Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

April 17, 2008

Menino’s Homeopathic Solution to Gun Violence

by tarran

This week Boston’s Mayor Menino testified before the Congressional Task Force on Illegal Guns. He had this to say:

We share a common disdain for what we have seen happen in our cities, to our residents and to our police officers as a result of illegal guns. So, we signed a statement of principles and agreed to work together to take illegal guns out of our cities.

….

Fighting crime is a top priority for all mayors – and fighting crime means fighting illegal guns. The stakes could not be higher. Fatal shootings of police officers increased 33 percent last year. I know that every mayor in this country will do whatever it takes to protect the men and women who put their lives on the line to keep our cities safe.

So now, the voices of mayors are echoed by elected leaders and law enforcement officials from every part of America – and we’re making progress. Our numbers are growing, our mission could not be more timely and our message couldn’t be more clear: We need to stem the flow of illegal guns in our cities now.
Together, we will continue to work for common sense measures to fight illegal gun trafficking

His testimony was awfully short on the specifics on what problems “illegal guns” pose, other than claiming that they are behind an increase in shootings of police officers. Instead he lovingly details the growing number of government officials who are in favor of making the population increasingly dependent on them for protection.

In fact, the main complaint contained within his testimony seems to be that the work of the police is made more difficult by the prevalence of black marketeers importing guns illegally from areas where they can be legally manufactured and sold to ones where they cannot be legally imported and sold. But, his conclusions, that a Fugitive-Slave-Law style crackdown by the federal Government would somehow make the city of Boston safer is unbelievably wrong headed.

Assumption 1: A police monopoly on guns will make people safer:

This is, of course ridiculous. The police can take minutes or hours to respond to an attack in progress. The police are also under no legal obligation to respond at all. Restricting the supply of firearms makes defense of property increasingly expensive. While the wealthy can afford to hire security guards licensed by the state, or can convince political leaders to assign them special police details, those who are too poor, or lack political connections are left increasingly vulnerable.

Assumption 2: A reduction in the availability of guns will make criminals significantly less dangerous:

This is, again, ridiculous. The bank robbers who unsuccessfully attempted to rob a bank in California using AK-47’s are very rare exceptions to the rule that most crimes can be as easily committed with a knife as with a gun. A criminal carrying out an attack has the initiative; he chooses when and where he attacks and who his victim is. He is quite capable of altering his plans should the tools he has to work with be limited only to knives or base-ball bats. The ban makes the criminal more dangerous; firearms historically have favored defenders over attackers. There is a great deal of truth behind the saying God may have created men equal, but it was Samuel Colt who made ‘em equal.

Assumption 3: A meaningful reduction in the availability of guns is even possible:

Total bans on any good in wide demand, such as alcohol or cocaine or salt will result in smuggling. Nothing save setting up checkpoints on every road into Massachusetts and searching every car carefully will keep guns from flowing into the state. Unlike cocaine or whiskey, a gun gives off no chemical traces of its presence. Tape it to the underside of a car, and you can get it through any checkpoint.

Furthermore, any clever person can build simple yet effective weapons given a rudimentary machine shop. Even if a total ban on imports was possible, the measures required to prevent machine shops from producing firearms in quantities sufficient for a crime wave would be unenforceable.

Mayor Menino cited a figure of ~<500 illegal guns being associated by police with various crimes. 7 smuggling rings, smuggling in 15 guns a month each could easily supply this sort of demand. Hell 20 machine shops could easily make 10 guns a month to produce over 2000 guns a year if need be.

Nor will Mayor Menino ever be able to get rid of gun manufacture all-together. The demand for legal guns for his police force is sufficient to ensure that factories will be churning out a large quantity of fire-arms. Some of these will be diverted into the black market as surely as nuclear missile guidance systems ending up in Taiwan.

“What is not seen”

Mayor Menino does not want to outlaw guns. Rather what he wants to do is outlaw anyone but the police from having them. He views the guns as making violence in the city worse and as a hazard to the police. But by focusing on the firearms he is avoiding the questions he really should be asking:

Why are people resolving disputes by shooting at each other? Why are the police being threatened?

The answer to these questions is not a pleasant one to the politicians of Boston or Massachusetts, so they avoid asking them.

The short answer is that by writing and enforcing draconian economic and moral laws such as onerous labor laws, blue laws and drug laws, the politicians of Massachusetts are making it difficult for people to live their lives legally. The police are not seen as benefactors but as yet another street gang preying on the weak. The lack of legal business opportunities drive people to seek illegal occupations. While some of these illegal occupations are honorable (drug dealing, prostitution), many are dishonorable (burglary, mugging).

When people view the police as an enemy, and the courts as a predatory system, they naturally ignore them for resolving disputes. When business ventures are illegal, the participants are much more likely to settle disputes violently than via a system of arbitration.

