Common Sense Gun Control. No Really.

By Matt Wood

Antis have a favorite phrase; “common sense gun control.”  If you’re anything like me, you can hear those four words ringing in your head from years of overexposure to talking heads and their sound bites. If not, just Google it and you’ll find that almost everyone in the gun grabbing camp is in favor of it (“CSGC”). You’ll also find that the definition of CSGC is all over the board, making CSGC an annoyingly ephemeral concept (at least until later in this screed) . . .

One of the most famous examples of CSGC was the atrocity known as the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, also known as the Assault Weapons Ban, to those in the reality-based community. Even to this day, those who would seize our ARs are calling for another “common sense” ban like the thankfully-sunsetted AWB.

Larry Hirsch, described on Huffington Post as “Team Leader – Essex County for Obama,” titled a July 29, 2012 post on that blog, in typically condescending anti fashion, Assault Weapons Ban: It’s Common Sense. Caution: if you’re sickened by attempts to capitalize on the Batman Massacre, you may not want to click that.

Here’s the thing about CSGC: the “common sense” in CSGC is a rhetorical device designed to put a fig leaf on the ineffectiveness of the gun control it describes. Who isn’t for common sense? Hirsch’s (and countless others’) particular version of common sense posits that the reduction of assault weapons will lead to a decrease in gun crime—relying on his audience’s willingness to infer a causal relationship between the availability of scary black rifles and criminals willing to use them. But that’s a common sense proposition, right?

As my mother likes to say: Au contraire, fish face! From a report titled An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban:  Impacts on Gun Markets and Gun Violence, 1994-2003, commissioned by the National Institute of Justice in 2004:

Should it be renewed, the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.  AWs were rarely used in gun crimes even before the ban.  LCMs are involved in a more substantial share of gun crimes, but it is not clear how often the outcomes of gun attacks depend on the ability of offenders to fire more than ten shots (the current magazine capacity limit) without reloading.

See what they did there?  With a nasty false congeniality, co-opting unsuspecting neutrals, they say, “Hey, yeah, it’s just common sense – if we ban the assault weapons, we’ll get less crime.” Only we won’t. Yet it somehow remains “common sense” that we will.

There is, however, real CSGC going on every day. That is, CSGC that actually makes common sense. Meaning gun control targeted at the gun offender, as opposed to the gun owner. Robert Farago highlights one instance of this phenomenon in his June piece about the U.S. Attorney’s efforts in Seattle, where the Feds decided to step in and put some mandatory minimums in play (WILD CARD!) for gun criminals who had previously enjoyed comparatively lighter consequences under Washington’s criminal code.

And today I happened across a story about an ATF sting operation (Farago’s favorite) conducted jointly in southwest Atlanta alongwith the APD.  WSBTV.com reports:

Federal agents said they’ve taken nearly 300 guns and dozens of criminals off of the street by running a fake business in southwest Atlanta.

Undercover agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives worked with Atlanta police officers to set up a bogus storefront along Metropolitan Parkway.

The store, called Metro Mobile Safes, was in operation for about 10 months.

This got my attention because I live in southwest Atlanta, (disturbingly) near the erstwhile location of Metro Mobile Safes. The more I read about Operation Trap Door, the more I liked it. A more fleshed out (and more self-congratulatory) version of the operation can be found in this DOJ press release. For me, the highlight was getting to read the tale of the tape for some of the more nefarious characters they caught prowling my neighborhood, despite my best efforts at gentrification. A sample:

Mohammed Bah 38, Atlanta, GA.

6 Counts of Possession of a Firearm by an Illegal Alien,

1 Count of Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Cocaine Base

8 Counts of Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute

3 Counts of Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine Base

2 Counts of Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine

1 Count of Possession of a Firearm During a Drug Trafficking Crime

1 Count of Possession and Sale of a Stolen  Firearm

* maximum statutory penalty of Life

Elizer Owens, 20,  Atlanta, GA.

