round magazines; therefore, people who want to protect themselves will be at a disadvantage. Criminals, after all, do not care about such laws. The other thing to consider is that heavier guns are much more likely to jam.
Some people may think that "assault weapons" means automatic weapons. But automatic weapons were banned decades ago. Banning ugly-looking "assault weapons" may have aesthetic benefits, but it does not reduce the dangers to human life in the slightest. You are just as dead when killed by a very plain-looking gun.
Our politicians and leaders have an obligation to honor and respect the wishes of the American people. This does not mean passing laws hastily, but only after careful deliberation and debate. Given that all of the above proposals that I listed involve getting guns out of the hands of criminals and giving people the resources they need to stop gun violence, it is clear that the American people understand the difference between gun confiscation from law-abiding citizens and keeping guns out of the hands of criminals. If the government ever tries to confiscate guns from law-abiding citizens, then I will join Mr. Sowell in opposing such a brazen power grab.
The one exception to this is when the public wants something that is contrary to the Constitution. Our system of government was designed to protect the rights of minorities from the tyranny of the majority. For instance, even if 75% of the residents of Georgia were to want to return to segregation, it would not be a smart decision simply for the fact that the 14th Amendment does not recognize "separate but equal," to say nothing of the moral turpitude that such laws involved.
This debate is not going to go away just because the Democrats and President Obama lost Round One. This is about getting guns out of the hands of criminals while protecting the right of law abiding citizens to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights should they so choose. As long as the politicians in Washington continue to ignore the wishes of the American people, then they will bear responsibility for every mass shooting and death related to gun violence that could have been prevented through these common sense proposals.