The Great Gun Debate: New Laws?
It's easy to fall into the trap that ensnares liberals, that of thinking we can legislate ourselves to utopia. This occurs to me when pondering Mr. Brett Joshpe's response to my last debate piece. In his response he very graciously states that my article contains many reasonable points, yet he also claims it has a deficiency: "[I]t never actually proposes measures - whether specific new regulations or repeal of specific existing ones - that would improve the current system," he writes.
Now, I did address remedial measures in an earlier piece, ones that would reduce the chances of school shootings without any Second Amendment infringement. I'd also suggest having armed guards - or trained, armed teachers - on school premises; if we do this to safeguard jewelry stores, pawn shops, and armored cars, it's the least we can do for our children. In the same vein, we must eliminate the suicidal and quite moronic "Gun Free Zone" signs at schools, which are nothing but an invitation to criminals. Yet all this misses the point. For Mr. Joshpe is correct: I didn't propose specific remedial measures in my debate piece. There is, however, an even larger point.
I didn't have to.
William F. Buckley once wrote, "A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so...." Why is a conservative thus disposed? Because sage souls understand that it isn't just doctors who must be mindful of the Hippocratic principle "First, do no harm." Sure, the temptation to "do something" in the heat of a tragic moment can be great; after all, it lends the illusion of remedial action, gives the impression that leaders care, and provides palliatives for people's fears - even if the "something" is a cure worse than the disease.
Thus, if I see a medieval-minded doctor about to trephine an insane patient in the thinking it would release evil spirits from the man's skull, I don't need a prescription for mental illness on hand before I can yell "Stop! You've made the wrong diagnosis! Your actions will do more harm than good!" This brings me to another of Mr. Joshpe's points. He wrote "I find wholly unpersuasive the suggestion that laws - particularly new laws - are unnecessary because 'bad guys' will not follow them or because they will fail to eliminate a problem completely." This, however, isn't my argument. It is, rather, that we need new guns laws like we need a hole in the head.
Gun-control advocates are much like that medieval doctor: their zealously prescribed cure is based on a shoddy, primitive diagnosis. John Stossel learned this when he studied the gun issue and then reported on the May 4, 2007 edition of 20/20, "[G]un control isn't necessarily crime control. ...[T]he National Academy of Sciences reviewed hundreds of studies and could not document a single gun regulation that reduced violent crime or murder."
For example, gun grabber Piers Morgan often cites the strict gun control and relatively low murder rate of his native Britain. But as Dr. Thomas Sowell tells us, "...Britain has had a lower murder rate than the United States for more than two centuries - and, for most of that time, the British had no more stringent gun-control laws than the United States. Indeed, neither country had stringent gun control for most of that time."
And this is far from the only example. Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Cuba, and South Africa all have stricter gun laws than the US; they also have higher murder rates. And Germany has a far lower gun-ownership rate than Switzerland, but a higher murder rate. Moreover, while Illinois, New York, and California have far more restrictive gun laws than do New Hampshire, Vermont, and Iowa, they also have far higher murder rates. And here's the kicker: the last three states have rates lower than even that of Piers Morgan's Great Britain. Note that these are just a handful of many, many examples.
The above may seem a contradiction - but only if we've made the wrong diagnosis on the murder issue. What's the right one? Sowell gave it to us, writing, "Neither guns nor gun control [is] the reason for the difference in murder rates. People [are] the difference."
Of course, "do-somethingism" may tempt us to manage a more murderous people through gun control. But it isn't only, echoing John Stossel, that gun regulations have no history associated with lower murder rates. It's that they do have a history associated with higher ones. For example, as Sowell also wrote in the earlier cited piece:
...The crime rate, including the rate of crimes committed with guns, is far higher in Britain now than it was back in the days when there were few restrictions on Britons buying firearms.
In 1954, there were only a dozen armed robberies in London but, by the 1990s - after decades of ever tightening gun-ownership restrictions - there were more than a hundred times as many armed robberies [and murder rates rose as well].
And as Joyce Lee Malcolm wrote about the English approach in Reason Magazine:
[I]t has left law-abiding citizens at the mercy of criminals who are confident that their victims have neither the means nor the legal right to resist them. ...[Thus,] 53 percent of English burglaries occur while occupants are at home, compared with 13 percent in the U.S., where burglars admit to fearing armed homeowners more than the police.