2 Counts Possession of a Firearm During a Drug Trafficking Crime,

1 Count of Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute Cocaine Base

2 Counts of Possession with Intent to Distribute Cocaine Base

1 Count of Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute

1 Count of Possession and Sale of a Stolen  Firearm

6 Counts of Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon

* maximum statutory penalty of Life

The list goes on, but you get the drift. Two nice things about the sting: “Nearly all of the defendants indicted on federal charge are felons,” according to the DOJ, and to all appearances, the operation was not targeted at catching largely law-abiding gun owners in technical violations of the law. I’m not sure what the criminal defense bar thinks, but to me, this is the kind of work ATF should be doing.

The point is this: Operation Trapdoor and the new-sheriff-in-town U.S. Attorney in Seattle are the common sense gun control we’ve been looking for. They target only those who use or possess guns illegally, and create efficiency through selectively applying their efforts at deterrence and incapacitation (neither the aforementioned Mr. Bah nor Mr. Owens is likely to re-offend) to that small fraction of the populace. Common sense, I’d say.

Efforts like the AWB, on the other hand, target the populace as a whole, and this creates remarkable inefficiency. It takes boatloads of both financial and political capital to pass something like the AWB because it targets the entire populace, maximizing the chances that someone (in the case of the AWB, a majority of gun owners) will push back. Hard.

And when a law restricts the entire populace in order to control a behavior of a small subset of that populace, there is inefficiency produced by the over-restriction of the majority (e.g., depriving law-abiding gun owners of previously-legal firearms). The inefficiency created by this wide-net approach to gun control smacks of anything but common sense.

Curbing drunk driving isn’t accomplished by taking away the keys of all motorists; likewise, curbing gun violence is not accomplished by taking away the firearms of all legal gun owners. When next you hear about “common sense gun control,” think about what actually makes common sense—targeting the offenders, not the populace as a whole.

comments

  1. avatar Soccerchainsaw says:

    Of course when the anti’s say “common sense” or “reasonable” gun control, what they really mean is “total gun control”.
    My take on “reasonable gun control” is that since our constitution protects the keeping and bearing of arms as a right that we inherently possess, “gun control” efforts are to be mostly aimed at various government juridications & private organizations seeking to inhibit us (the law-abiding citizens) from exercising those rights. In other words if I were this country’s Prez, I would direct the Justice Department to investigate/prosecute anyone at any level that seeks to deprive the citizens of their rights including their 2nd amendment rights not just the “popular” rights. How’s that for a starting point of debate?

  2. avatar ROger.45 says:

    CSGC.

    Saul Alinsky’s, “Rules for Radicals”, teaches the organizer to, “Clothe your argument in a moral garment”, i.e., Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act.

    On page 13 of his book he states, “In this world laws are written for the lofty aim of “the common good” and then acted out in life on the basis of the common greed.”, i.e., the left’s goal to ulitmately repeal the Second Amendment.

    If you haven’t read, “Rules for Radicals”, you should do so. It is the left’s tactical battle plan. How nice of them to let us see it… if you care to.

    1. avatar WB says:

      Its also the battle plan of the right. In fact, its the battle plan of nearly every group, because fear and moral righteousness motivate far better than pragmatism.

      Playing by big boy rules, you can see both sides using these “moral garb” arguments for everything from tax breaks and revoking abortion rights to gun control and increased safety net benefits.

      Though the author may be on the left end, to think that this tactic is unique to one side is just naive.

  3. avatar racer88 says:

    Outstanding article. I keep a Word document with quotes I feel are worthy of keeping for future reference. I started to highlight a section of this article to copy over to my “Gun Quotes” document. But, as I read more, I extended the highlight to the next sentence before copying. And, then the next sentence. And, the next. I realized the whole article is quotable. So, I saved it to my “Good Gun Articles” in my Firefox bookmarks.

    Thanks, and well done!

  4. avatar John Fritz says:

    Every time I see a guy in a suit, a podium and a semi-automatic rifle all in the same photograph, my mind superimposes the word douchebag across the front of it.

