On April 5th, 1996, Charles Krauthammer gave his reasons for supporting the 1994 Clinton Assault Weapon Ban. The column was called “Disarm the Citizenry, But Not Yet.” in the Washington Post.
Ultimately, a civilized society must disarm its citizenry if it is to have a modicum of domestic tranquillity of the kind enjoyed in sister democracies like Canada and Britain. Given the frontier history and individualist ideology of the United States, however, this will not come easily. It certainly cannot be done radically. It will probably take one, maybe two generations. It might be 50 years before the United States gets to where Britain is today . . .
Passing a law like the assault weapons ban is a symbolic — purely symbolic — move in that direction. Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation. Its purpose is to spark debate, highlight the issue, make the case that the arms race between criminals and citizens is as dangerous as it is pointless.
De-escalation begins with a change in mentality. And that change in mentality starts with the symbolic yielding of certain types of weapons. The real steps, like the banning of handguns, will never occur unless this one is taken first, and even then not for decades.
The column came to mind because even the Bloomberg-funded Moms Demand Aciton has decided – for now – to step away from the idiotic “Assault Weapon Ban” for much the same reasons that Krauthammer mentioned:
While many gun control groups still officially support the assault weapons ban — “we haven’t abandoned the issue,” as Watts said — they’re no longer actively fighting for it.
Krauthammer has changed his stance a little since then. This is from his column “The roots of mass murder” published in December of 2012:
I have no problem in principle with gun control. Congress enacted (and I supported) an assault weapons ban in 1994. The problem was: It didn’t work. (So concluded a University of Pennsylvania study commissioned by the Justice Department.) The reason is simple. Unless you are prepared to confiscate all existing firearms, disarm the citizenry and repeal the Second Amendment, it’s almost impossible to craft a law that will be effective.
But Krauthammer has never really explained why he thinks that gun bans are necessary for domestic tranquillity. They have never reduced the homicide rate anywhere else. The homicide rate in England increased with more gun control, including homicides with guns. Nowhere have gun bans been shown to decrease homicide rates. The closest place is Australia, where a massive, intrusive, gun control scheme was pushed onto the public in a rush after a mass shooting in 1996. The legislation had been planned in advance, just waiting for the right event to implement it.
The only problem is that even academics agree: the legislation had no effect on Australia’s homicide rate, which was already dropping before the ban.
An excellent counterexample is Switzerland, which had far less gun control than the United States for decades, up until 1998. Facing immense pressure from the European Union to impose restrictive gun laws, Switzerland implemented gun control that brought it close to the United States in some areas, more restrictive in some ways, less restrictive in others. Yet Switzerland has always had one of the lowest homicide rates in Europe.
The evidence that restricting guns lowers crime simply does not exist. So why does Charles Krauthammer think it’s necessary? Does his idea of “domestic tranquillity” mean something other than crime reduction?
I have one explanation. It is because citizen disarmament has become an article of “progressive” faith, not logic or reason. Perhaps part of that is simply that “progressivism” is built on the idea of a powerful state protecting and providing for its citizens. If the state is your God, limits on it, such as those presented by the Second Amendment, are intrinsically offensive.
But limits on state power have proven to be necessary everywhere. Even socialistic European nations have found that they must limit state power. All of them have far lower corporate tax rates than the United States, for example. Unlimited state power leads to disasters such as the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, North Korea, and most recently, Venezuela. Expecting a “world government” to be an exception to the abuse of state power is the worst kind of pollyannism.
I would like to have Charles Krauthammer explain how “domestic tranquillity” in the United States would be enhanced by a gun ban. Perhaps he will some day.
©2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.