February 19, 2008

• A Sure-Fire Argument on the Second Amendment

Posted in From The Blog-O-Sphere, Politically Speaking at 1:10 pm by Rid

by Rick Lynch<!– put date below, before tag –>, February 18, 2007 With the Supreme Court’s decision to examine the constitutionality of D.C.’s gun ban, the nation once again turns to an intense examination of the wording of the Second Amendment. One way to understand an amendment whose words have confused generations is to study its somewhat confusing text. But another way is to examine at whose request the amendment was written.

For example, if 200 years from now constitutional scholars are trying to determine whether the Smith Tax Act of 2008 increased or decreased the taxes Social Security recipients paid on their retirement income, knowing that the act came into being as the result of pressure from AARP would pretty much end that debate. This, then, is a vital question when seeking to understand the Second Amendment. For if you know the context in which the Amendment was written, if you know for whom it was written, if you know who was clamoring for it and what were their concerns, then that can help settle any argument of individual rights versus collective rights. The Bill of Rights was written by Congressman James Madison to fulfill a promise made to the Anti-Federalists after pressure from that group had cost him a Senate seat — pressure brought to bear because of his opposition to amending the Constitution with a bill of rights. The Bill of Rights, then, as any history book will confirm, came into being to satisfy the single most suspicious, vociferous, and relentless foes of the new federal government. That is the all-important context in which the Bill of Rights was created. The Anti-Federalists, men filled to varying degrees with fear, mistrust, and loathing of the new federal government, insisted on a bill of rights as additional shackles imposed on that new government. Knowing that alone, knowing that the famous Bill came into existence only to please those most apprehensive of the new government, definitively ends any confusion or debate surrounding the meaning of the Second Amendment. There is simply no way on Earth the Anti-Federalists would have surrendered to the new and mistrusted government the right to own any gun they wanted at any time they wanted in any number they wanted. To believe differently, to believe that the Second Amendment actually gives the federal government the authority to regulate firearms, one must believe the absolutely unbelievable. One must believe that the Anti-Federalists, fearing and loathing federal power, compelled Madison to compose this laundry list of rights, this list of things over which the government was to have no authority and, very near the very top of the list, these people in fear of the federal government desired a clause that reads, “Despite the fact that Article I, Section 8 does not empower you federal government people to infringe our firearms rights, we hereby correct that mistake and surrender to you a right which we previously held, but wish now to give away.” We must further believe that James Madison was such a monumentally incompetent and abysmal writer that, when trying to give the federal government this new authority to regulate the private ownership of firearms, the last fourteen words of the Amendment read, “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” We must also believe that revolutionary American history conceals some hitherto unknown and utterly undocumented groundswell of public desire for gun control. Picture in your mind for a moment the rough-and-tumble individualist who gave birth to this nation, a man who had tamed a wilderness, fought Indian wars on and off for 180 years, and successfully faced down the world’s mightiest empire. Hold a picture of that man in your head for a moment and then try to imagine his being told that this new federal government would have the power to regulate his ownership of firearms in any manner it saw fit, including imprisoning him for possession of any firearm for any reason at any time. No honest or serious person could ever claim to believe that any part of the American electorate in the 1700s desired federal gun control, let alone the Anti-Federalists who forced the creation of the Bill of Rights. Rick Lynch is an author living in Virginia. He is finishing a book on constitutional issues entitled They Are Vicious. Send him email.

February 3, 2008

* Republican Presidential Candidates Position

Posted in Politically Speaking, Resources at 1:00 pm by Rid

Do you know where the Republican Candidates stand on gun control and the Second Amendment?

