The Incompetence of Gun Control

Gun control makes violence worse.

The shooting of 26 teachers and children as Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, has brought forth the expected deluge of cries that the government should "do something" to "end the slaughter of innocents."

Calling for government action is a liberal reflex no matter what the problem might be.  People seldom stop and think about whether government can actually do something constructive about a problem.

Let's assume that enough children die due to firearms that something ought to be done about it.  Let's ignore the fact that thousands more children die in auto accidents than die in gun-related incidents.   Let's ignore the bigger problem of death by automobile and focus on the lesser, but more spectacular, issue of death by firearm.

The desire to have government "do something" about guns carries the implicit assumption that our government is actually able to do something about guns.  Liberals keep demanding more laws even though it was obvious long ago that existing gun control laws don't work.  When a California nut case shot his mother, her neighbor, and her daughter, the New York Times reported that his name was on a list of people who shouldn't be allowed to buy guns.  Despite this "obstacle," he'd had no trouble passing the required background check and buying a Glock.

It's Not Just California

In the wake of the Connecticut shooting, the Times was honest enough to report that the FBI can't identify people who shouldn't have guns any better than the state of California:

Nearly two decades after lawmakers began requiring background checks for gun buyers, significant gaps in the F.B.I.'s database of criminal and mental health records allow thousands of people to buy firearms every year who should be barred from doing so.  [emphasis added]

...Since 2005, 22,162 firearms - including nearly 3,000 this year - have been bought after the waiting period by people later determined to have been disqualified because of their criminal and mental histories, according to an examination of F.B.I. data.

The Times' Quote of the Day for December 21, 2012, was:

"Until it has all the records of people out there in the country who have been deemed too dangerous to own a firearm, the background check system still looks like Swiss cheese."

-MARK GLAZE, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, on the database used to check gun purchasers.  [emphasis added]

Note the phrase "Illegal Guns."  Mr. Glaze's organization isn't worried about legal firearms because licensed gun owners don't cause enough problems to worry about.  The mayors are concerned with the vast number of illegal guns in circulation, and with stopping people who use otherwise-legal guns without being licensed themselves to do so.

The mayors are right to be concerned about illegal guns.  Even though the background check system has been in place for two decades, it still doesn't work: there are millions upon millions of illegal guns kicking around the country, and many more millions of perfectly legal guns purchased by people with a clean background check who had every right to do so - and yet which were stolen by criminals for use in their criminal pursuits, which is exactly what happened in Sandy Hook.

Once again, we challenge our readers to name a problem, any problem, which has been made less severe by government action in the last 20 years.  If existing gun control laws don't work, why should we believe that any new laws will work any better?

The exact opposite has happened: Existing laws have made the problem of gun violence worse by creating "victim disarmament zones" such as Virginia Tech, the Connecticut school, and any number of shopping malls where unarmed citizens are shot by criminals who know nobody is able to shoot back.

Rather than write yet more laws to disarm the already law-abiding, some states are passing "concealed carry" laws in the hope that armed citizens will be able to stop armed criminals.  On Dec 22, the Times' quote was:

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

-WAYNE LAPIERRE, vice president of the National Rifle Association.

Truer words were never spoken.  The NRA has suggested that the only way to stop school massacres is for police to patrol the schools.  It would be a lot cheaper and much more effective for school employees to take lessons, arm themselves, and be prepared to take action in their own defense.  It doesn't require a degree in criminal justice to know how to return fire against a madman.

That solution isn't acceptable to our ruling elites, of course, because it would solve the problem without requiring new government spending - and because politicians, like all criminals, prefer unarmed victims.

In the meantime, those who give up their right to defend themselves in return for government promises to keep them safe are finding that they have neither freedom nor safety.  The children at Sandy Hook, being children, had that fatally false choice made on their behalf; it's up to us to make sure no more children suffer the same way, with their adult carers left defenseless against an evil predator.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Law.
Reader Comments

It's worse than you said. The Times doesn't think we know how to deal with crazy people.


Instead we have too much concern about privacy, labeling and stereotyping, about the civil liberties of people who have horrifically distorted thinking. In our concern for the rights of people with mental illness, we have come to neglect the rights of ordinary Americans to be safe from the fear of being shot — at home and at schools, in movie theaters, houses of worship and shopping malls.


On the other hand, which of our elected officials would we trust with the authority to order that someone take psychiatric medicine he or she didn't want to take? Eric Holder? Rep. Wrangel? Whom would we trust to set up an agency charged with FORCING people to take such medicines?

He NRA put it well - the only cure for a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

December 27, 2012 5:50 PM

First, the search for a solution is pointless - it's only a conceit that we talk ourselves into believing there's anything that can be done to stop such events. At best, they represent the illusion of someone, somewhere, trying to solve a problem.

Also, I must quibble with a point made near the opening: "Calling for government action is a liberal reflex no matter what the problem might be."

It is not, as stated, a liberal reflex. It has long been a societal reflex. There is hardly any person anywhere - and no person in media or government - that will fail to call for a governmental solution to a perceived problem, real or imagined.

Nearly every news story on TV is presented as a prelude to a demand for governmental action of some sort, when most issues are in fact results of governmental action in the first place.

