Guns

Gun Control's Potemkin Village

Most measures will have little or no effect on the problems they are supposed to address

|

Political trends come and go in response to events. Gun control was the rage during the Clinton administration, but over the past decade or so it became an obsolete cause. After the horrific crimes in Newtown and Aurora, though, it's staging a comeback.

One thing hasn't changed: The agenda includes mostly measures that will have little or no effect on the problems they are supposed to address. They are Potemkin remedies—presentable facades with empty space behind them.

This is something that supporters as well as opponents labor to conceal. Treating them as serious allows them both to posture for their own advantage.

So on Wednesday, President Barack Obama unveiled a raft of executive actions and proposed changes in federal law intended to prevent both mass shootings and chronic gun violence. A few are innocuous and reasonably promising, like improving databases for background checks and helping "ensure that young people get the mental health treatment they need." 

But the most notable ones fall into three categories. In the category of "useless" is the ban on "assault weapons," which has been tried before with no evident effect. The administration is fond of demonizing a style of firearm that the gun industry likes to glamorize.

What they are talking about, though, are ordinary rifles tricked out and blinged up to resemble something else: military arms designed for the battlefield. The "weapons of war" Obama wants to ban do nothing that other legal weapons won't do just as quickly and just as destructively.

Most criminals have no need of them. In 2011, reports The New York Times, 6,220 people were killed with handguns—compared to 323 by rifles of any kind, including "assault weapons."

In the "probably useless" realm is a ban on ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds, which was part of the 1994 assault weapons ban. A mass shooter can overcome the restriction by carrying multiple magazines or multiple guns—as many of them do anyway. The notion that an attacker can be subdued when he stops to reload works better in movies than in real life, where it is virtually unknown.

Enforcing a limit on magazine size may be harder than you think. Recently a company called Defense Distributed showed it could use a 3D printer to make a plastic 30-round magazine. "The Internet happened since the last assault weapons ban," founder Cody Wilson told Forbes. "This is a fledgling tech, but look at what we're able to do."

Both of the White House proposals would inconvenience law-abiding gun owners who use their firearms—including "assault weapons" with large magazines—entirely for innocent purposes, including hunting, target shooting and home defense. They would not impede violent criminals from obtaining guns, which are widely available in illegal markets and will remain abundant.

In the category of "possibly helpful" is a new rule requiring private gun sales to include a federal background check—as purchases from licensed dealers already do. That change, which would cover some 40 percent of all gun transactions, holds the potential of preventing convicted felons from getting guns by stopping them at the point of sale.

But don't expect too much. Supporters point to research indicating that 80 percent of criminals bought their guns privately. But as a rule, the people who sell guns to criminals are criminals, who do not make a fetish of complying with federal regulations. Most if not all of this commerce will continue.

The chief effect will be on law-abiding people who are accustomed to buying guns from friends and fellow enthusiasts. Maybe the added cost and trouble will pay off by disarming some career crooks and homicidal maniacs.

But maybe not. Among those who would not have been impeded are Adam Lanza, James Holmes and Jared Loughner, whose weapons were bought from licensed dealers.

Same with Wade Michael Page, who killed six people at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee. Jacob Tyler Roberts, who killed two people on a spree in an Oregon shopping mall, wouldn't have been affected, since he got his gun by stealing it.

The mistakes Obama is making are familiar ones: exploiting misconceptions about guns, exaggerating the value of symbolic actions and presuming that new laws will foil incorrigible lawbreakers. The assault weapons ban was irrelevant to fighting crime before, which is no reason it can't be irrelevant again.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

73 responses to “Gun Control's Potemkin Village

  1. That 40% number was destroyed in an op/ed earlier today by John Fund.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/…..-john-fund

    1. It might be a phony number, but I have to suspect that most gun sales are from private sellers

      Virtually all my guns have been bought from other people, not a dealer.

      Guns are like cars, they don’t wear out all that quickly, so the only reason you have to buy new is a huge mark up.

      Forcing background checks will likely stop private sales altogether.

      I suspect that this is the real part of Obama’s plans though, all the other stuff is just a smokescreen.

