Monday, December 19, 2005

History and "Common Sense" Gun-Banners

How many times have we heard people say they want “common-sense gun control?” Of course, they define it anyway they want. Some people think registration and licensing are “common sense” others think outright handgun bans represent “common sense.” There are those, like me, who think gun control laws are ineffective and repealing almost all of them is “common sense.” There are those who believe its “common sense” to have gun laws at all.

So how do we make sense of all of these positions? Well, the proof’s in the pudding—bans don’t work no matter how many people think they’re “common sense.” For instance, a gun control city like Washington, D.C. has high crime rates while low gun control places like New Hampshire, Vermont, and Idaho have low crime rates. Gun crime hasn’t ended in Great Britain even while handguns were totally banned. Instead of facing reality, gun banners want to close their eyes and ears and continue supporting their “common sense” non-solutions.

Why can’t people learn from history? Take a look at Prohibition in the Untied States. We amended the Constitution to outlaw alcoholic beverages, but that didn’t mean we became sober as preachers.

Americans supported smugglers, turned to “medicinal” whiskey prescribed by doctors, made booze in bathtubs, and did everything else but stop drinking. The respect for law took a nose dive once people realized bootleggers bribed the cops that were supposed to arrest them The quality of alcoholic beverages was unregulated—just because the label said “Canadian Whiskey” didn’t mean you weren’t buying moonshine with a little coal tar added for color. (Click for an article on prohibition).

Take a look at America’s Drug War. No one can say it’s working and I don’t care if you get stoned every day or you won’t take aspirin. Look at the situation. Illicit drugs are freely available. People make methamphetamines out of cough syrup making it harder for valid users to buy over-the-counter medicine. Quality control is dependent only on the mercy of thugs. We have people who buy drugs from street-corner gangsters and figure out doses by trial and error. We’ve filled our prisons with often non-violent drug offenders and released violent criminals to make room for them. Even worse, law enforcement can’t stop it.

The same thing will happen if gun-banners get their way. Smugglers will pack in guns along with drugs. Police and military members will sell guns from arsenals to make a quick and large profit. Machinists will grind guns out of metal stock. Lawmakers and honest cops will try to stem the tide. They’ll institute licenses to buy certain kinds of metal, throw people in jail for possession of one cartridge (already true for people debarred from firearm ownership), and pass increasingly onerous laws.

People will find ways to buy guns at a local street corner much the way people buy drugs now. Quality control will suffer—who would you complain to if the gun blew up in your hand. Society would have no idea what was going on in the black market--anyone with cash would be able to buy. Gun banners will demand even more gun control while murder and gun violence rates rise.

This is not a society I’d like to live in, but it’s as inevitable as night following day. If there’s one thing history teaches it’s that prohibiting something that people want doesn’t work and only leads to many unintended consequences. As George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

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