Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bipartisan group in Congress wants more gun control after Tucson

Not a victim (USMC)
“David’s Law” states that any prominent violent crime will be followed by an attempt to pass more gun control laws.  This is true even if the crime does not involve a gun.  True to form, it took only a few days after Jared Lee Loughner killed six and wounded thirteen people, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords and Judge John Roll, for a bipartisan group of congressmen to issue proposals for new gun control measures.  In the two years of the Obama presidency, gun control measures have been surprisingly absent as the Democratic majority focused on expanding government control over the economy and increasing discretionary spending, however my February 2009 prediction that the Obama Administration would usher in new restrictions on guns and ammunition may finally be put to the test.

The new proposals come from three New Yorkers in Congress. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) was first with a proposal to ban “large capacity” magazines that can hold more than ten rounds.   Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) has said that he will pursue similar legislation in the Senate.  Rep. Peter King, a Republican, wants to make it illegal to carry a gun within 1,000 feet of high ranking government officials.  Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) is proposing legislation to close the so-called “gun show loophole,” which is actually a myth.  None of these proposals would have stopped the Tucson shooting.

Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s former Chief of Staff, famously claimed that a crisis should never go to waste.  He reportedly disavowed that comment with respect to incidents like the Tucson shooting, saying “First of all, what I said was: Never allow a good crisis to go to waste when it's an opportunity to do things that you had never considered or that you didn't think were possible. That's not intended for this moment, or [sic] does it apply to this moment."  However, other gun control advocates may not agree.

Gun control activists have lost several court battles in recent years.  In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in the Heller Decision that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right, not a governmental right to form a militia as long claimed by leftists.  In 2010, the Court confirmed in McDonald v. Chicago that the second amendment protections limit the ability of state governments to enact gun control laws as well.  Some gun control activists are obviously hoping to use the tragedy in Tucson to reverse the tide of second amendment freedom.

Glock 19 (Vladimir Dudak)
In fact, the tide of public opinion has shifted in favor of second amendment freedoms in most parts of the country.  Historic Gallup polls show the trend of fewer Americans favoring stricter gun control laws.  The same poll shows Americans overwhelmingly opposed to handgun bans.  In recent years the numbers have been trending in a pro-second amendment direction.

Ironically, one of the first people on the scene of the Tucson shooting was a private citizen armed with a legal handgun.  While he did not have to use his gun against Loughner, he did participate in detaining him for police.  Being able to defend himself may have been the difference between running to help stop a madman and running for cover.

This story underscores a basic truth of life.  Each person is ultimately responsible for their own safety.  Police cannot be everywhere at once.  Criminals will choose to strike at a time and place when police are not present.  You can choose to minimize your risk by avoiding certain behaviors, such as not walking alone in high crime areas at night, but you can never know when a deranged person, like Jared Lee Loughner, or even a committed terrorist like Nidal Malik Hasan, is going to open fire in a grocery store, shopping mall, movie theater, or elsewhere.  The right to keep and bear arms is a vital part of public safety. 

Even if you choose not to exercise your right to carry a weapon, you can be safer when law-abiding gun owners deter crime.  The reason is simple:  If a criminal believes a victim may be carrying a gun, they will be less likely to attack.  If a criminal sees a gun in his intended victim’s hands, he is likely to break off the attack.  The statistics bear out the fact that as gun ownership and concealed carry permits increase, murder and crime rates fall.

Some believe that having law abiding citizens carry guns make the streets more dangerous.  Statistics would suggest otherwise.  Very few holders of concealed carry permits, which require background checks in most states, commit crimes.  Additionally, everyone who buys a gun from a licensed dealer must submit to an instant background check.

The one thing that might have stopped Jared Loughner’s rampage was to have him committed.  Both federal and Arizona state law prohibit the mentally ill from buying a gun.  However, even the mentally ill are entitled to due process before their rights are taken away.  Under our Constitution, this is as it should be.  Given Loughner’s record of arrests and his suspension from college on mental health grounds, perhaps local officials should have tried to have him committed or determined to be dangerous by a court.

The newly divided Congress will make it even more difficult for gun control advocates to pass more restrictive gun laws.  Even though Republicans now control the House of Representatives by a wide margin, most Democrats now steer clear of gun control as well.  It is not uncommon for the National Rifle Association to endorse solidly pro-second amendment Democrats over untested Republicans.

The original intent of the second amendment was not to hunt.  As John Adams said, “arms in the hands of citizens may be used at individual discretion for the defense of the nation, the overthrow of tyranny or private self-defense.”  After the shooting in Tucson, gun sales in Arizona increased 60%.  The new gun owners there were not afraid of Jared Lee Loughner.

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