  2. up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a, star 2 get da spread gun

    1. Well actually that was for 30 lives per continue. However the contra spread cannon is the greatest weapon ever

      1. fap fap fap fap fap

  3. Now that the feds have restricted gun sales thousands of street gangs will replace licensed gun dealers. The Gangbanger advantage is that they require no background check or ID. One gang member and mugger who chose to remain anonymous will be selling stolen leather wallets and handbags at 70% off retail, no questions asked. His Smith&Wesson; 9mm is not for sale, it helps pay the bills.

    1. Man, the “Homeboy Shopping Network” from In Living Color was so ahead of its time… 🙂

  4. These proposed laws are worse than ‘useless’ or ‘irrelevant’.

    They will do more harm than good. That needs to be our message.

    How many people not named David Gregory will be jailed for having a mag even though they threatened no one?

  5. These useless laws serve another purpose. They pave the way for more laws. “We tried, but the NRA didn’t let us do enough. We need more laws.” will be the mantra after the next shooting.

    1. ^This^

      Pretty much the m.o. of statists. TSA guidelines didn’t work so we need more intrusive searchers. Obamacare won’t work – there will be calls for single payer. Raising taxes won’t pay off the debt so we need to increase taxes more. And so on, ad nauseum.

      1. Yah, fight the scourge of not having people die because they lack affordable health care.
        Lock and load, nutters.

        1. Hi rectal. Remember meds first, reason.com comments after. It’s just common sense.

  6. Please stop with the cost-benefit analysis of my God-given rights. I have the right to bear arms regardless of how many people die or might die as a result of that liberty. That liberty is not a function of some sliding scale where we abandon the right if x people die or preserve the right if that number is below x. We can’t give even an inch on this issue or we will lose the right altogether. Every other country that has lost gun rights started out with this slow ban crap and ended up with total gun bans.

    1. Please stop with the cost-benefit analysis of my God-given rights. I have the right to bear arms regardless of how many people die or might die as a result of that liberty.

      Not sure if this is just excellent trolling or not, but anyone who refuses to do a cost-benefit analysis is an idiot and not worth listening to.

      Bio-weapons have the potential to kill the whole human race, therefore I support banning them. Small arms have a much smaller threat, therefore I support only very narrow restrictions.

      1. You support banning them but you realize the US government has the largest stockpile of bioweapons in the world “for research” and “storage” purposes. Tons and tons of it underground in bunkers all over America. But I digress…

        Mentioning bio-weapons is akin to Piers Morgan bringing up the legality of owning a tank as it applies to the 2nd Amendment. Someone with the Bird Flu could turn themselves into a weapon.. it’s like “assault weapon”… it’s a scary term that incites fear in the great unwashed…

        What Grenator Bole is saying is that liberty should not be curtailed simply because someone thinks that it might save a life. Particularly when that curtailment of an essential right does nothing to solve the problem, but does everything to open the door for more and more restrictions… you know, “for the chirren.”

        1. You support banning them but you realize the US government has the largest stockpile of bioweapons in the world “for research” and “storage” purposes. Tons and tons of it underground in bunkers all over America. But I digress…

          Did I mention an exception for the US government?

          Mentioning bio-weapons is akin to Piers Morgan bringing up the legality of owning a tank as it applies to the 2nd Amendment.

          I’m not making a legal argument, I’m making a logical argument.

          Someone with the Bird Flu could turn themselves into a weapon.. it’s like “assault weapon”… it’s a scary term that incites fear in the great unwashed…

          So you see no difference between someone with bird flu and someone making a smallpox delivery system? You are OK with the latter?

          What Grenator Bole is saying is that liberty should not be curtailed simply because someone thinks that it might save a life. Particularly when that curtailment of an essential right does nothing to solve the problem, but does everything to open the door for more and more restrictions… you know, “for the chirren.”

          That’s what he should have said. He utterly failed at it.

      2. BMFPitt| 1.17.13 @ 6:54PM |#
        “Not sure if this is just excellent trolling or not, but anyone who refuses to do a cost-benefit analysis is an idiot and not worth listening to.”

