By now, virtually everyone has at least heard of the tragic events that unfolded sometime around midnight early Friday morning at a movie premiere in Aurora, Colorado. As tragic as these events were, where 12 people have thus far lost their lives and dozens more were injured, the predictable clamors for gun control have begun anew.
I have written about the fallacies of these cries before, with very similar contextual circumstances, and I continue to maintain that gun control in its most commonly advocated forms is nothing more than exploitative attempts of political posturing at its best, and unethical, impractical, and unconstitutional attempts to erode individual freedoms at its worst.
Since the Supreme Court finally upheld the individual right to keep and bear arms (oddly enough, the Constitution seemed clear enough absent this ruling) and the decade long so-called “assault weapons” ban proved completely ineffective at achieving its stated purposes, the latest calls from the gun control crowd have been to ban so-called high-capacity magazines (an as yet imprecisely defined characterization).
But as has been historically demonstrated over and over again, bans on items and substances simply do not work, rendering such policies completely impractical and creating more problems than they ultimately purport to solve. Bans on alcohol, drugs, weapons for convicts, and even books have all failed to achieve their goals in this country. In fact, I challenge anyone to identify a single item or substance of any significance that has been successfully banned by the United States, or indeed any, government. Such policies are not only impractical, but because they preemptively punish law abiding citizens by restricting their freedoms in the absence of due process and proven guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, they are patently unethical as well. Concurrently unethical and impractical laws are the epitome of bad policy, poor political leadership, and a foundation of oppression.
As I have pointed out at times before, all laws are passive by nature. Expecting a law to protect someone or assure their safety is the height of ignorance; the law is and can only ever be (in a free society) reactionary, implemented as an avenue to obtain justice for the infringement of an individual’s right to life, property, and the pursuit of happiness by his fellow man. Following this logic, banning items is just plain silly, superficial, and unethical for the aforementioned reasons. Only actions can be ethically banned, such as murder, rape, theft, etc., because only laws of these type universally impact only the evil people in our society who choose to act in a manner that violates another’s natural rights. The unfortunate reality that everyone needs to come to grips with is that for freedom to exist we must accept that evil people will occasionally take advantage of those freedoms with ill intent.
I have been reading much discourse over the weekend in various sources regarding the tragedy, and though many folks have demonstrated an encouraging degree of principle in the emotionally challenging face of these events, some have left me shaking my head in amazement at the ignorance of their reasoning…
“We must ban high-capacity magazines!”
As alluded to above, this is yet another example where the masses have (at least in part) fallen for the disingenuous vilification of inanimate objects by their political leaders and the media. Basic logic leads us to understand that the capacity of the magazines themselves, or the possession of them, had little to do with the events in question; the alleged perpetrator chose to violate the most basic human law – murder – so the ban would not likely have impeded him in this pursuit. In any event, the young man could have easily achieved similar, if not greater, effects (due to the reported malfunction of the rifle) had he simply carried more preloaded firearms with him, even if they each had diminished capacity.
But we need not search too far to observe the affects that such bans practically have on violent crime. The District of Columbia (DC) Official Code § 7-2506.01 bans the possession, sale, and transfer of commonly classified high-capacity magazines, yet in 2008 the district had a 201% greater violent crime rate than my state of Arizona (which has no such restrictions), and a 219% greater rate in 2009. DC’s violent crime rate was 208% and 207% greater than the national average for those respective years.
If we are going to ban items as a means of impractically combating high volumes of victims associated with individual’s actions then we need to limit the performance, weights, and capacities of vehicles as well, given that vehicle collisions are the leading cause death among young people in this country. Why, just this morning a pickup truck packed with illegal immigrants crashed in Texas, killing 14 (more than the total deaths associated with the shooting in Aurora, incidentally).
“Why does anyone need so much ammunition or these types of weapons?”
The first part to this question is the easiest to address. Law abiding citizens tend to buy ammunition in bulk for the same reasons that people buy anything in bulk: it is generally cheaper and more convenient at times, serving as an immediate hedge against inflation and limiting the number of trips one has to make to the store. But additional to these factors and somewhat unique to ammunition as compared to, say, canned soup or toilet paper, is that there is an ever-increasing presumption among recreational shooters and the like that ammunition is going to be the next firearms-related item on the ban-happy chopping block, which naturally tends to cause its consumption to increase across an economic population.
The second part of the question is rooted in the very concept of freedom, which is to say that freedom is not predicated on need at all. Freedom is precisely about the liberty to pursue what one wants, not merely what one needs. Pursuant to this fallacious reasoning of need, combined with the flawed reasoning behind bans in general, I would suggest outlawing public gatherings of 5 or more people as a means of preventing mass murders of this nature. After all, why does anyone need to leave their house at or after midnight to watch a movie on a giant high definition widescreen, with immediate access to concessions, and Dolby surround sound? Entertainment buffs could just as easily order the movie via pay-per-view or rent it at the local video store. Better still; why not ban the violent movies in the first place? Perhaps if the perpetrator had never paid to see a violent act glorified on the silver screen he may not have undertaken these actions in the first place.
“We should close those online loopholes.”
This is the worst unfounded rumor I have thus far observed. To be honest, I am not even really sure what “loopholes” the casual observer perceives to exist in this regard. In the past year I have purchased several firearms from an internet dealing source myself and I have to say the process is, with regard to federal firearms trafficking regulations, virtually identical. The only discernible difference is that instead of shopping for the firearm, paying for it, and undergoing the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) evaluation in a single store in person, the shopping and paying portion occurs online. Once this portion occurs, the dealer in question is required by law to ship the firearm to a Federal Firearms Licensee (instead of the purchaser) who must then carry out the NICS for you in person prior to transferring the firearm to your possession. Again, I am not sure what “loophole” is being referred to here but it reeks to me like another case of people accepting what they are presented with while neglecting to pursue an actual informed status.
“We have to do SOMETHING.”
In a word, ingenious. A definition of poor decision making is implementing a policy solely for the implementation’s sake. Can any decision made simply for the immediate gratification of knowing that a decision was made ever truly be considered a good one? If it is a matter of satisfying our sympathetic emotional urges, why not just tell the truth and say that it will make us all feel marginally better to act upon an immediate knee-jerk reaction, until the next tragedy inevitably occurs and we must undergo this process all over again? The simple fact of the matter is that we have been doing something, and for a long time now. The United States, while clearly not among the most oppressive of world regimes where firearms are concerned, has nonetheless continuously implemented new firearms laws for most of the 20th century and mass murder rates have remained relatively stable despite this.
While not entirely shocking for anyone who understands human nature, such events are nonetheless deserving of our sympathy and prayer to be sure. Certainly such incidents invoke a wide range of very powerful emotions from our society but emotions, though strong, are not a proper substitute for ethics, logic, and reason when engaging in substantive decision making. It is simply not appropriate to infringe upon the individual rights of a law abiding populace in the demonstrably fallacious pursuit of feel good politics.