    1. avatar racer88 says:

      Or a big bolt-action rifle. 🙂

      1. avatar kb says:

        A big SINGLE-SHOT bolt-action rifle.

        All the criminals are using ’em these days.

  5. avatar gold price says:

    One last note: If you ever find any staunchly committed anti-gunner actually and honestly willing to listen to common sense or interpret the II Amendment simply as written by our founders, please let me know. I’m still looking for one.

  6. avatar Theodore deCapiteau says:

    AM I the only one who noticed that both Owen’s and Bah’s violations included no violent acts and, other than being in possession of a stolen gun, all charges were for drugs? Victimless crimes which shouldn’t be crimes at all. DRUG LAWS ARE DRIVING OUR CRIME RATES UP AND CROWDING OUR PRISONS. That observation aside, all CSGC seems to include no common sense at all.

    1. avatar CarlosT says:

      Yeah, I noticed that as well.

    2. avatar tdiinva says:

      An individual who is willing to commit a felony in one area of the law is quite willing to break other laws. I note Mr. Bah started his criminal career by entering the country illegally. These two are not jack the jock and Suzy Coed at the local U. I also note that Al Capone did not have a “record” of violent crime. He was just a tax cheat.

      1. avatar CarlosT says:

        And a lot of people enter the country illegally to wash dishes and mow lawns.

        The comparison to Capone is interesting, because he comes from another era when people decided banning mind altering substances was the thing to do. He would probably always have been a crook of some sort, but Prohibition likely gave him opportunities he would never have had otherwise.

        1. avatar tdiinva says:

          We have been down the thread before. The Irish controled organized crime until after WWI and for much of that time drugs, gambling and prostitution were legal. After the war the Italians and Jews began taking over organized crime. That was the reason for the gangland violence not Prohibition. Gangland violence continued unabated after the end Prohibition. The mafia controled the trade until the federal government succeeded in destroying the major mafia families in New York, Chicago and the West Coast. When the mafia controled the drug trade there were no drugs wars. Like the 1920’s the drug wars were the result of new actors moving in to fill the power vacuum.

          Go watch “Casino.” It is a true story. They changed the names because one of the Principals, Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal threatened to sue the Producer and the studio if they used his name. When you are finished watching perhaps you can explain to all us why organized crime could exist in an environment where so-called victimless crime are legal.

      2. avatar gemalo says:

        So how come Tim Geithner is still Sec. of the Treasury?

    3. avatar Matt Wood says:

      Having lived around folks like Messrs. Owens and Bah in my southwest Atlanta neighborhood, I can attest to the fact that their crimes are not, as you say, victimless.

      The first, and in my view most important, victims are their (inevitable) children. There was a teenage hoodlum firing shots at another group of hoodlums from a .40 handgun (I inspected the brass later and showed the police where to pick it up) approx. 7yds from my porch a couple of weeks ago. Standing next to the hoodlum (who is one of our local dope boys, as evidenced by his nearly 24/7 position on the stoop of a known crack house) was a child who looked to be about 5-6 yrs old. The only reason this kid will be forced to grow up around gun violence (and likely commit some himself in a few more ice cream seasons) is that his parents and older siblings are involved in the drug trade.

      Other victims include the junkies; the dope boys who are injured or killed during robberies committed by other dope boys; the uninvolved folks hit by strays; and property owners who lose value in their homes due to the drug trade in the neighborhood, among others.

      I agree with your statement that “victimless crimes should not be crimes at all,” but I cannot agree that the armed drug offenders of southwest Atlanta are committing “victimless crimes.” Come spend some time in Zone 3 and let me know if you agree.

      -Matt Wood

  7. avatar Ralph says:

    There are certain English words and phrases that do not mean what you think they mean and should set off your built-in bullsh!t-o-meter. For example, the word “but” in a sentence means “ignore everything I just said.” For example, “I like you but I don’t think we should go out together” actually means “I’d rather be dead than be seen in public with a mook like you.” The phrase “common sense gun control” is another such phrase, which actually means “you’re gonna need a whole giant size jar of Vaseline.”