        I’m very suspicious of negotiating re any of my freedoms, but if you are to present a case, let’s see a factual and large benefit before we start talking.

        1. Of benefit what?

    2. Hear hear!

  7. I had this conversation with my gf’s mom yesterday. She kept saying “You have to be able to compromise, you can’t get everything you want.” So I give up the right to own certain types of weapons…WHAT THE FUCK ARE THEY GIVING UP IN THIS “COMPROMISE”? Should I just be grateful they aren’t wanting to ban every kind of firearm? (yet)

    1. We are at the compromise position. I have to have a permission slip to exercise my rights. No more.

      1. Exactly. A compromise means you give up something and I get something in return.

        I will agree to a registration system if you remove suppressors and your bullshit measurement requirements for rifles and shotguns from the National Firearms Act. So I can basically buy any semi-auto weapon I wish, with whatever stock and barrel I desire, suppressed or not, with the standard background check in use right now. In return, you get to log the serial number of the firearm in a federal database.

        See, that’s a compromise. Slicing away another piece of the cheese and giving nothing in return is not compromise at all.

        1. We have compromised. The instant background checks were a compromise. I sure as hell didn’t want them.

        2. If you agree to registration, you’ve lost. Registration is the last step before confiscation.

    2. We did compromise. We gave up fully automatic weapons, which I think is a farce. Would the Newton guy have been able to kill more kids had he been able to fire 3 round a trigger pull than simply 1?

      No, the problem what that a crazy evil person had unfettered access to a bunch of children. He could have slaughter them with a screwdriver or sledgehammer.

      1. I bet he would have killed fewer. The first shot would have been as aimed but the remaining would have moved up the wall.

        1. Dat recoil

    3. That’s how it’s been for a while. Look at the fiscal cliff deal. We got no spending cuts. They just didn’t get to raise all the taxes they wanted. We get nothing, They get most of what they want. Nobody is happy, but at least we’re moving in the wrong direction.

    4. Obama’s view of compromise is “Let’s play ball, and I promise not to shove the bat up your ass.”

      Heads he wins, tails we lose.

      1. Like most lefty “thinkers” he won’t do doing the shoving…not with those delicate and dovelike forearms and wrists. He’ll pay thugs to do the heavy lifting for him….it’s how the T o n y s and Shreeks of this world think things should be done…the “planners” shouldn’t sully themselves with the actual execution of the unpleasant but necessary results of their plans.

    5. I tried to explain it to a co-worker the other day.

      Give up X or we’ll try to take YZ from you as well.

      That’s blackmail, not compromise.

  8. I’m an economist- I love cost benefit analyses. That being said, my rights are not up for an analysis. Abridging a neo-nazi’s freedom of speech may pass such an analysis but it would be wrong to do so. Even if there wasn’t a SINGLE benefit, his right would still exist. I’m not a utilitarian when it comes to rights.

    My right to own guns is the same type of right. Even if it was more costly to society to allow people to own guns, it would still be wrong to ban/regulate them. Our Constitution cares more about liberty than safety. As it was in beginning of our Republic, I believe we have the right to the same types of arms as the military has (which obviously our govt disagrees with)- not the right to a nuclear weapon.

    1. Why not the nuclear weapon? How many people who can afford a nuclear weapon have committed a mass murder? The left likes to say if you believe the right to keep and bare arms “shall not be infringed,” you think people should own tanks as if it’s ridiculous and to make you look ridiculous. I always just tell them, the last time a tank was used to murder a massive amount of people, it was done by a government. I.E. Libya and Syria. Private citizens have a much better track record when it comes to military style arms.

      1. I’ve felt for some time that the only limitation that could be read into the Second Amendment as written has to be that the “arms” in question should be those which in normal use are operated by one person. That lets out tanks, bombs much larger than rifle grenades, and (contrary to cheesy action movies galore) belt-fed machine-guns.

        You have the right to bear arms. You do not have a right to head a squad.

        1. Fuck that. Why not?

          1. It’s a simple distinction, based on the language of the amendent – “keep and bear”‘ limiting it to weapons normaaly born by one man. It voids the witless “so, you’d let individuals own atom bombs” argument, without surrendering anything substantial.