In other words, guns aren't a panacea - they couldn't be since the problem is people - but they can be a mitigating factor. And they are - every single day. In fact, Florida State University criminologist Dr. Gary Kleck found that guns are used by Americans to ward off criminals 2.2 to 2.5 million times per year. Of course, these defensive uses of firearms wouldn't be necessary if there weren't so much criminality in the first place. And this brings us to the most important point: when criminality increases to fearsome levels is when good people need guns most.
Yet this is precisely when the fear-governed gun grabbers want to take them away.
Does this make sense? You might as well say that the United States should have responded to Pearl Harbor by unilaterally disarming.
"First, do no harm"? Gun-control laws are a cure worse than the disease.
Now, while Mr. Joshpe quite reasonably admits that many gun-law proposals are style over substance, he does take issue with the availability of high-capacity magazines, saying that 30 rounds are too many. Tell that to the Loganville, Ga. woman who shot a home invader five times - at which point her gun was empty - only to see the 32-year-old career-criminal still standing.
The point? Anyone experienced with guns or self-defense knows that not every shot fired hits its target; in fact, in high-stress situations many may not. Moreover, while the Loganville criminal was deterred, what if he hadn't been? More, significantly, what about situations involving more than one attacker?
Yet there's even more to consider. To the assertion that operating with 10-round as opposed to 30-round magazines would add only 6 to 8 seconds to a shooting incident, Mr. Joshpe responded:
"[W]hen every second counts, the police are just minutes away." I find the idea that every second counts persuasive. We are reminded that an AR-15 can shoot up to 60 rounds per minute (or one per second). That means six to eight seconds can mean six to eight shots, which can mean six to eight lives. That can make a real difference, especially if your kid is hit by the last bullet fired.
Yet assuming that a law even could keep high-capacity magazines out of criminals' hands - a dubious proposition at best - whom does such a law handicap most? Note here that attackers always enjoy a certain advantage: they are pro-active, whereas victims can only be reactive. Criminals plan specific acts; victims don't plan specific defenses. Thus, assailants could conceivably, for example, come prepared sporting a few cocked weapons each. They also can ensure they have a numerical advantage. So changing out a magazine may not matter much to them. But it will matter to the hapless victim facing multiple attackers - and perhaps multiple guns - all alone. Then six to eight seconds can mean one assailant left standing. That can make a real difference, especially if you're hit by the last bullet fired.
Then, William A. Levinson at American Thinker mounted another compelling argument for the 30-round magazine, writing:
When it comes to rifles, police departments believe the answer to be no less than 30 rounds of .223, as shown by their deployment of AR-15s. The only difference between a police officer and a private citizen is that the former has the authority and duty to intervene in situations that the ordinary citizen should, or even must, avoid. If either needs a firearm for any non-sporting purpose, though, he...needs it for exactly the same reason. The definition of a weapon that is "reasonable" for legitimate self-defense is therefore, "Any weapon that is routinely available to law enforcement agencies."
Moving on to my last point, Mr. Joshpe makes the political argument that it would be a public-relations nightmare for conservatives to be seen as resisting all new gun laws, as it could lead to disaster at the polls and, hence, liberal hegemony. Interestingly, this brings us back to the beginning of his piece, wherein he states that my proposal to scale back gun laws from 22,000 nationwide to 5,000 was "arbitrary" and didn't "bear any correlation to smart policy." You see, mine wasn't a literal proposal, but, rather, was actually meant to address political strategy - and the conservative mentality that guarantees inexorable political loss.
Attackers have the advantage not just in physical altercations, but political ones, too. The side ever taking the offense and proposing changes ultimately carries the day because, no matter the compromise, it's always getting a percentage of what it wants. And who are our society's change agents? Liberals are.
It's like this: imagine some barbarians breach your borders and demand territory in Traditionland. You don't like this, but to avoid conflict give them a quarter of the land they want. But then they return a year later making the same demands - and again you cede a percentage of what's asked. Now, how long before this process ensures you have no homeland left?
With compromise like that, who needs capitulation?
I have just explained why conservatives have long been losing the cultural and political war. The liberals will never be satisfied because, being relativists, they have no definite vision of what they want civilization to be. All they can do is oppose what is. And what always is, is the status quo, which conservatives always defend - and always quite poorly. So unless we can stop being conservative and start being bold, and yell "Stop!" and mean it, the only thing in question about our complete and abject defeat will be the rate.