Mike Huckabee on the Second Amendment: http://www.mikehuckabee.com/?FuseAction=Issues.View&Issue_id=18

Gun Owners of America on Mike Huckabee: http://gunowners.org/pres08/huckabee.htm

Gun Owners of America on John McCain: http://gunowners.org/pres08/mccain.htm

Gun Owners Rating of John McCain: http://www.gunowners.org/mccaintb.htm

Gun Owners: "Abysmal, wretched, and pathetic" comment: http://www.gunowners.org/mccaintb.htm

Gun Owners of America on Mitt Romney: http://gunowners.org/pres08/romney.htm

Romney’s "chip away" comment: http://gunowners.org/pres08/romney.htm

Romney expressing support of Massachusetts laws: http://gunowners.org/pres08/romney.htm

Romney’s "lifelong hunting": http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory?id=3013787

Romney’s "lifetime" NRA membership (see last line of story): http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory?id=3013787http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=when+did+Romney+join+the+NRA&btnG=Google+Search 

Romney’s lack of actual gun ownership: http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/01/14/romney_retreats_on_gun_control/?page=2

Romney signs permanent assault weapons ban: http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/01/14/romney_retreats_on_gun_control/?page=2http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=Romney+sign+assault+weapon+ban&btnG=Google+Search

January 17, 2008

• Dems Debate Gun Registration – Clinton Obama

Posted in From The Blog-O-Sphere, Politically Speaking at 3:27 pm by Rid

Quick translation for the following Democrat Debate: They support a national registry, attempting to move America closer to European, One World Rule. “Concealed”

****************

RUSSERT: We arrived in Nevada, the headline in Nevada Appeal newspaper: Nevada leads in gun deaths.

RUSSERT: The leading cause for death among young black men is guns — death, homicide. Mayor Bloomberg of New York, you all know him, he and 250 mayors have started the campaign, Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Senator Clinton, when you ran for the Senate in 2000, you said that everyone who wishes to purchase a gun should have a license, and that every handgun sale or transfer should be registered in a national registry. Will you try to implement such a plan?

CLINTON: Well, I am against illegal guns, and illegal guns are the cause of so much death and injury in our country. I also am a political realist and I understand that the political winds are very powerful against doing enough to try to get guns off the street, get them out of the hands of young people.

The law in New York was as you state, and the law in New York has worked to a great extent.

CLINTON: I don’t want the federal government preempting states and cities like New York that have very specific problems.

So here’s what I would do. We need to have a registry that really works with good information about people who are felons, people who have been committed to mental institutions like the man in Virginia Tech who caused so much death and havoc. We need to make sure that that information is in a timely manner, both collected and presented.

We do need to crack down on illegal gun dealers. This is something that I would like to see more of.

And we need to enforce the laws that we have on the books. I would also work to reinstate the assault weapons ban. We now have, once again, police deaths going up around the country, and in large measure because bad guys now have assault weapons again. We stopped it for awhile. Now they’re back on the streets.

So there are steps we need to take that we should do together. You know, I believe in the Second Amendment. People have a right to bear arms. But I also believe that we can common-sensically approach this.

RUSSERT: But you’ve backed off a national licensing registration plan?

CLINTON: Yes.

RUSSERT: Senator Obama, when you were in the state senate, you talked about licensing and registering gun owners. Would you do that as president?

OBAMA: I don’t think that we can get that done. But what I do think we can do is to provide just some common-sense enforcement. One good example — this is consistently blocked — the efforts by law enforcement to obtain the information required to trace back guns that have been used in crimes to unscrupulous gun dealers.

That’s not something that the NRA has allowed to get through Congress. And, as president, I intend to make it happen.

But here’s the broader context that I think is important for us to remember. We essentially have two realities, when it comes to guns, in this country. You’ve got the tradition of lawful gun ownership, that all of us saw, as we travel around rural parts of the country.

And it is very important for many Americans to be able to hunt, fish, take their kids out, teach them how to shoot.

And then you’ve got the reality of 34 Chicago public school students who get shot down on the streets of Chicago.

We can reconcile those two realities by making sure the Second Amendment is respected and that people are able to lawfully own guns, but that we also start cracking down on the kinds of abuses of firearms that we see on the streets.

RUSSERT: Senator Edwards, Democrats used to be out front for registration and licensing of guns. It now appears that there’s a recognition that it’s hard to win a national election with that position. Is that fair?