            1. Unless single-person cannons were the rule when the BOR was signed, that’s hogwash.

        2. Yeah, really. Why not? The type of militia intended by the framers was just that. Self-organizing units bearing their own arms that could be mustered out at any time in numbers adequate to the demands of the situation. At the time, there were many cannons (the tanks of their day) owned by individual members of these units, or by the militia membership collectively, similar to volunteer fire brigades.

          The modern equivalent of that kind of equipment is cost-prohibitive for most individuals, but I don’t see why it’s necessarily excluded from the “arms” in question. Indeed, it seems integral to the proper function of the 2nd Amendment, insofar as access to such weaponry would augment the people’s ability to effectively resist tyranny.

  9. Obama seems intent on pissing off the NRA while accomplishing practically nothing. He could get rid of every rifle and high capacity magazine in the country, and the only effect would be forcing the next mass murderer to reload more often (or bring more guns). I can’t figure out if Obama is an idiot, a tool, or both. I will be surprised if Democrats think it’s worth sticking their neck out for such pathetic regulations.

    1. He’s not interested in stopping mass murder, it’s about gun control, period.

      The main goal from this is forcing private sellers (ie, most gun transactions) to do background checks, which means he’s going to essentially outlaw gun sales except by dealers.

      And once that happens, they’ll start regulating gun dealers more and more, so only his allies/cronies will be gun dealers, and they will only sell guns to certain people.

      1. that or he’ll be able to create a national database of gun owners which is the first step to confiscation.

        1. You should hurry back to your compound and prepare your stockpile, Nutter.
          You never know when King George III is going to conduct a no-knock raid on your compound.

          1. Calling names does not change that, historically, government interest in a list of people who own something is seldom a good sign.

            1. I’m disturbed by how many people who wish to further restrict Second Amendment rights result to name-calling and hyperbole rather than attempt to form a persuasive argument.

          2. Rhino is correct. Registration is the required for confiscation (unless you want the jack boots to go door to door). Every country that started with registration eventually went right on through to confiscation.

  10. Where exactly are the street gangs getting their guns, if they can’t get them from the internet or gun stores? Who are their arms suppliers?

    Aside from fast and furious, how are Mexicans smuggling American guns into their homeland?

    1. I believe the answer to both questions is “The BATFE”.

      Seriously, though, I’d say that smuggling from America makes up a fairly small source of guns for the Mexican cartels. Lots of Mexican soldiers have been deserting and bringing their weapons with them for a long time now, and there’s always the pipeline from various paramilitary and corrupt governments in Central and South America (with the guns themselves originating in China).

      Both methods net them far more effective military hardware than buying from a gunshop in the US. They can’t get full autos from here, and they can’t get things like grenades, RPG’s, and the like either, all of which have turned up in Mexico.

    2. We sell them to the Mexican govt, who issues them to local police, who hand them over to drug cartels.

    3. street gangs probably steel them from law abiding citizens and/or sell the guns they have to each other. Weapons can also be smuggled in along with drugs, so even if all law abiding citizens turned in their guns it wouldn’t stop gangs from arming themselves.

      1. I googled this and found that criminals buy their guns through straw purchase. Basically someone eligible to buy guns get guns for them.

        So if you can’t steal guns from your mom, then one of your buddies with a clean record can get one for you.

  11. All this does is perpetuate the divisiveness currently the red meat of politicians.
    I lived in Los Angeles during the ’90’s riot. As soon as it was reported that the LAPD would not respond to rioters, the looting began on a huge scale. We defended our store with handguns and shotguns from marauding youth and organized gangs. They didn’t mess with us or our neighbors. It took 3 days! for the CA national guard to get BULLETS. The bullets were under lock and key in Central CA. As soon as this made the news, the riots ended.
    I lived 3 miles from the Northridge Earthquake epicenter and spend a week without power. As two of my neighbor’s homes burned, a fire truck drove by and asked “Is anyone hurt?” When the “no” answer came they drove off to find people in danger.
    Civil authority will NOT be there to protect us. They’ll go home and protect their families, or protect City leadership. This is what the 2nd Amendment means to me!

