Saturday, April 12, 2008

He Just Doesn't Get It

Ted Reinstein is a journalist who claims that gun owners "overreact" to discussion of reasonable gun control. His column at March 14, 2008 WCVB is here:
Message after message decrying any attempt to take away the legitimate rights of responsible gun owners. All of which convinces me that gun control talk creates such a knee-jerk reaction among most gun owners that they literally are not capable any longer of hearing nuance. No one -- NO ONE -- talks seriously of taking away legal guns from responsible owners. Not one -- NOT ONE -- of the proposals I myself articulated (background checks, one gun a month purchase limit, assault weapon ban) on Wednesday night would significantly affect the vast majority of responsible gun owners.
Here's the response that I sent to Mr. Reinstein.

Perhaps part of the anger is that until HR 2640 (which enjoyed support from both NRA and gun control groups) very, very few gun control laws were aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill. Most such laws were indiscriminate. For example, the assault weapons ban that you want. The state laws (New Jersey, California, New York) were complete bans. They were not an attempt at preventing criminals from obtaining these guns. Everyone was prohibited--even people like myself who have never been arrested.

Many of the gun control advocates over the years have stated that their goal wasn't keeping guns out of the hands of criminals or the mentally ill, but to completely ban either all handguns, or all guns. See Professor Volokh's quotes of politicians promoting complete bans here, media sorts promoting complete bans, and advocacy groups promoting complete bans.

Imagine what your reaction would be to laws requiring newspapers to delay publishing columns for five days while the government checked the accuracy of the facts and quotes contained therein. (Think of all the minor errors of fact, libelous statements, and misleading information that would not be published.) Now, imagine your reaction if such a law was proposed amidst a continual whining for a complete ban on liberal media outlets. Would you find something a bit worrisome about that?

The 20th century is awash in governmental mass murder--tens of millions of people murdered by their own governments, in almost all cases, after the targeted group (or the entire civilian population) has been disarmed. While we don't have the mass murder experience in America, restrictive gun control laws in the South played a significant role in allowing the Klan to terrorize black people--because the Klan could be sure that they wouldn't have to worry about getting shot at by their victims. And you think that people are overreacting to this prolonged drumbeat of efforts to disarm them?

There's no question that we have a serious gun violence problem in America. We also have a serious non-gun violence problem in America. It isn't clear to me that restrictive gun control laws without a police state to implement have ever been effective at disarming criminals. In practice, such laws largely disarm people who are only a small part of the gun violence: the victims. And the victims do use guns in self-defense with surprising frequency. See the Civilian Gun Self-Defense Blog for just examples that received media attention. There's a lot of them.

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