How Can This Happen in California?

“Three men were shot dead and another man and woman were injured in two shootings across Oakland in a 17-hour span,” mercurynews.com reports. “Just as Oakland police officers began gaining control of a large group of rogue Oscar Grant III supporters Friday night, there was an unrelated shooting in East Oakland, police said. A 45-year-old man was killed and another man and a woman wounded in the Sobrante Park area of East Oakland.” How could this happen in California, the home of restrictive gun control? Well, how could it not?

Gun control advocates read this story and say “See? We need even MORE draconian gun laws!” Pro-gun people read this story and say “I better get some more training!”

Both individuals suffer from what the French (and Wikipedia) call an idée fixe: “a preoccupation of mind held so firmly as to resist any attempt to modify it, a fixation.” In other words, it’s an idea that’s so firmly fixed in a person’s mind that nothing—common sense, logic, scientific evidence or anecdote—will dislodge it.

For example, if you believe in your heart or hearts that gun control can reduce gun crime, there’s no convincing you. Alternatively, if you believe that all gun control is a form of unconstitutional gun grabbing, then you will be insensible to any other view. I make these observations because this tale of crime and punishment in Oakland reminds me how fed up I am with California. And Massachusetts.

These two states boast some of America’s least common sensical gun control laws. MA and CA buyers cannot purchase weapons that can hold more than 10 rounds, so that bad guys are forced to reload (I guess). Both states have a list of approved firearms that exclude weapons allowed by federal law and neighboring states. Both states require guns to be stored so that they can’t be used quickly for self-defense. The Golden State statute reads as follows:

To prevent unnecessary injury or death caused by improper storage of firearms in the home where children (under age 18) are likely to be present, and to help prevent the possibility of criminal prosecution, all firearms should be unloaded, locked with a trigger locking device that renders the firearm inoperable, and stored in a locked container.

If you’re looking for a template for “common sense” (a.k.a. unconstitutional) gun control, California and Massachusetts are it.

Needless to say, both states still have gun crimes. Instead of drilling down to gun crime stats and boring each other to death (so to speak), let’s do this a little differently. Let’s forget firearm crime per se and look at the big picture: the total number of murders (of all kinds) in California and Massachusetts.

The Golden State murder rate has remained around 2k per year since 1998. In the same time frame, The Bay State’s’ murder rate has hovered around the 180 per year mark.

Here’s where the idée fixe comes in. Gun control supporters insist that the stable crime rates prove that gun control is working. There would have been more death and destruction if these states didn’t have restrictive gun laws.

To refute that calculation, all you have to do is compare MA and CA to states with comparable populations that don’t have restrictive gun laws and see if their murder rates are lower, higher or the same. And the answer is . . . it’s pretty much the same.

[Feel free to crunch your own stats. Click here for a link to Excel spreadsheets on FBI crime stats by state from 1960 - 2009.]

So, when it comes to reducing murder, strict gun control laws aren’t working. But they cost taxpayers big bucks, and add expense and hassle to the process of owning a firearm—which makes it harder for low income citizens to own or GASP! carry a gun.

On the other side of the fixed idea front, gun rights groups need to stop fixating on guns and start focusing on criminals. If locking-up the bad guys is the answer (and I think there are others), they must commit tax money to make it so.

In the current political climate, where the clamor for smaller government grows louder and louder, there’s a growing movement to reduce or eliminate ineffective, inefficient regulations. Gun control laws are in the crosshairs of gun rights groups. The fact that they’re succeeding at rolling back these laws reflects mainstream acceptance of the small government principle in general, and the ineffectiveness of gun control laws in specific.