Forget Market Failure, Our Crumbling Democracy Speaks To Political Failure

Published January 27, 2013

Government does not even have the power to take guns away from criminals. It can only take guns away from the victims of criminals. This is not a matter of opinion. It is an unchallengeable fact

Addictive drugs are illegal. But they are everywhere in America. Even in rural America, and the Bible Belt. We even find them in prisons. And the greatest gun crime has been in the cities with the strictest gun control laws.

Does a policy of leaving the criminals armed while disarming their victims make any sense? No it does not. This is a matter of opinion. But it is not an opinion over which reasonable people can differ.

Here is another unchallengeable fact. The government does not even have the power to limit the number of shots allowed to criminals, such as through limits on gun magazines. Government can only limit the number of shots allowed to the victims of crime.

Does a policy of leaving the criminals with unlimited shots, while limiting the shots allowed to their victims, make any sense? No it does not. This is another opinion over which reasonable people cannot differ.

But that is what New York Democrat Governor Cuomo has proposed, and what the New York Democrat legislature has enacted. What do you call the fact that the disarmed and shot limited New Yorkers killed or maimed by criminals as a result will be primarily Democrats? Social Justice? That is what Democrats call their policies.

Now President Obama has proposed to reinstate the so-called “assault” weapons ban. If you go into a gun store and ask to buy an “assault” weapon, they will laugh at you, because there is no such thing as an assault weapon. As I explained in a recent column, that is just a public relations term invented to scare gullible, white bread suburbanites. Otherwise known as Democrats.

And you won’t find in any gun store, “weapons designed for the theater of war,” or “military weapons,” President Obama and Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) to the contrary notwithstanding. As John Lott, former Chief Economist for the United States Sentencing Commission explained in the January 18 Wall Street Journal,

“[N]one of the weapons banned under the 1994 legislation or the updated version are ‘military’ weapons. The killer in Newtown used a Bushmaster .223. This weapon bears a cosmetic resemblance to the M-16, which has been used by the U.S. military since the Vietnam War. [Some say] that there is ‘no reason’ for such ‘military-style weapons’ to be available to civilians.

“Yes, the Bushmaster and the AK-47 are ‘military-style weapons.’ But the key word is ‘style’ – they are similar to military guns in their cosmetics, not in the way they operate. The guns covered by the original [assault weapons ban] were not the fully automatic machine guns used by the military, but semiautomatic versions of those guns. The civilian version of the Bushmaster uses essentially the same sorts of bullets as small game-hunting rifles, fires at the same rapidity (one bullet per pull of the trigger), and does the same damage. The civilian version of the AK-47 is similar, though it fires a much larger bullet….No self-respecting military in the world would use the civilian version of these guns [because they are small game hunting rifles designed to kill hunted animals].”

In short, the Bushmaster is “a hunting rifle” that “has just been made to look like a military weapon.” That is why the “assault” weapons ban should be unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause, as well as the Second Amendment. There is no rational basis for the distinction between the semi-automatic hunting rifles that the ban prohibits and those it does not. Cosmetics that make no difference in the operation of the gun or its effectiveness, but that scare dilettante suburbanites, provide no such rational basis.

Obama’s proposed “assault” weapons ban is doubly damned logically, because the only guns that can even be characterized as “assault” weapons are precisely the guns used by criminals, which President Obama does not even have the power to ban. The only guns his ban would affect can only be characterized as “defense” weapons, that would be used by the victims of crime to defend themselves. But no more, if President Obama and the Democrats get their way.

When the “assault” weapons ban was adopted for a decade in 1994, it had no discernable effect on the violent crime statistics. And when the ban lapsed a decade later, there was no discernable effect on violent crime either. Indeed, violent, gun related crime, and particularly murder, is down since then. But logic has never been a discernable Democrat trait.

As Lott further explained in the Journal, “Since the Federal Assault Weapons Ban expired in September 2004, murder and overall violent crime rates have fallen. In 2003…the U.S. murder rate was 5.7 per 100,000 people….By 2011, the murder rate fell to 4.7 per 100,000 people.” Moreover, “just 2.6% of all murders are committed using any type of rifle.”

The studies Feinstein cited in support of her recent reintroduction of the “assault” weapons ban actually concluded with, “we cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence. And, indeed, there has been no discernable reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence [under the “assault” weapons ban].”

The proven ineffectiveness of the “assault” weapons ban is further evidence supporting the unconstitutionality of the ban under the Equal Protection Clause, in addition to the Second Amendment. For how can there be a rational basis for a ban that has been proven ineffective?

Feinstein’s newly introduced legislation also requires national registration of all guns, on the reasoning that “If a gun has been left at a crime scene and it was registered to the person who committed the crime, the registry will link the gun back to the criminal,” as Lott also explained. But Lott further explains why that makes no sense and would also be ineffective, writing, “Guns are very rarely left behind at a crime scene. When they are, they are usually stolen or unregistered. Criminals are not stupid enough to leave behind guns that are registered to them. Even in the few cases where registered guns are left at crime scenes, it is usually because the criminal has been seriously injured or killed, so these crimes would have been solved without registration.”

Lott adds that such registration failed in Canada for precisely these reasons, writing, “Canada recently got rid of its costly ‘long gun’ registry for rifles in part because the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Chiefs of Police could not provide a single example in which tracing was of more than peripheral importance in solving a gun murder.”

Policies that have been effective in reducing gun crime and violence are higher rates of incarceration for repeat offenders, for longer terms, and concealed carry permits. Lott explains the latter, “But the point isn’t to help hunters. Semi-automatic weapons also protect people and save lives. Single-shot rifles that require you to physically reload the gun may not do people a lot of good when they are facing multiple criminals or when their first shot misses or fails to stop an attacker.”

In my recent column on this subject, I proposed a complete solution to the problem presented by the Newtown massacre based on paying teachers and school administrators with concealed carry permits a bonus for bringing their guns to school. The NRA tried to introduce similar logic to the debate in an ad pointing out that President Obama’s own daughters attend the private Sidwell Friends school in Washington DC, which employs 9 armed security guards.

This ad had nothing to do with secret service protection for the President’s kids. The ad is talking about armed guards the school has hired. The point is that armed guardians in schools (not Secret Service protection for every kid) are the answer. And this demonstrates that the President’s position is hypocritical, and, therefore, fallacious. But this iron logic was met with derision from today’s New Left Democrats and their party controlled media. Show me the critical response that did not just evade the logical argument rather than answer it.

Lott further explains the solution in the Journal,

“If we finally want to deal seriously with multiple victim public shootings, its time that we acknowledge a common feature of these attacks: With just a single exception, the attack in Tucson last year, every public shooting in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed since at least 1950 has occurred in a place where citizens are not allowed to carry their own firearms. Had some citizens been armed, they might have been able to stop the killings before the police got to the scene. In the Newtown attack, it took police 20 minutes to arrive at the school after the first calls for help.”

I apologize for so much naked logic in this commentary, and for the same by the sophisticated economist John Lott, and by the NRA. I know that offends people. That social problem, the decline and fall of Aristotelian logic among the general public, and among today’s New Left Democrats, is central to the decline of our democracy into “political failure,” analogous to market failure. See e.g. California, Illinois, New York.

[First published at Forbes.]