Last Updated: Friday, 12 May, 2000 18:30

20,000 Gun Laws That Don't Work
Or - Why do we have so much crime with all these laws?

More laws, more regulation, more restrictions. That's the government's answer to crime, especially to any kind of crime dealing with firearms. Today, we have over 20,000 local, state and federal laws which cover every aspect of using, owning, carrying, buying, transporting, storing and possessing a firearm. Yet, with all these new laws, the majority of which have been created since 1968, we have had more and more illegal use of firearms than ever before. Despite all the laws and despite harsher penalties. One has to ask why?

Two Students Shot, One Killed, at Canadian High School

Thus reads a headline (4/28/99) showing that even in Canada, which has prohibited most handgun possession and has strict gun control laws, that a deranged person can still kill, wound and terrorize multiple people. Yet politicians would have us believe that we need similar laws when they will not solve the problem. Certainly, some will argue that other countries like Canada haven't experienced similar incidents as frequently as the United States. However, we must also remember that there are some fundamental differences between the cultures, most significantly is that Canadians tend to defer to their government while Americans prefer that the government defer to them.

Clinton Gun Control Measures:

First, I find it appalling that in the immediate aftermath of Littleton, President Clinton and his political aides are using the victims to push their political agenda. In press reports it was stated that many of the "solutions" presented were "not new" and were "previously stalled" in Congress. So now the Democrats, the party most often supporting any form of gun control, are lining up to support a political agenda that is not designed to address the problems which created the Columbine tragedy. Perhaps even worse, is that they have slapped on a couple of new provisions in order to fool voters that they are trying to solve the problem.

Worst of all, perhaps, is that during his election run for president, Mr. Clinton, in all seriousness, claimed that character doesn't matter when trying to deflect criticism. Yet, President Clinton stands in front of cameras and claims that we need to look at violence in media, restrict guns, and "do more" for our children. But what is lacking in his speech is a call for adults to be role models, to have the character that makes a good citizen. Of course, most of us were reminded that it was Mr. Clinton's lack of character that forced us to endure a year of impeachment proceedings. Perhaps Mr. Clinton should start by setting the example for our youth, instead of trying to rely on the definition of "is".

"Do we know for absolutely certain, if we'd had every reasonable law than the ones I'm going to propose here, that none of these schools violent things would have happened? No," President Clinton said. "But we do know one thing for certain. We know there would have been fewer of them and there would have been fewer kids killed in the last several years in America. We know that for certain," the president said.
Wrong! As indicated by the Canadian headline above, even if we had some of the most restrictive laws, such as those in Canada, we couldn't prevent someone bent on mass murder from killing. Would there be fewer of them? That depends on what devices are used as an alternative. Consider that the students in Littleton, deprived of access to firearms, could easily have turned their attentions to making more lethal bombs, exploding dozens of them in the crowded cafeteria or library. Or they could have simply obtained the same ingredients as Timothy McVeigh and used a pickup truck to deliver it to the school.

According to an article on CNN (4/28/99),

The president says the key to passing the controls was to convince people in the hunting and sport-shooting culture that no one is trying to take away their guns or pastimes.
Reading this put me in mind of a historical quote;

When they came for the Jews, I remained silent, for I was not a Jew.
When they came for the homosexuals, I remained silent, for I was not a homosexual.
When they came for the Protestants, I remained silent, for I was not a Protestant.
When they came for me, I cried out, but there was no one left to listen.
          attributed to a Priest in Nazi Germany, circa 1939

The Proposals

Below are the proposals coming from the White House and the democrats, most notably Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Charles Schumer (D-NJ). I'll add my comments here, as a critical voice (of course).
  • Raise the age of gun ownership to 21 or raising the minimum age for purchasing a handgun from 18 to 21.

  • The press reports either all guns or just handguns require the purchaser to be 21 or older. The most often reported is that this applies only to handguns. Unfortunately, handguns were only used in 3 cases by students who fired on other students. The rest have been long guns. This proposal would have almost no prevention value for another Littleton style incident. In addition, if you are 18, you have the right to vote, sign contracts, get bank loans, and are generally treated as an adult. But to defend yourself and/or your family you would be required to resort to either a rifle or a shotgun - both far more likely to kill than a handgun.

  • Subject buyers of explosives to the same Brady Law background checks as gun purchasers. "Explosives" would refer to dynamite, blasting caps and the like, not materials that can be blended into a volatile mixture.

  • In other words, if anyone can find a chemistry book that describes how to make an explosive from chemicals this law won't deter or prevent them from doing so. Again, it would have almost no prevention value at all. For ready-made explosives it would create another large bureaucracy to administer and we know how poorly the government already does at catching and prosecuting felons with firearms. (Fewer than 20 people have been prosecuted under the Brady law, despite administration claims of many thousands turned down. And of over 6,000 kids bringing weapons into schools, only 13 have been prosecuted.)

  • Holding parents criminally liable when their guns are used by juveniles in a crime. This is Carolyn McCarthy's legislation which provides criminal penalties for adults if juveniles used their weapons for illegal purposes. .

  • This is the "advertised special" however nearly everyone I've talked to about this provision (which McCarthy tried to introduce last year) says that the desired result for the passage of this bill was to remove the section requiring the child to actually use the gun in a crime in committee. This means that any juvenile who is holding your firearm, even your own child under your supervision, could be a criminal. It would not permit any exclusions, even if your firearms were stored in a $5000 heavy-duty safe and stolen during a burglary, you would still be responsible. One can only imagine the messy litigation of prosecuting an adult who's child used a firearm in "apparent" self-defense but was later deemed to be "technically" a crime.