EDWARDS: I think that’s fair, but I haven’t changed my position on this. I’m against it. Having grown up where I did in the rural South, everyone around me had guns, everyone hunted. And I think it is enormously important to protect people’s Second Amendment rights.

I don’t believe that means you need an AK-47 to hunt. And I think the assault weapons ban, which Hillary spoke about just a minute ago, as president of the United States I’ll do everything in my power to reinstate it. But I do think we need a president who understands the sportsmen, hunters who use their guns for lawful purposes have a right to have their Second Amendment rights looked after.

January 16, 2008

• “Intellectualist” View on Second

Posted in Darwin Awards, From The Blog-O-Sphere, No Guns Allowed, Politically Speaking at 2:40 pm by Rid

Saul Cornell: The Second Amendment Goes to Court

Source: Origins (2-1-08)

Few issues in America public life are more emotionally charged than guns and no subject within this political maelstrom is more bitterly contested than the Second Amendment. Although it is hard to imagine this issue heating up any further, it is about to get red-hot.

Earlier this year, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down the District of Columbia’s local gun-control law on Second Amendment grounds. The D.C. Court is only the second Appeals Court to affirm that the Second Amendment protects an individual (as opposed to collective) right to bear arms, and the first one to actually strike down an existing gun control law on this basis. The case is now heading to the Supreme Court, which has not taken a Second Amendment case in almost seventy years. District of Columbia v Heller will likely shape the contours of future discussions of gun control for decades to come.

It might even have an impact on the dynamics of the 2008 presidential election. For better or worse, history—the history of the 2nd amendment and the history of how Americans have interpreted it—is also likely to be at the heart of the case.

The Second Amendment reads: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” What do these words mean? Well, the answer to this question depends on who you ask. Supporters of the so-called collective rights interpretation believe that the Second Amendment only protects the right to bear arms within the context of well regulated militias. Supporters of the so-called “individual right” interpretation view the right to bear arms as a right vested in individuals, much like the 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech.

The fact that there are two such divergent interpretations is the result of significant changes in how Americans view the 2nd Amendment that occurred during the latter part of the twentieth century. For most of the last century, the meaning of the Second Amendment was not particularly controversial: the courts, legal scholars, politicians, and historians endorsed some version of the collective rights interpretation. As late as 1991, Chief Justice Warren Burger described the individual rights view as an intellectual fraud. Yet, the growth of a revisionist individual rights theory of the Second Amendment in the years since Burger made his comment has been nothing short of astonishing….

No First Amendment scholar would argue that we ought to interpret freedom of the press exactly as the Founders understood it. Yet, claims like this are common in Second Amendment scholarship where the original meaning of the Amendment seems to figure more centrally than in other areas of constitutional law. In part the propensity toward originalism—the theory that we ought to interpret the Constitution according to its original meaning—mirrors the ideology of modern conservative thought. Originalism fits with conservatism because it provides a strong critique of the modern regulatory state created after the New Deal. Second Amendment originalism also draws on a potent set of myths associated with America’s past, particularly the idea of the Minuteman. Thus, gun rights sites on the internet invariably carry images of the Minuteman. (Although these images are generally drawn from the individualistic and romantic 19th century memorials to the Minuteman and have little to do with the real Minutemen who were part of the Founding era’s well regulated militia.) http://www.gunowners.org/

Ironically, the originalist arguments in favor of an individual rights view of the Second Amendment are probably the intellectually weakest arguments to support this position. One could make a much stronger and intellectually more interesting argument in support of an individual rights view if one adopted a living constitution argument. Supporters of a living constitution believe we ought to interpret the Constitution according to modern concerns and beliefs, recognizing that America has changed radically since the 18th century. Polling data over the last few decades have consistently shown that most Americans believe the Second Amendment protects an individual right. http://www.pollingreport.com/guns.htm

It would be easy to imagine a theory of the 2nd Amendment that defended this right as part of a living Constitution that has evolved toward a more individualistic conception of rights. Yet, most gun rights advocates eschew this line of argument in favor of originalist historical claims about the Second Amendment. In part this decision reflects the underlying political ideologies behind gun rights. Libertarians and social conservatives, the two groups most closely identified with the individual rights view, are generally uncomfortable with living constitutional arguments because the idea of an evolving constitution has been closely associated with modern liberalism over the past century.