    1. GregMax,
      Are you really that afraid?
      I’ve met people from the People’s Shithole of South Africa who weren’t as paranoid as you are.
      You nutters oughta tape your own drivel and then play it back on the drive home from shooting squirrels on the weekend.
      Y’all sound mentally ill.

      1. Wait, so the fact that someone used guns to defend his home and business from looters after the police looked the other way and refused to act makes the guy a coward and a nutter to you?

        You are the one who sounds mentally ill.

      2. Wait; you’re making fun of somebody who, having lived through an experience where he had to defend himself with arms and the ‘authorities’ were no help, fears he will have to do this again?

        Just how stupid ARE you?

        1. It is rather comic, isn’t it?
          I wear seatbelts, I have my daughter in a car seat, I brush my teeth and floss . . . it’s called recognizing that life has dangers and rationally preparing for probable events. Nutter?

      3. I know there are more intellectually challenging people from the left than this. Between T O N Y and this guy, I start to pine for a Bill Maher.

  12. Twenty million felons are being denied gun permits and have no choice except to buy them from street gang members. Gun collections purchased at estate auctions find their way into the underworld, interstate truckers make an extra buck bringing in guns from permissive states. Fifty million guns are owned with filed off IDs.

  13. I’m watching the latenight news. Seems King George III has amassed a huge army on the shores of the Mississippi.
    Be on alert, Nutters. You only have so many hours before he’s no-knocking your dung heap.

    1. Are you aware of how many no-knock warrants are served by SWAT teams every month? Check Radly Balko’s agitator posts over on Huffington. We’ll wait.

      Either do the basic research to discuss the issue, or piss off.

      1. Also, the fact that governments murdered about 250 million of their own people in the last 100 years. That’s not counting events like war, where Brits are killed by Nazi bombs. I’m talking about governments murdering their own citizens, like Nazis, Communists, etc. It’s like the leading cause of death in the 20th century.

        But hey: worrying about government is a big joke.

    2. I’m assuming from your constant use of the word “nutter” that you are a British subject. Just a reminder: A few thousand “nutters” kicked your fucking ass about two centuries ago, even though Great Britain was one of the most powerful nations on earth at the time. That nation went on to form laws based on a Constitution and Bill of Rights. Enshrined in that Bill of Rights is the acknowledgement that in order to provide for their own security, citizens have a right to “keep and bear arms”. That right doesn’t come from the Bill of Rights; it is an inherent right of all persons and neither repealing the Second Amendment nor the passing of new laws can ever remove that right. That said, FUCK OFF you limey fuck.

  14. I remember hearing some time ago that even if a private seller wanted to run a federal background check on a prospective buyer, the BATF would deny any request for access to the system for anyone who lacked an FFL.

    With the new rule about background checks in place, will the BATF start allowing private citizens access to the system in order to run those required background checks? And how long before we see the access get abused?

    1. Probably not. The BATF is a bunch of game-playing idiots far more concerned with forwarding their political agenda than with serving the public interest. Their creation is one of many reasons I despise the shade of Richard Nixon which have nothing to do with Watergate.

  15. By fighting commissar obozo’s gallant efforts, you are incentivizing the state to kill more children. How many children have to die before you give up your right to self-defense?

    /statist logic unmasked

  16. ||| A few are innocuous and reasonably promising, like improving databases for background checks and helping “ensure that young people get the mental health treatment they need.” |||

    and then I realized that I was reading a Steve Chapman article. ughh

  17. 2013 Happy New Year,NFL,NBA,Fashion kickoff for u

  18. I await the day, which has probably already come but I missed it, where some statist tries to depict poor Loughner, Lanza, et al, as just as much the victims of legal gun owners as Sandy Hook’s massacred children allegedly are.

  19. Nicest chat and chat Iraqi Entertainment featuring all over the world
    http://www.iraaqna.com

  20. Nicest chat and chat Iraqi Entertainment featuring all over the world
    http://www.iraaqna.com

  21. 2013 Fashion kickoff for u

  22. thanks for these info. visit our web on Training Center Semarang.
    please comment to improvement.

    success for you all.

    PELATIHAN SEMARANG

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.