Today’s Trace contains a very important and must-read article by the Armed With Reason crowd, a.k.a. Evan DeFillippis and Devin Hughes, concerning the single, most hot-button issue in the gun debate. I am referring to whether it makes any difference whether we regulate guns, since gun violence is mostly the handiwork of criminals and criminals don’t follow laws. Of course the NRA would never be so brazen as to publicly promote the idea that guns shouldn’t be regulated at all. What they do instead is to go through the back door by saying that when guns are used by ‘good guys,’ criminals fear to tread; hence, we should make it as easy as possible for all the good guys to get their hands on guns. And since the only thing that criminals understand is a good, swift kick, let’s punish gun-wielding criminals as quickly and harshly as possible and let everyone else enjoy unfettered 2nd-Amendment rights.
Evan and Devin take issue with this nonsense by pointing out right at the beginning of their well-researched essay that there’s a difference between how criminals react to strong laws as opposed to how they react to weak laws or no laws at all. And the fact that most states have little or no legal barriers to the bad guys acquiring guns isn’t an argument for refusing to enact or strengthen current gun laws.
A perfect example of this false argument proferred by the gun industry is their opposition to expanded NICS background checks. Since every gun is initially purchased by a law-abiding consumer, you would think that creating a system of secondary background checks would be a no-brainer when it comes to keeping guns out of the ‘wrong hands.’ But expanding background checks to private transfers means, if nothing else, expanding regulations per se. And while Evan and Devin cite multiple studies which show that qualifying people to own guns invariably leads to less gun violence and less gun crime, the gun industry can always point to this or that example of someone like Vester Flanagan in Virginia who passed a background check and still committed mayhem with a gun.
I can actually absolve The Donald for pandering to his red-meat audience by saying that we don’t need any more gun laws because he’s never been a public official responsible for enforcing any laws at all. But when Bridgegate Christie negates the need for gun laws and ascribes New Jersey’s low gun violence rate to the fact that he’s a tough governor, he’s simply saying something that’s not true. In fact, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gives Jersey an A- rating on its gun laws, one of only 6 states to achieve this grade. Christie can pretend to be as tough as he wants, but he happens to be enforcing some pretty strict laws.
After Dick Heller and his attorneys got the Supreme Court to rule that the 2nd Amendment gave citizens the right to keep a loaded handgun in their home for self-defense, Heller went back into Court and challenged what he considered to be the overly-restrictive licensing process that was put into place. The District of Columbia argued that their licensing regulations were necessary in order to help keep guns out of the wrong hands, but this argument was challenged by none other than Gary Kleck who stated in his deposition that “only the law-abiding will register their guns.” To which the Federal District Court, in rejecting this argument “with prejudice” responded: “According to Plaintiffs, it seems, municipalities should be limited to enacting only those firearms regulations that lawbreakers will obey – a curious argument that would render practically any gun laws unconstitutional.”
You got that one right. The strategy of the NRA is exactly to make all gun laws unconstitutional. Such efforts and the stupidity they reflect are illuminated by the clear and forceful research of DeFillipis and Hughes. As I said at the beginning, this is a must read.