There are problems, however, with this reliance on an originalist interpretation: it rests on a distorted view of the past. Consider some of the claims made by gun rights supporters. No figure has been more abused by Second Amendment originalists than Thomas Jefferson. As one gun rights advocate noted: “It is clear Jefferson was strongly in favor of personal arms. In June of 1796, Thomas Jefferson wrote to George Washington, ‘one loves to possess arms.’” This quote has been cited by four different pro-individual rights scholars in law reviews. The quote is accurate, but it is clearly taken out of context. In a forthcoming article in the Albany Government Law Journal, historian David Konig points out that this quote had nothing to do with firearms. Jefferson was actually talking metaphorically, about having all of the facts one needed in an argument—going into an argument with all the right “ammunition.”…

January 14, 2008

• Balance of power: Second Amendment & self-defense

Posted in From The Blog-O-Sphere, Politically Speaking at 7:53 pm by Rid

Balance of power: The Second Amendment and self-defense

By Charles Bloomer
web posted January 14, 2008

Remarks delivered to the Prince William County (VA) Republican Women’s Club, January 7, 2008.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

The debate surrounding the Second Amendment generally falls into one of three categories – esoteric and philosophical, emotional, or practical. The esoteric, philosophical approach tries to discern the amendment’s meaning by parsing and deconstructing the language of the amendment, by arguing the definitions of various words such as militia, “the people”, or the meaning of “bear arms”. Even the grammar of the amendment is analyzed – dependent clauses, independent clauses, even the placement of the commas. The case currently before the Supreme Court, Heller vs District of Columbia, hinges on the meaning of “the people”, and whether the meaning of “the people” in the Second Amendment is the same as the meaning of “the people” in other places in the Bill of Rights. The Court’s ruling will be interesting in light of a recent poll that shows that two-thirds of Americans believe that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right.

The second view, the emotional view of the Second Amendment is generally based on fear or lack of knowledge. This view of the amendment is filled with errors of fact, misinterpretations and some plain falsehood. This emotional view is held by Sarah Brady and Handgun Control, Inc. and Rosie O’Donnell, among others, and exploited by anti-gun politicians.

What I want to discuss this evening is the third, practical approach to the Second Amendment right to gun ownership, specifically how guns affect the balance of power in self-defense applications.

Before I do that, let me give you my “esoteric, philosophical” view of the Second Amendment. Thomas Jefferson stated in the Declaration of Independence that we have the inalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, and that those rights were endowed by our Creator. I believe that inherent in the exercise of those rights is the right to self-defense, by whatever means necessary. In other words, my inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are meaningless without an inalienable right to defend myself, my family, and my property from all enemies, foreign or domestic. John Adams wrote, “Arms in the hands of the citizens may be used at individual discretion for the defense of the country, the overthrow of tyranny, or private self defense.”

To consider the practical aspects of gun ownership, I propose we conduct a mental or intellectual exercise. In this exercise, we will look at three cases and consider the impact on the balance of power in potentially violent physical confrontations. These three cases are, first, where the relationship between assailant and victim is one-to-one; second, where the relationship is one assailant to many victims; and, third, where the relationship is many to many.

For this first case, I need a volunteer. Ruth has agreed to be my volunteer “victim”. First, we will establish a baseline. Neither of us is armed, and Ruth does not have a black belt in some martial art. This is a potentially violent physical encounter.

Now consider: I am 6’3″ and weigh about 200 lbs. Ruth is 5’5″ (it really doesn’t matter what she weighs). In this physical encounter, who has the balance of power? It is obvious that the balance of power is on my side of the scale. I am physically bigger and stronger than she is, and the likelihood that I would overpower her and prevail is very high. Even if we were the same height and weight, I would likely prevail. Despite what feminists tell us, men and women are different. The vast majority of men are physically stronger than women.