What Mayor Menino seeks to do is to isolate the people of Boston from alternatives to dealing with the police. In effect he is behaving like an abusive boy-friend who tries to isolate his girlfriend from other people. Rather than improving the relationship between the citizenry and the government, these attempts will only increase the gulf between them. Any crackdown on the illegal gun trade will inevitably harm innocent people who are either in the wrong place at the wrong time, or who are deprived of a means to defend themselves. It will empower criminals to more brazen acts of thievery and mayhem. It will, in effect worsen most of the engines that drive criminality.

Until he recognizes that the political policies he and his circle support which are the root cause of the violence directed by the people subject to his rule towards each other and towards the police, nothing good will come of his advocacy and his actions.

It is time for the political classes of Massachusetts to stop treating the citizenry as children at best and as beasts to be exploited at worst. If they were serious about reducing the level of violence and the misery in Boston they would stop wasting time on trying to shore up a monopoly on defensive services on behalf of the police, give up their expensive hoplohobia-mongering propaganda campaigns, and would instead focus their attention to eliminating the laws purposed for economic and social engineering.

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  • http://anarchangel.blogspot.com Chris

    As always with so called gun control; it’s not about guns, it’s about control.

  • LBest

    I agree that bans are not workable and I demand the right to carry a gun. I dont agree that lack of legal jobs is the reason somebody is commiting crimes. I came from government housing and 16yr parents and did not get involved. It is a choice and I can tell you there is alot going on and it seems like the thing to do but most of my classmates are dead or in jail. Not to mention alot of my family is too. Its a choice and its not an excuse.

  • http://hathor-sekhmet.blogspot.com VRB

    Your argument doesn’t exist without assumption #2. Most urban dwellers don’t think of bank robbery as ordinary gun violence. Most people don’t advocate prohibition. It would appear to me, that to you there would never be an illegal gun. No restrictions at all, then I can see why you would think any need to have any laws or government, so why is there an argument.
    Go live in that society. My version of love it or leave it.

  • Steve S.

    Re: “Go live in that society [one with no restrictions on guns].”

    That isn’t much of an argument. It seems “the love it or leave it” approach would be better taken up by those advocating gun control — there are a lot of existing countries with much more restrictive gun laws than the U.S., and those countries must be better places to live, right?

    I have never understood the fear that most gun control advocates (I don’t know if this includes you, VRB) have towards guns — guns are simple tools, easy to understand, and very safe when a few simple rules are followed. A car is more complex, requires just as much (or more) skill to operate safely, and is potentially just as lethal. Yet most of us are happy to cruise along at 65mph in the middle of a 4-lane freeway, with little worry about the risks involved, but the thought of a guy in the next lane with a gun underneath his seat is more worrisome than the same guy driving distracted while he talks on his cell phone.

    All violence, gun related or not, is a problem that can only be solved by addressing much deeper issues in our society. And I find that I am not very interested in talking about those issues when the gun-grabbers start by portraying guns as some evil scourge upon society that only backwards-thinking barbarians would want.

    There are some objective principals behind the “gun culture” in America, such as the desire to defend one’s life and property. These kinds of principals should not be abrogated simply because it might be an expedient way to mitigate the symptons of a larger problem.

  • http://hathor-sekhmet.blogspot.com VRB

    I don’t fear guns.
    “There are some objective principals behind the “gun culture” in America, such as the desire to defend one’s life and property.”
    Steve S. does this preclude having regulation. I can never figure that out, how it would, unless guns were outlawed. To me have some restriction on how you would buy a gun is not the same as outlawing guns. If one could not buy a case of the same gun for personal use on that day, but purchased one gun, would that not be enough for you to defend your person or property.
    OK, maybe two, because you have two hands.

  • http://hathor-sekhmet.blogspot.com VRB

    Steve S.
    I do believe that certain so called law abiding gun buyers dump guns in certain neighborhoods. Gun are too easily assessable to people who aren’t even able to get a drivers license. It is a temptation. It only takes one wrong choice for a person to be murdered or accidentally killed. I think if they had to actually go to the trouble to purchase one legally, that is if they were old enough, that sometime that choice would disappear.
    Quite a few of these illegal guns are not purchased by previous felons. But that is a statistic that is floated by people who really don’t have a clue; those that do not know personally people that have been murdered or where murder is almost like a genetic disease in a family. They are not the ones that know the details. The victims don’t deserved to be viewed as “you reap what you sow.”

    I didn’t mention “gun culture” but you imply there is another.

  • Harry Rossman

    VRB,

    The bottom line for all crime is human intent. For those intent on performing a crime, they *will* acquire the tools deemed necessary to perform the deed.