If I sound terse, it's because I'm watching "The Big Bang Theory" just now.

December 27, 2012 10:01 PM

It's worse than the Times admits. USA Today 12/26/12 page 1 Major Prisoner Release in Works told of 175 federal prisoners who would have to be released because they hand't c omitted a crime. These guys were imprisoned for violating federal gun laws. It turns out that in many cases, they hadn't committed a crime at all.

Someone said we have more than 20,000 gun laws on the books. That's 20,00 ways for government officials to abuse us. Government gets it wrong and innocent people suffer.

December 28, 2012 7:26 AM

Homicides in New York were at a record low. 414 homicides, however, is FAR more deaths than in Connecticut. Why isn't anyone worried about homicides in NYC? They have the toughest gun control laws ever, and people still get shot.

The Timkes has opposed the stop, question, and frisk policy whcih the Mayor says has reduced homicide.

Murders in New York have dropped to their lowest level in over 40 years, city officials announced on Friday, even as overall crimes increased slightly because of a rise in thefts — a phenomenon based solely on robberies of iPhones and other Apple devices.

There were 414 recorded homicides so far in 2012, compared with 515 for the same period in 2011, city officials said. That is a striking decline from murder totals in the low-2,000s that were common in the early 1990s, and is also below the record low: 471, set in 2009.

“The essence of civilization is that you can walk down the street without having to look over your shoulder,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said.

Mr. Bloomberg acclaimed the accomplishment during a graduation ceremony for more than 1,000 new police officers at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. He attributed the low murder rate to the department’s controversial practice of “stop, question and frisk,” in which people are stopped on the street and questioned by officers, and aggressive hot-spot policing, in which officers are deployed to areas with crime spikes. Shootings are also down for the year so far. The number of murders is the lowest since 1963, when improvements in the recording of data were made.

December 29, 2012 11:30 AM

More on crazy people. A crazy lady pushed a man off a subway platform and he was killed by an oncoming train.

Note the last paragraph: "City officials said it would be misleading to conclude that anyone was at fault in her treatment." Perish the thought that our bureaucracies could EVER be at fault! Subways don't kill people, people kill people.

The Times reports:

Ms. Menendez’s years of inner and outer turmoil culminated in the deadly assault on an unsuspecting man who was waiting for a train on Thursday. Beyond stirring fear among riders on crowded platforms across the city, the attack also raised new questions about the safeguards in a patchwork private and public mental health system that is supposed to allow mentally ill people to live as freely as possible in the community while protecting them and the public.

A similar attack more than a decade ago led to a law aimed at forcing mentally ill people with a history of violence to undergo treatment, but it is widely acknowledged to cover only a small portion of those who need help.

D. J. Jaffe, the executive director of the Mental Illness Policy Organization, an advocacy group, said that thousands of troubled individuals with violent histories were released from mental health facilities, and that beyond requiring that they have a home to go to and an outpatient care plan in place, there was little oversight of their activities.

“No one monitors if they are taking their medication,” Mr. Jaffe said. “Or follows up to see if they are a danger to themselves or others.”

The case of Ms. Menendez, 31, puts renewed attention on a mental health system that is a loose amalgam of hospitals, supported housing, shelters and other advocacy and support groups, in which mentally ill people often bounce from one to the other and ultimately fall through the cracks. It is not known precisely where she fit in.

City officials said it would be misleading to conclude that anyone was at fault in her treatment.

December 31, 2012 12:32 PM

Well, it's one way to market your product...

As Washington focuses on what Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will propose next week to curb gun violence, gun and ammunition sales are spiking in the rest of the country as people rush to expand their arsenals in advance of any restrictions that might be imposed.

People were crowded five deep at the tiny counter of a gun shop near Atlanta, where a pastor from Knoxville, Tenn., was among the customers who showed up in person after the store’s Web site halted sales because of low inventory. Emptying gun cases and bare shelves gave a picked-over feel to gun stores in many states. High-capacity magazines, which some state and federal officials want to ban or restrict, were selling briskly across the country: one Iowa dealer said that 30-round magazines were fetching five times what they sold for just weeks ago.

Gun dealers and buyers alike said that the rapid growth in gun sales — which began climbing significantly after President Obama’s re-election and soared after the Dec. 14 shooting at a school in Newtown, Conn., prompted him to call for new gun laws — shows little sign of abating.

December set a record for the criminal background checks performed before many gun purchases, a strong indication of a big increase in sales, according to an analysis of federal data by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry trade group. Adjusting the federal data to try to weed out background checks that were unrelated to firearms sales, the group reported that 2.2 million background checks were performed last month, an increase of 58.6 percent over the same period in 2011. Some gun dealers said in interviews that they had never seen such demand.

“If I had 1,000 AR-15s I could sell them in a week,” said Jack Smith, an independent gun dealer in Des Moines, referring to the popular style of semiautomatic rifle that drew national attention after Adam Lanza used one to kill 20 children and 6 adults at a Newtown school. “When I close, they beat on the glass to be let in,” Mr. Smith said of his customers. “They’ll wave money at me.”

January 12, 2013 12:37 PM
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