Now let’s change a variable and see if we can impact the balance of power. Suppose I am now Ruth’s abusive, hot-headed ex-boyfriend. Last night, I threatened to kill her. Ruth took the threat seriously. This morning Ruth took out a restraining order against me.

Does the restraining order affect the balance of power? Not appreciably. True, Ruth theoretically has the power of the police behind her. But the value of that police assistance will depend greatly on the response time of the police, and assumes Ruth can call 911 to notify the police. In the crucial minutes between the time she dials 911 and when the police arrive, her restraining order offers her no protection. The piece of paper offers zero protection, and does little to shift the balance of power to the victim.

Let’s change another variable. Now we give Ruth a gun. What now happens to the balance of power? The balance of power shifts significantly in Ruth’s favor. In fact, even if she does not know how to use the gun, merely showing the gun is enough to terminate the encounter. Research by John Lott, Gary Kleck and others shows that this type of encounter happens as many as 2 million times a year in the United States, and in the vast majority of those cases the encounter is terminated by simply brandishing the gun. In the vast majority of cases, a shot is never fired. We can improve the balance of power by having the gun readily available, having it loaded, having the knowledge of how to use the gun, and having the wherewithal to use it.

Suppose both the assailant and the potential victim have guns? A reasonable assumption is that the balance of power is equal. But that is still an improvement over a situation where the victim is not armed.

Why don’t we hear of these cases? Most of them are not reported. Even if they are, they do not make the news. If the incident does make the news, it will be of local interest only and the story will not make the national news. The NRA does report on a few cases each month in its magazines and on its website.

Let’s move now to the second case – the relationship of one assailant and many potential victims. Again, we’ll establish the baseline. I will play the assailant and you, the audience are the potential victims. Assume none of us is armed.

There are about 20 of you and only one of me. Where is the balance of power? It is reasonable to assume that the 20 of you could overpower me if you perceived me as a credible threat. The group of you have the balance of power.

Again, we change a variable. Assume I have a gun, and none of you do. The balance of power now shifts significantly to my side of the scale. This scenario is important. Consider the following list:

  • Omaha, NE – Eight killed in Westroads Mall
  • San Diego, CA – Gunman injured two teachers and three students with a shotgun and a handgun
  • Littleton, CO – 13 people shot and killed at Columbine High School
  • Golita, CA – Seven people shot and killed in a post office
  • Salt Lake City, Utah – Five people shot and killed at the Trolley Street Mall
  • Blacksburg, VA – Gunman killed 32 people at Virginia Tech

What each of these have in common is that they were gun-free zones. The victims had been effectively disarmed by either the law or by policy. As we saw earlier with the paper restraining order, the laws or the “no gun” signs provided no defense. An armed gunman intent on committing murder is not going to obey a law or a sign. Murder is already against the law. Malls or other establishments, instead of posting “no guns allowed”, would do just as well by posting a “no murder allowed” sign.

Now consider this list:

  • Salt Lake City, Utah – Five dead at the Trolley Street Mall
  • New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO – Two dead, four wounded.
  • Appalachian School of Law, Grundy, VA — Three killed, three wounded.

New Life Church and Appalachian School of Law are not gun-free zones, and armed citizens stopped the killings. At New Life Church, a volunteer security guard shot the assailant 3 times – an assailant with multiple guns and thousands of rounds. At ASL, two armed citizens (both with concealed carry permits) confronted the shooter, who then surrendered without the citizens firing a shot. At the Trolley Street Mall, a gun-free zone, the shooter was stopped by an off-duty policeman carrying a concealed weapon, in violation of the mall’s policy.

With that in mind, let’s change another variable. Of your group, one or more of you is armed. What now happens to the balance of power? At worst, the balance of power is even. With every additional gun among your group, the balance shifts more toward your side of the scale.

Let’s move now to the third case, that of a many-to-many relationship between multiple assailants and multiple victims. First we establish our baseline. I will divide you into two groups – those on the left are group A, those on the right are group B. Group A is armed and represents government, foreign invaders, or agents of chaos and violence This scenario represents most accurately the Second Amendment.