    My supporting data for this are the 1940’s and ’50’s. Not just rifles, pistols and shotguns could be obtained via mail order with nothing more than sufficient funds, but surplus military arms were readily available for nothing more. Yet, violent crime as reported today was very rare.

    I can very easily sympathize with your view of ‘reasonable’ regulation. But, there is a question. For anyone who can so easily violate the law of murder, just how effective will a law banning and/or controlling firearms will be?

    The CDC gives us a hint.

    http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5214a2.htm

  • Steve S.

    Regarding firearm regulation:

    First of all, most people and organizations advocating for increased firearm regulation do not support the right of individual firearm ownership. A great way to determine real the intent of such people is to look at their position on DC v Parker/Heller – do they recognize an individual’s “right to self-defense”? Or do they believe that any regulation is justified as long it has the possibility (real or imagined) of reducing gun violence?

    In fact, most gun-control proponents believe that gun ownership is an antiquated practice that has little place in modern society, and even if not their stated goal, they would generally admit that they would have no problem with the complete elimination of private firearm ownership in America.

    This ambivalence (or outright hostility) towards the rights of gun owners is revealed in the proposed regulations. Take the popular one-gun-a-month laws: Why is the quota one-per-month instead of one-per-week? If the goal is to constrain gun-trafficking, where is the data that suggests one quota is better than the other? Or is it possible that the gun-grabbers, who consider all gun ownership to be a luxury, find it completely inconceivable that there is any legitimate reason to even own 12 guns at a time, let alone purchase that many in a year?

    So, given all this, I tend to look rather poorly upon any new firearm regulation. This does not preclude regulation entirely, but when the Brady Campaign uses the phrase “sensible gun laws”, I know what they really mean is “whatever the hell they think they can get away with” in terms of restricting or eliminating my right to own firearms.

    s.s.

  • http://thelibertypapers.org/ Brad Warbiany

    VRB,

    I do believe that certain so called law abiding gun buyers dump guns in certain neighborhoods.

    What are you suggesting with this statement. Who do you suspect is ‘dumping’ guns in these neighborhoods?

    What, do they drive by and toss them out the window? Do they go out to the ‘burbs and buy expensive guns, then resell them in the bad neighborhoods at a loss? Who’s “dumping”?

  • http://hathor-sekhmet.blogspot.com VRB

    Brad,
    If you lived where I have lived, you would know the answer. That scenario is hilarious.

    Steve S.
    I am not most people or a lawyer. I do think there are more people like me than the ones you mention. Many like me that have practically had murder on there door step.

    To Harry Rossman, If we wait for that perfect society, it would have evolved upon too many bodies for my taste. One other thing, a response like yours never spells out just what is your responsibility is. Is it that those people should do something. Do what? What I believe to be done take hands on and not one hand. The individual one at a time is the one that produces change, not the one who pontificate about his personal responsibility. It is aways someone else’s fault and not yours. That’s why I said love it or leave it. America can not exist without effort.

  • http://hathor-sekhmet.blogspot.com VRB

    Brad,
    It just popped in my head what you were saying. I still say that the scenario isn’t what I had in mind; but when I used the word “dump”, I forgot that this word acquired an additional meaning in the last fifty years. I was not using it exactly the same way you were.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/author/tarran/ tarran

    VRB, For the benefit of our readers who haven’t lived “where you lived”, wherever that may be, what do you mean?

    As I see it, there are three scenarios:

    1) A guy buys firearms on the legal market and smuggles them into the inner city and sells them at a profit.

    2) A guy buys firearms on the legal market and smuggles them into the inner city and sells them at a loss.

    3) A guy buys firearms on the legal market and trows them away in the inner city.

    In scenario 1), the man is a smuggler, like Joe Kennedy or John Hancock and is a boon to society.

    In scenario 2), the man is a charitable smuggler, kind of like a mixture of Joe Kennedy and his gradnson of that same name.

    In scenario 3), the man is a litterer, and possibly crazy.

    And yes, I don’t believe any weapon should be illegal, as I discuss in my first post at the Liberty Papers.

  • Harry Rossman

    To Harry Rossman, If we wait for that perfect society

    What perfect society?? My points are the limits of law and personal responsibility to yourself, family and community.

    Food for thought question: Assume for the sake of argument that you are an armed police officer in uniform. You walk around a corner straight into a holdup. While the crimininals are busy taking your possessions, how much law is at that exact place and time????

    One other thing, a response like yours never spells out just what is your responsibility is.

    I do not entirely see what you mean by this. However, the basis of my actions are civics and government 101. All of us must begin with definitions and structures we can initially agree with: if not how to implement them.

    it would have evolved upon too many bodies for my taste

    Not that I am advocating anything at this point in history, but the question comes to mind: would the American Revolution have been “…too many bodies…”??

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