    English is a wonderful language.

  8. avatar jwm says:

    notice how this hirsch dude is part of the machine supportin barry. and yes,csgc means nothing but heavily regulated and licensed shotguns and rifles. think england.

  9. avatar Peter says:

    It always infuriates me when you hear people say that these types of shootings only happen in the US. What you don’t hear is the types of killings the DON’T happen, you never hear of a drug gang taking over a town or threatening the police into fleeing, you don’t hear of a paramilitary death squad taking most of the men into the woods and executing them, you don’t hear of a crowd of religious fanatics killing a group because they have a God with a different name.
    The founding fathers knew there are always trade offs in life, we decided to trade the occasional criminal or lunatic for the general security against organized thuggery, be it criminals or politicians. There is a reason why the only places in the US where citizens cower behind locked doors at night are also the places with “common sense gun control”

  10. avatar Silver says:

    The utter arrogance of of gun-grabbers claiming their views are “common sense” is what infuriates me the most. I’m sure Hitler thought it was just a common sense solution to Germany’s woes to kill every Jew his soldiers could find (too early for a more original analogy). It definitely fits in with the elitist, out of touch, sociopathic tendencies of gun-grabbers, and likely is a product of their damaged emotional complexes. After all, if something is “common sense,” then you don’t need to support it with facts or logic…it’s just common sense.

    They can take their Orwellian wordplay and shove it up their deepest orifice. That’s my common sense solution.

  11. avatar Will says:

    Gun grabber’s definition of CSGC: Effectively removing guns from the hands of the general population, except the elite and their protectors/enforcers.

    The REAL definition of CSGC: Effectively enforcing laws that remove both criminals, and illegal gun possession from the general population, whereas in, said laws are not in violation of the US Constitution.

    I’m for heavier and stricter punishments for crimes that involve firearms, as long as said crime definition is not in direct violation of the 2nd Amendment. As long as CSGC is defined by the elite and their shills, they will violate the 2nd Amendment as often as possible.

  12. avatar Snachnim says:

    The problem is simple. Antis have no common sense. When they say common Sebse it isn’t period.
    Lord strike me down now but good job ATF on operation trap door. You are right local and federal authorities should be doIng things like this. Just by to couple you posted those were some seriously bad dudes. Not just illegal gun owners so getting them off the street was a good thing. If you do that long enough, I bet cre rates will drop. Imagine that!!

    1. avatar Will says:

      It’s good to know that at least the ATF doesn’t botch every job they do. If they can get a director that isn’t someone’s lapdog, the BATFE has a chance to actually do some real good instead of empowering bad guys with seriously flawed plans (regardless if the flaws were the worst kind: intentional, or still highly undesirable: unintentional.)

      Lets hope Holder’s replacement is a much better person than he is.

  13. avatar Professor X says:

    There was a post on the Freakonomics blog a while back about various ways to fight gun violence. Jens Ludwig, a researcher who is an “anti” but is also a good guy, endorses a similar approach of targetting illegal possession of guns. He argues that it effetively raises the cost of criminals carrying guns. He also points out that it’s something both sides of the gun control debate can endorse.

  14. avatar JLR says:

    I’ve always had a strong aversion to the phrase “common sense”, it’s almost always invoked in order to bypass the need for facts and logic in an argument.

    I was one of those pesky “smart kids” growing up, and those less gifted liked to toss out “common sense”. Even though they were almost always wrong on whatever pointless argument kids that age get themselves into.

    Growing up and getting in to politics and current events I found that “common sense” was even more abused. Usually by right-wingers who toss it out in an attempt to dismiss the pesky science that liberals like to throw out.

    Given that liberals spend so much time lamenting conservative anti-intellectualism, it blows my mind that they don’t see the contradiction when they start throwing out “common sense” when it comes to gun control. Suddenly not only do they not need a technical understanding of the subject in order to legislate it, but they revel in their own ignorance as a badge of honor.

  15. ……which is due to the urbanization of the rural areas in China, the Chinese People’

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