If Group A, the group on the left, is armed and the group on the right is not, the balance of power is resides in group A. Group B, the unarmed group, will find it very hard to defend itself against the other group.

We see this scenario played out in several places in the world today. In Darfur, Sudan, the population in the south do not have guns, while the tyrannical government and its henchmen do. The result is genocide – murder on a grand scale.

Less extreme examples exist. Great Britain and Australia have undertaken some very restrictive gun laws. The result in both countries has been to disarm law-abiding citizens, leaving them at the mercy of armed criminals. Both countries have seen significant increases in violent crime.

Just across the Potomac we have Washington, DC with its near-total ban on handguns – the ban that has sparked the Supreme Court case I mentioned earlier, Heller vs District of Columbia. In the District, the law-abiding public is at the mercy of the criminals (who, being criminals, do not obey the law). As a result, Washington, DC consistently ranks among the worst cities in America for murder and violent crime.

So in our scenario, group B is at the mercy of group A. Only two options exist to regain some balance in the balance of power. One is to disarm group A. If group A represents the government, this option will never occur. No government will ever agree to give up its weapons. If group A represents the criminal element of our society, the option is also off the table.

The second option is to arm group B, by providing group B with the means to defend itself individually and as a group. By arming Group B, that group now has a deterrent effect on abuse considered by Group A. In fact, after the fall of the Soviet Union, a former Soviet high-ranking minister was asked why the Soviet Union never contemplated invading the US. His answer? There were too many guns in private hands.

In this scenario, Group B is the “militia” mentioned in the Second Amendment. The intent of the Founding Fathers was to have an armed population that would ensure the “security of a free state”. The armed population would be able to defend itself from abuses of a tyrannical government or foreign invaders, and would have the means of self-defense against the criminal element. I am not implying that our government is tyrannical now or likely to be in the near future, nor am I calling for an armed revolution. I am saying that the probability of our government becoming abusive and tyrannical is greatly reduced in the face of an estimated 250 million guns in private hands.

Are any of our cases discussed here absolute? Of course not. I am not trying to imply that having a gun is the “magic bullet” that will protect you individually, or us as a group from all threats. Every encounter will be different. No armed population is likely to effectively compete with the overwhelming firepower of government. Having a gun will not protect you 100% of the time against violent criminals.

What can you individually and as a group take away from all this?

As I explained in the beginning, self-defense is inherent in our inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In order to enjoy and exercise those rights, we have the right to defend ourselves, our families and our property by any means available.

The thought experiments we talked through show that gun possession, in the majority of cases, shifts the balance of power in favor of potential victims. Guns are a very effective means of self-defense.

I have tried to provide you with information that you, as individuals, can use in your personal decisions about gun ownership.

As a political group, you recruit, vet, and endorse candidates and, as I understand, you comment on pending legislation and changes to current legislation. I propose that you insist on a “political Hippocratic Oath” – that is “First, Do No Harm”.

All legislation, and particularly gun-related legislation, should meet two basic criteria. Laws should be based on logic, including any available empirical data. Laws should not be based on emotion and wishful thinking. Ask yourself the question, “will the legislation actually achieve its stated goal?” Since the rationale for gun laws is usually public safety, ask yourself, “Will this law actually make the country/state/county/city a safer place?” If the answer is no, the legislation should not pass.

Second, what are the unintended consequences of this legislation? This requires you to step back and look at the legislation objectively, exploring the possible consequences that have not been articulated by the sponsors. This is similar to a cost-benefit analysis. Whatever benefits of a piece of legislation must be weighed against the unintended costs. For example, gun control laws that disarm law-abiding citizens, turning those citizens into victims, demand an unacceptable cost for some nebulous concept of public safety.

Here’s an example of proposed laws here in Virginia that fail both criteria. Hampton Sen. Mamie Locke is introducing legislation that will ban guns from libraries and festivals. Of course, the excuse is public safety. In reality, Sen. Locke’s bills expand gun-free zones. Empirical data show that gun-free zones do not improve public safety. Libraries and festivals will not be safer places. Her laws have failed the first criteria.

