Friday, May 21, 2010

It’s Over

The argument is over. The movement to prohibit private ownership of firearms has officially conceded defeat. The concession was made on Thursday by Chicago mayor Richard Daley, who responded to a press conference question about the effectiveness of Chicago’s gun ban by threatening to shove a rifle up the reporter’s fundament.

I’m not making this up. Daley held a press conference to discuss the city’s options should the Supreme Court overturn the ban on private gun ownership that has been in place in Chicago since 1982. In response to the irksome question Daley picked up a confiscated rifle from a display table and said, “It’s been very effective. If I put this up your butt, you’ll find out how effective it is. I’ll put a round up your, you know...” The Chicago Tribune’s John Kass discusses the whole sorry episode in his column today.

There are many interesting things about this performance by a famously irascible mayor. But the really striking thing is the absence of any attempt to defend the gun ban by the least semblance of argument. Perhaps that’s because all but the most fossilized opponents of gun rights are realizing that prohibition really is a bad idea.

The argument is simple, and to simple minds like Mayor Daley’s, irrefutable: if the overwhelming majority of murders are committed with firearms, then all we have to do is prohibit firearms and the murder rate will plummet.

Except that banned objects remain stubbornly physical: they do not simply vanish into thin air. The criminals certainly aren’t going to turn in their guns; they don’t pay any attention to laws anyway. And there are millions of guns out there in the hands of non-criminals. If you really want to take them out of circulation, you are going to have to implement police measures so intrusive that even the ACLU might be made slightly uncomfortable, despite their notable vacillation on the Second Amendment, the only one they won’t go to the wall for.

Let’s say we get every bit as serious about taking guns out of circulation as we are about, say, drugs. We’ve had more than thirty years of the Drug War, complete with raided homes, asset confiscation and periodic police corruption scandals, and you can still get heroin, cocaine and meth in every city and county in the U.S. Can anyone possibly still believe we could get all the guns off the street? If we get as serious about guns as we are about drugs, the only thing that will happen is that the gun dealers will get richer and gun gangs will kill each other over turf the way drug gangs do now. (And meanwhile the woman whose gun gets confiscated won’t be able to shoot her psychotic ex-boyfriend when he comes after her with a butcher knife.)

You can’t eliminate something that people think they need and that can be easily concealed without draconian police state measures. You just can’t. If you’re honest, you’ll admit that. Ask Americans if they want to live in a police state, and they will tell you no. But in the same breath, too many of them will call for the government to get rid of things they don’t like, like guns or drugs or illegal immigrants. They don’t think through the consequences. And they only get outraged about the police state measures that affect people they like. How many of the people now sanctimoniously canceling their Arizona vacations have called for the government to confiscate their neighbors’ guns?

But now that Mayor Daley has tacitly admitted that there are no coherent arguments for banning private gun ownership, maybe we can start discussing measures that might really reduce gun violence. At the press conference Daley said that if the ban falls the city will consider implementing registration and training for firearms owners. Now that’s more like it. This is the conversation we should have been having all along. You stand a much better chance of reducing the social harm caused by dangerous objects and behaviors if they are legal, so that you can require training and impose reasonable registration requirements.

But the NRA Neanderthals oppose registration, you say? Of course they do. If Mayor Daley wanted to confiscate your car, you’d be reluctant to tell the city where your car was parked. Political resistance to registration will fade when people are certain that the Daleys of the world have given up trying to take their guns.

And that should happen soon, because anybody listening to Mayor Daley on Thursday saw that the argument is over. The gun nuts have won.

Sam Reaves


DA Kentner said...

If you don't get some comments over the "NRA Neanderthals" and "gun nuts" remarks, I am going to be soooo disappointed.

Daley was correct to give up the fight. Banning guns doesn’t remove guns or reduce crime. Prohibition didn’t remove alcohol, but did increase crime.

But the real facts are, guns don’t reduce crime either. They only serve to make the owner feel empowered and invulnerable to crime. Have some armed storeowners stopped robberies? Yes. But storeowners have had the right to have guns in their businesses for decades. Have crime rates dropped because of it? No.
Have armed police officers been gunned down? Darn right they have.
Possessing a gun does not guarantee survival or a crime free life. Chicago’s crime rate won’t drop because of lifting the ban.
Crime rates are cyclical for a variety of reasons. They drop, then go back up. Anyone who takes the time to study them will see that for themselves.

The concept of gun registration will also catch a lot of heat. FOID allows the state to know who may well legally own guns. Registration allows government to know exactly which and how many guns a person has.

But that is not a new concept. No one complains about their vehicles being titled. Registration is only required if the vehicle will be driven on the streets/highways. But the law requires the owner to title the vehicle even if it is nothing more than a yard ornament.

Is one more intrusive than the other?

I don’t have to have a valid driver’s license to own a car (I didn’t say ‘buy’). I have to have a FOID to own a gun. One has to be ‘registered’ (titled), the other currently does not. But when I buy a new car, the federal gov’t doesn’t automatically know about it. When I buy a new gun, the feds do know about it and keep a record of the life of that gun.

This is not an apples and oranges comparison. I am talking about the right to “own” or “possess” something government believes it should know about.

I’m going to toss onto the table a crime-solving instrument I believe should be implemented. Every new gun should have a fired bullet(s) (the gun’s DNA) on file for law enforcement comparison. Will that ID who fired it? No. But it will ID the firearm and where it’s supposed to be.
A lot of time and money is wasted trying to ID a gun used in a crime, and then begin the trail of where the gun came from, who owned it, where it went from there, etc…

It will be interesting to see what the NRA says about that, as it doesn’t encroach on ownership or ‘the right to bear arms.’ I don’t think the second amendment suggests a right to shoot somebody and get away with it.

I better stop here. This is one of those topics I can go on and on about.

Sam Reaves said...

My use of "NRA Neanderthals" and "gun nuts" was ironic, of course. Thanks for your remarks on registration/titling and the difference between guns and cars. You've clearly devoted more thought to this than most people (including me).
My position is simply that outright prohibition of guns solves nothing and that any effort to reduce gun violence needs to take as a given the right of responsible citizens to own one, subject to reasonable conditions that facilitate prosecution of misuse. Beyond that, my mind is open.
Thanks for writing.

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