Yesterday’s The New York Times ran a piece in their Education section entitled Second Amendment and Beyond: Pondering Gun Rights, Laws and Culture. Bloggers Holly Epstein Ojalvo and Katherine Schulten offered readers five ways to use the Times to teach children about firearms. RF emailed me the link, suspecting that the writers had biased the discussion in favor of gun control. Our Fearless Leader asked me to answer the questions posed by the paper so that TTAG could provide a gun rights resource for enquiring if impressionable minds. Number one on their list: “Hold a Debate.” Provided we can bring facts to the exercise, why not? First up:
- “Do guns contribute to higher or lower crime rates?”
Well that’s an easy one! As Dr. Lott points out in this piece:
Among peer-reviewed national studies by criminologists and economists, 18 find that right-to-carry laws reduce violent crime, 10 claim no effect, and just one claims one type of crime temporarily increases slightly. The possibility that permit holders might lead to more crime is easily evaluated by looking at how incredibly law-abiding they are, with them losing their permits for any firearms-related violations (usually trivial ones) at hundredths or thousandths of 1 percentage point.
- Are self-defense laws like Florida’s Stand Your Ground helpful or harmful?
This one is a little trickier because it all depends on how you define you terms. Is it helpful to require police to have probable cause to believe a DGU was unlawful before they can arrest the shooter? Not to them it isn’t; it is much easier not to have to worry about things like probable cause and reasonable articulable suspicion and just arrest people they “know” are bad guys.
Is it helpful to require prosecutors to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt instead of requiring a defensive shooter to prove their innocence? Again, not to prosecutors it isn’t.
Is it harmful to increase the number of homicides that are ruled justifiable? Only to criminals.
- How should guns be regulated?
This is a ludicrously open-ended question; so meaningless that it is all but impossible to provide a meaningful answer. Do they mean regulation of the actual physical guns themselves? The sales and ownership of guns? The use of guns? Gun appearance or accessories? I shall try, however, to answer their question(s).
Ideally actual physical guns should be regulated like any other product, by the marketplace. Does the weapon fulfill a perceived need, does it operate properly, etc. If it is defective (i.e. does not go BANG when the trigger is pulled or does go BANG when the trigger isn’t pulled) or dangerous to the operator (for example going BOOM when the trigger is pulled) then that is a matter for insurance and liability lawyers.
The avowed purpose of regulating gun sales and ownership is to prevent criminals from getting access to firearms or to punish them if they are caught with them. There is nothing inherently evil or wrong or bad with owning or possessing a gun, and like so many mala prohibita laws before, not only do they not succeed, but their failure is used to argue for further such laws which, themselves will fail.
Regulating the use of guns is frequently another exercise in mala prohibita fantasy. There are already laws against shooting at or into people; there are already laws against shooting up someone’s house, car or other property. Attempting to regulate the use of guns is simply an attempt to prevent this already unlawful behavior.
Regulating the appearance of guns (like prohibitions on flash-hiders, barrel shrouds or bayonet-lugs to name just a few) or how they are accessorized (banning pink guns, limiting magazine styles and sizes, etc.) is just plain silly. “Oh but if a gun has a barrel shroud you can spray fire from the hip and keep your hand on the barrel to control it and kill lots of people at once” exclaims my inner anti!
Okay, first, “spray fire from the hip” is hardly accurate enough to “kill lots of people” but we’ll let that pass to address the “keep your hand on the barrel” part. Have you people never heard of The ‘Ove’ Glove? You don’t need a barrel shroud/shoulder thing that goes up to protect your hands from heat. See here for a detailed deconstruction of the other elements of the Clinton-era “Assault Weapons” ban.
- What are the appropriate roles of the gun lobby and gun-control advocates?
Gun control advocates should fetch coffee not just for the “gun lobby” but for all of the law-abiding citizens who own guns and the 25,000 annually who save lives in DGUs. But seriously, this is another meaningless question. First the so-called “gun-lobby” is largely grass-roots and consists of working people who, in their spare time, address civil rights issues with their legislators.
Gun-control advocates, on the other hand, are largely paid flacks representing Astro-turf® organizations supported by deep pocket contributors like the Joyce Foundation, frequently relying on bought and paid for “studies” which distort the truth to support an anti-gun agenda. The classic example of this is the VPC’s License To Kill study (which for some reason seems to have disappeared from their website) which, among other things, reported that:
In 1996 Texas concealed handgun license holders were arrested for weapon-related offenses at a rate 22 percent higher than that of the general population of Texas aged 21 and over.
Which sounds pretty damning unless you dig into their study to discover that their definition of “weapon-related offenses” does not include assault, robbery, kidnapping etc. (those numbers are dealt with separately), but instead consist almost entirely of mala prohibita crimes like not keeping your weapon concealed or carrying in a prohibited location.
So essentially the argument they are making is that since licensed drivers commit the most “car crimes” no one should be allowed to drive. Howard Nemerov does an excellent job deconstructing their whole study here.
- Should felons be allowed to own guns?
Of course they should! The number one risk factor for being the victim of a homicide is a felony conviction. Felons, more than any others, need access to the safest, most effective self-defense tool in existence; the firearm. Even aside from that, felon prohibitions lead to gross injustices like an 80-year-old man being arrested after shooting a burglar, because he is a “prohibited person”.
If they get you asking the wrong question, then the answer does not matter. The question isn’t whether weapons should be permitted, the question should be: “What right do you have to limit my freedoms because you are afraid?”
Remember: The freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right — subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility.
That’s an idea that needs more play at the playground. Alternatively, maybe it’s time for the NRA’s Eddy the Eagle a costumed pal for high school age children. Malachi (or Melissa) the Minuteman could discuss the gun rights that made this country great. Just a thought.