  • A ban on the sale of all semi-automatic assault rifles to juveniles who have committed crimes.

  • This has also been reported as raising the age-limit to possess such a rifle to 21 years of age. However we must ask what crimes a juvenile must be guilty of before agreeing to such a law. Would a conviction of a 9 year old for trespassing count? Or perhaps his only crime was that of many young children of shoplifting a piece of candy. We must recognize that children are, as a rule, still trying to understand all the rules their parents give them and many still do not fully understand all the laws which exist (this could include many adults as well!).

  • A lifetime ban on the possession of firearms for violent juveniles.

  • But what crimes are we talking about? We have seen stupidity in the news, where a seven year old boy was "charged" with "sexual harassment" (a crime) for kissing a seven year old schoolgirl on the cheek. Would this disqualify an otherwise law abiding person from ever exercising their full Constitutional rights? Should we extend this "surrender" of rights to this person's right to vote? Or right to free speech? If we presume it only applies to truly violent crimes, would a typical schoolboy's fist-fight classify as the disqualifying crime? Could "domestic violence" be extended to cover two siblings pushing and shoving each other? And we can only imagine what other "crimes" could be legislated at a later date. Perhaps a "crime" of dropping out of school? Or taunting another child?

  • Limiting handgun purchases to one per person per month. .

  • On the surface, this sounds good to a lot of people, even some gun owners. Until you think about the implications of such a program. First, it would require record keeping by the FBI on legitimate gun purchases, something that's prohibited in the Brady-II law (but that hasn't prevented the FBI from retaining the records under the guise of "audit" data). Thus, a de-facto centralized and computerized gun registration - knowing exactly who had what guns and how many. Secondly, suppose you live in a city where a large riot breaks out, such as the Los Angeles "Rodney King" riots. You attempt to purchase a pistol for yourself and a revolver for your wife. No go. One gun a month pal. Decide - who goes unarmed? Or perhaps you find two or more guns on sale in a store and buying them both would save you nearly $500. You're not allowed to save money either. Or, a father trying to purchase a "gift" firearm for each of his twin 21 year old daughters who just graduated college could not do so.

  • Tightening record-keeping and other regulations for gun dealers such as more inspections of licensed gun dealers, suspending licenses of dealers who break gun-control laws, and allowing authorities to require dealers to keep detailed records on sales of old guns as well as new ones. .

  • This sounds nice. However most of this is already covered by existing laws. A licensed dealer is subject to annual inspections by the ATF. Dealers must keep both the forms you fill out to purchase a firearm (in some states this amounts to FOUR different pieces of paper) as well as keep a permanently-bound book that logs the receipt of any weapon purchased as well as it's disposition. Even "old" guns. Suspension of dealer's licenses can already be done for the smallest violation. In fact, a licensed (FFL) dealer can be charged with a felony if his records are inaccurate or incomplete - even if he simply transposes two digits on a firearm's model number in his records!

  • A ban on the importation of all large-capacity ammunition magazines .

  • This has been mounting for over a year. When the Brady law took effect, it prohibited detachable magazines (or "clips") that held over 10 cartridges from being manufactured. Any newly made magazine sold in the USA after 1994 had to hold 10 rounds or less. This provision was agreed upon to expire after 5 years, once the "instant check" system was in place. Yet the Democrats who lobbied hard for it, then agreed to the expiration now want to retain it permanently.

  • Making child-safety gun locks mandatory.

  • When Congress created the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) it specifically exempted from it's jurisdiction certain "consumer products", such as automobiles, aircraft and firearms. Thus the venomous hand-wringing about guns being "unregulated" are somewhat true, but it was done because Congress recognized that firearms are inherently different from other consumer products (just as are cars and airplanes). Smith & Wesson, the gun maker, has tried since the turn of the century to produce a firearm that small children could not operate, yet could be operated by people who are of small stature (i.e. women) or have limited strength and mobility (i.e. the elderly). Among most people who keep a firearm for protection, the two most insurmountable obstacles to "child safety locks" is either the need for an external key or the reliance on a battery in some kind of locking system. Keys can be misplaced, especially in the dark when under stress and batteries are notorious for registering OK then the next use drains them just when you need them (like my flashlight or cell phone).

  • Reinstating a three-day waiting period for the purchase of guns with authorities able to extend it for two more days in individual cases.

  • One can only imagine such an arrangement. Set at 3 days, flexible to 5 days. But what happens when another Littleton tragedy occurs? Do they then raise it to 5 days, flexible to 10? Or make it 30 days, flexible to 365? Keep in mind that Democrats once agreed to let waiting periods expire when the instant check was available. And then also agreed to let the ban on magazines holding more than 10 shots expire after 5 years. Yet here they are trying to bring back these restrictions. The rules could change just as quickly as Congress could get the bill to a willing President's desk.

  • Instant background checks on people who buy weapons from gun shows.

  • Earlier I mentioned that the one-gun-a-month rule would require a centralized and computerized registry of all legitimate gun owners. It would do nothing to stop back-alley unlicensed sales by which criminals often obtain their guns. Here the administration wishes to close one of the few opportunities for a law abiding citizen to obtain a firearm without the government's knowledge. Some of you may see this closure as a "good thing" while others might see this as equivalent to the government knowing about every magazine or newspaper you purchase.

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