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

January 17, 2013

“Common Sense” Legislation to Curb Gun Violence?

by Stephen Littau

Like most people who value individual liberty, I listened to President Obama’s speech about reducing gun violence with a great deal of trepidation. He presented several ideas such as limiting the size of magazines to 10 rounds, banning “military-style assault weapons” (i.e. any gun that looks scary to progressives who know almost nothing about firearms), and “universal” background checks for anyone trying to buy a gun just to name a few “common sense” reforms. In so many words he basically said that anyone who doesn’t favor these proposals is getting in the way of preventing future gun violence (Why even St. Ronald Reagan was even in favor of some of these proposals!)

One point of particular irritation for me is this notion being promoted by the Left that AK-47’s and other “weapons of war” should not be made available to “civilians.” President Obama rightly pointed out that these weapons with these magazines “ha[ve] one purpose: to pump out as many bullets as possible, to do as much damage using bullets often designed to inflict maximum damage.”

Well if we civilians do not “need” these weapons, why should the police have them? Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the local police also considered “civilian”? (i.e. civilian law enforcement). Why do the police “need” these awful “weapons of war” which “inflict maximum damage” to serve a warrant for a late night drug bust?* If everyone else should be limited to certain weapons with magazines containing 10 rounds or less, they too should be limited to what weapons are permissible (or at the very least, what situations these weapons should be used). To suggest otherwise would be to suggest that the police are “at war” with the “civilians” since war is all these weapons are good for.

As some who are critical of the president’s approach have correctly pointed out, these reforms would not have prevented the killing at Sandy Hook Elementary. Obama and his allies like to say “if these proposals save only one life…” but they fail to recognize that these reforms might save one life in one situation but might cost a life in another situation (such as a home invasion; the homeowner runs out of rounds due to smaller magazine capacity etc.). Most, if not all of these reforms are meaningless measures to prevent guns from falling into “the wrong hands” (at best) so that the president can say he’s “doing something” to prevent mass shootings.

Some of these proposals do seem reasonable based only on the broad outlines (as always, the devil is in the details). I don’t have a problem with person-to-person background checks** in the abstract. Why shouldn’t an individual be subjected to the same background check as when buying from a gun dealer when s/he is buying from someone who posted his firearm on Craig’s List? I would think that the seller would want to have the peace of mind and/or limit any exposure to liability for any misuse of the firearm.

There are many proposals that are being floated that need to be thought through rather than rushed through to score cheap political points. These proposals go well beyond the 2nd Amendment into areas such as free speech (i.e. censorship), doctor/client privilege (privacy), state’s rights, and more. I do think that we supporters of the right to bear arms need to try to offer up some “common sense” solutions of our own to reduce illegitimate force that either enhance liberty or at the very least, do not tread on the liberties of others.***


*Oh, the police need these weapons because their job is oh-so dangerous! They need to have every tool available so they can come home to their families safely. Are the police not protecting themselves and others from precisely the same people that responsible gun owners are? Should a “civilian” not have the same right to protect his family and/or his property?

**I support the idea of an instant background check that only checks information that is publicly available. I do NOT support the idea of registering guns and we need to think very carefully about what kind of mental health records should be part of the check if at all. The buyer and seller should be the only ones who have proof of a bill of sale and proof that a background check was run. The only way government officials should ever have access to such records would be with a valid search warrant.

***One policy change that actually would reduce gun violence (but is unlikely to be seriously considered by policy makers) would be to finally end the war on (some) drugs once and for all. If the manufacture, sell, and use of drugs were legalized (or at a minimum, decriminalized) disputes would be settled in a court of law instead of in the streets with guns. How much would the homicide rate go down, 25% at the low end maybe?

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  • http://anarchangel.blogspot.com Chris Byrne

    The only way to enforce “person to person background checks” is to ban all private sales of firearms, require all sales go through a federally licensed firearms dealer, and register all firearms and all firearms owners.

    So no, it’s not a good idea in principle or in practice.

    Either you own your own property, and can dispose of it as you wish, or you can’t.

    If you can own your own properly, and dispose of it as you wish, you are a free man.

    If you cannot own and dispose of your own properly as you wish, you are not a free man… you ARE property.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org/ Stephen Littau

    Chris, I certainly understand your concerns about expanding the background checks. I don’t happen to know how extensive the background checks are if you buy from a store; maybe you can enlighten me as to what (if any) records of the purchase go into a government database and what records the checker has access to.

    It seems to me that there should be a way to do a background check without registering the gun. It seems to me that there should be a way to go to a third party who can run the background check and create a receipt for both the buyer and the seller that certifies that the background check was successfully completed. This piece of paper would be sort of a CYA for the seller if that particular gun was later found at a crime scene (ex. The cops knock on your door to ask you questions about a gun that was found at a crime scene that you had purchased from a store or another individual. You then show the detective your receipt which has the name of the person you sold to and the cops move on their merry way). In theory, it should protect the buyer from buying a hot gun as the seller wouldn’t want his name on that piece of paper.

    Will the background check plan be this simple when all is said and done? Probably not. If their plan is to register all firearms being sold in a searchable database, that’s a whole other story and a non-starter as far as I’m concerned.

  • http://anarchangel.blogspot.com Chris Byrne

    Sephen

    First thing, beyond all this discussion, is that we don’t need any more gun control, we need less.

    Since 1968 there have been non-sensical laws piled on top of non-sensical laws, all promoted as “common sense gun laws”; almost all of them anything but.

    By what logic do you come to a different conclusion?

  • http://fpffressminds.blogspot.com/ Stephen Littau

    I’m not sure that we disagree much here. I think most “common sense” gun laws are, at best “feel good” legislation and at worst counterproductive/anti-liberty.

    I chose my words carefully when I said “common sense solutions of our own.” This was not meant to suggest more gun control. The answer may well be “more guns, less crime” (an argument I’m quite sympathetic to) and less restrictive gun laws.

    Or maybe the answer is that the current level of violence is the bottom and there isn’t much else can be done to reduce the violence any further. Despite what we hear from the MSM, violent crime is actually down. This includes school shootings and mass shootings overall. (as I’ve mentioned before, every school is due to have some sort of killing…once every 12,000 years).

    This is the question we should be asking and attempting to answer when contemplating any legislation:

    “ If acts of violence cannot be prevented regardless of the security measures or public policy reforms, the question necessarily becomes: just how much risk of being a victim of a violent act are we willing to tolerate and at what cost?”

    Everything has a cost to consider. How much money are we willing to spend to reduce the risk, how much of our privacy/civil liberties are we willing to surrender, among others.

  • http://anarchangel.blogspot.com Chris Byrne

    Well, I’d like to suggest here that the number and type of weapons in the world, has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of violence in the world.

    People do violence, not objects.

  • http://anarchangel.blogspot.com Chris Byrne

    Oh, and also, in case it wasn’t obvious, legislation has essentially no effect on violence either.

    You can’t make something already illegal, illegal-er.

    The ILLUSION of being able to do something is comforting to people, who are willing to accept symbols and intentions as more important than reality…

    Telologists of all stripes…

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