I’ve watched gun-control advocates slide down the slippery slope. At first, their spokesmen said gun-control was simply common sense. Unfortunately for them, each gun-control law is a claim that can be tested. Instead of changing their beliefs as we learned more, gun-control advocates simply chanted their old arguments louder and longer. Gun-control must have saved one life somewhere, they claimed. Eventually, the gun control-talking-heads had to turn their eyes away from the facts and ignore the damage they caused. For our part, we passed gun control laws because they felt good rather than did good. Like many public policy issues, we think we’re talking about evidence when we’re really discussing how we feel.
Superstition is holding an unjustified belief because of the way it makes us feel. It is easy to think we’re too sophisticated to have superstitious beliefs. Fortunately for us, evidence is one of the best tests to separate truth from superstition. The bad news is that there is an intellectual progression beyond superstition. The truth doesn’t matter once you’re clinging to dogma and rationalization. At that point, you’re hanging on to any idea that justifies your beliefs. We told ourselves some real lies about gun-control.
We passed gun-prohibition in the 1870s to protect white women from black men. At least that is what we told ourselves. We try to make the same argument look good today by saying poor minorities are plagued with drugs and we’re saving innocent lives by disarming the black community. Today we say that a single woman can’t manage a gun for self-defense and we’re making her family safer by leaving her defenseless. We said a lot of things that sounded reasonable at one time. They sound racists and sexist today. Rather than change our actions or our beliefs, we simply dressed up old prohibitions in new rationalizations. We put new excuses on old bigotry.
-It sounded like a good idea to require a background check before someone could buy a gun. In fact, criminals don’t buy their guns legally. That is why background checks don’t stop criminals from getting guns. We didn’t disarm criminals, and the people who want to commit suicide killed themselves even if they didn’t have a gun. We looked at decades of data, and mandatory background checks didn’t reduce the rates of homicide or suicide. I’m sorry to say there is more bad news, and these laws might have done more harm than good. Disarming the law-abiding victims left them more vulnerable to crime and so increased rates of violence. At least gun-control laws let us feel good about ourselves.
-It sounds sensible that barring someone from ever owning a gun after a non-violent misdemeanor might make us safer. We thought that someone might be violent if they once shouted at their domestic partner. We learned that people who will commit murder are not stopped by taking away their legal guns. Unfortunately, we also let an abusive ex-partner make false claims and use the law to disarm the honest victim of abuse. At least we got to feel good about ourselves by supporting “domestic violence gun prohibition”.
-Today we are told we can stop pre-crime with red-flag gun confiscation. In fact, we’ve had mental health restraining order for about two decades. These laws didn’t work.. but we can feel good about it anyway. It turns out that people who are going to commit murder or suicide aren’t stopped when we take away their guns. Red-flag laws didn’t significantly reduce deaths in mass murder, aggravated assault, robbery or burglary either. We never expected that making false accusations would stop crime. We pretended those false accusations never happened so we could continue feeling good even when violence got worse.
–Age restrictions on buying a firearm make sense because we all remember the crazy things we did as kids. We forgot that young adults under 21 years of age often live in cheap apartments when they start out. We forgot that young adults are frequent victims of crime. We ignored that young women are often victims of sexual assault. Why did we think that disarming a married 20-year-old mom would make us safer? It felt good at the time.
-Guns are lethal tools. In theory, a gun that doesn’t contain as much ammunition isn’t as dangerous. Limiting the magazine capacity of a firearm makes sense.. if you don’t think about it too closely. In the real world, criminals don’t fight fair. They don’t obey our gun laws so the criminals have more ammunition than their law abiding victims. How many cartridges should my wife be allowed to have when three armed robbers break into our home? Why should a police officer have more cartridges in his gun than my wife has when she is defending our family? These feel-good laws get us killed.
-It is comforting to imagine that guns cause violence. That lets us avoid knowing that criminals cause violence. We can imagine that taking the guns away from honest people will make us safer. That isn’t what we found. We looked across the USA at states that issued concealed carry permits. We also looked at states that don’t require carry permits at all. Over three decades, the rate of homicide and violent crime didn’t increase when we let honest people carry a personal firearm outside the home. In cases like the city of Chicago, the murder rate fell when honest citizens were allowed to defend themselves. We’ll have to look beyond gun control for an excuse to feel good about ourselves.
-We want to keep guns away from our children and unauthorized adults. Mandatory gun-locks seem like common sense. The good news is that the number of children injured in gun accidents continues to fall. But there is more to the story. We ignored the fact that honest people use a personal firearm to save lives every day. Will mandatory storage requirements make self-defense easier or harder? Unfortunately, criminals don’t call ahead and give us the time we need to open a gun safe and load our magazines. Will we give free gun safes to young couples who are just starting out and struggling to pay their bills.. or will we leave them defenseless if they obey the law? That is a hard problem, so let’s ignore the harm we cause with gun-prohibition.
-There must be something we can do to feel good about stopping violence. Maybe we could restrict the length of a gun barrel so guns can’t be too short.. or too long. Maybe we can make it so guns can’t be too loud or too quiet. Maybe we can make it so guns can’t be too big or too small, too cheap or too expensive, too inaccurate or too precise? Any of those ideas might work if criminals obeyed our laws. I’m sorry, but we have the criminals we have rather than the criminals that gun-control promised us. That doesn’t feel good at all.
Things don’t turn out the way we imagined or the way we wanted. We make good-sounding excuses for bad ideas. Unfortunately, some of these ideas were bad from the start. We were sold a lie because it benefitted some politicians and their special interests. Life is more complex than a politician’s promise.
There is one thing, however, that we do know for sure. When the government and the criminals are the only ones with have guns, then the elites have all the power. That frightens me.
Do we want to feel good or do good? Maybe I’m overly trusting, but I trust my neighbors to do the right thing in an emergency. My neighbors may not be perfect, but I’d rather trust my neighbors to own a gun responsibly than trust a lawmaker who exempts himself from our laws. Liberty is dangerous, but it is the safest solution we have.