Civil Liberties

Gun Control Fails To Prevent Criminals From Getting Guns, Again


Camden, New Jersey
Beyond My Ken

In the latest news of the obvious, USA Today went to Camden, New Jersey (skyline at right), to see how successfully that state's uber-restrictive gun laws have cut off the flow of firearms to bad guys. They haven't, it turns out. As the article's subhead puts it, "Gun law changes sought in the wake of the massacre in Newtown, Conn., wouldn't address the plague of gun violence in Camden, N.J., where poverty and crime feed an enduring and bloody cycle."

From USA Today:

In a 2011 report, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which advocates stricter gun laws, considered New Jersey the state with the second strongest gun laws in America. New Jersey topped the list because among other things, the state requires permits to purchase any handgun, a special identification card to purchase long guns, and background checks in issuing permits. It requires firearms dealers to be licensed and prohibits the possession and transfer of assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines.

And these restrictive laws have accomplished … what?

Anderson Baker lives in a state with a litany of gun regulations. But no law stopped him from becoming a teenage drug dealer who could easily acquire, and use, his weapon of choice. …

This brash teenager didn't need gun shows or shops, nor was he slowed by background checks or waiting periods or reams of documentation. Baker secured his weapons of choice by borrowing guns from family and friends. In each instance, he was never encumbered by New Jersey's tough-as-nails laws. …

Baker said he never attempted to get a permit and never had a background check when he got his guns.

Camden County Chief of Police (the county has taken over policing duties for the city) Scott Thomson says, "You have this paradox in that New Jersey has arguably the toughest gun laws in the nation yet has a city within it that has gun violence at Third World country rates." He plainly points out that gun laws are easily bypassed by criminals. The article also emphasizes that the targets of the recent anti-gun frenzy, so-called "assault weapons" and high-capacity magazines, play a negligible role in Camden's crime. The same is true of crime nationally, with the Bureau of Justice Statistics reporting that "assault weapons" make up a whopping 3.2 percent of the weapons possessed by federal inmates, and two percent of the weapons possessed by state inmates, at the time of their offense.

Of course, handguns are tightly regulated in New Jersey, too, but Camden's criminals still have no diificulty acquiring them through unofficial channels. The article tells of a "standout" charter school student with plans for attending college and escaping Camden whose father was sentenced to three years for illegally selling guns.

This is, of course, a phenomenon repeated time and again. Like all prohibitions on goods and services that people want, gun control laws always breed defiance and black markets. In recent years, they've done so to such an extent that the majority of privately held guns in places like New York City and much of Europe are owned outside the law.

As Camden demonstrates, yet again, gun restrictions might inconvenience the especially law-abiding, but "gun laws to people in Camden are like saying you'll get a ticket if you jaywalk," as Anderson Baker puts it.