What are the unintended consequences? These laws disarm law-abiding citizens in libraries and at festivals, leaving them at the mercy of armed criminals or others whose intent is to do harm. Remember that armed criminals or armed assailants do not obey laws regarding gun-free zones or signs that prohibit guns. What Sen. Locke’s proposed legislation does is expand the free-murder zone, shifting the balance of power back to the assailants and away from the potential victims. Remember, too, that Virginia Tech, Columbine, and Westroads Mall in Omaha were gun-free zones.

Another example of a useless gun-control law was the “assault weapons” ban, enacted in 1994. This law banned the manufacture, importation and sale of certain, specific rifles and handguns based on cosmetic features and magazine capacity. The supporters of the ban claimed that these cosmetic features made the guns more dangerous. What was claimed to make these guns more dangerous? Features such as pistol grips on rifles, adjustable stocks, flash suppressors, and bayonet mounting lugs. None of these features actually affects the operation of the weapon. The justification for the ban was to reduce gun violence. Did the ban accomplish its goal? No. First of all, researcher Gary Kleck found that only 0.25 % of violent crimes involved these types of weapons – that is a quarter of one percent. In June of 2004, the National Institute of Justice, the research and development branch of the US Department of Justice, concluded “…we cannot clearly credit the [assault weapons] ban with any of the nation’s drop in gun violence.” All the assault weapons ban did was to ban ugly weapons. Congress wisely allowed the ban to sunset in 2004 rather than renew it.

What about the “gun-show loophole”? The push to close the gun-show loophole is loaded with emotional hyperbole and outright dishonesty. This so-called loophole is actually a non-problem. The problem refers to the fact that a private citizen can take his guns to a gun show and sell them, without having to do all the paperwork and the instant check requirement that gun dealers must perform. The over-excited supporters of closing the loophole will tell you that gun shows are the favored venue for criminals to buy guns, and that terrorists buy their guns at these shows and ship them off to be used against our troops. The claims are false. A study conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an office of the US Department of Justice, reports that only two percent of guns used in crimes are obtained at gun shows. Most guns used by criminals, 80%, are obtained either from family or friends (usually stolen), a street buy, or an illegal source. Twelve percent are obtained from a retail store or pawnshop (usually through a straw purchase).

Laws aimed at closing the loophole will not reduce crime, nor will they keep criminals from buying or getting guns. The unintended consequence will be to move private sellers into the parking lot instead of at a table inside the gun show.

As an aside, the gun show loophole hyperbole shows just how dishonest the gun grabbers are. The commission appointed by Governor Kaine to study the Virginia Tech shootings recently came out with a recommendation to pass legislation closing the loophole, despite that fact that the Virginia Tech shooter had not bought his guns at a gun show, and had never been to a gun show. There exists absolutely no relationship between gun shows and the shooting. But the anti-gun zealots shamelessly used their position to push their agenda.

Are there gun laws that actually work? Yes. The most successful laws are those that allow law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons. John Lott conducted comprehensive research into the relationship between concealed carry laws and violent crime rates. In his research, published in his book More Guns, Less Crime, Lott looked at violent crime rates in every US county and compared those crime rates before and after a state passed a law allowing concealed carry. In every case, violent crime rates were reduced when a state allowed concealed carry.

Concealed carry laws have been so successful, states could not ignore the evidence. In the past 20 years, 38 states have enacted “shall issue” concealed carry laws – meaning that the burden is on the state to determine why an applicant would be denied. Without disqualifying information, the state shall issue the permit. Seven other states have adopted “may issue” laws, meaning that the applicant must provide sufficient reason to carry a concealed weapon. The state then may issue a permit at its discretion. Only three states and the District of Columbia do not allow any form of concealed carry. Virginia is a “shall issue” state. Vermont and Alaska do not require permits to carry concealed weapons.

It is interesting to note that, when Pennsylvania was working on passing its concealed carry law, Philadelphia lobbied to be exempt. Philadelphia is now the violent crime capital of Pennsylvania.

Another example of successful guns laws comes from Kennesaw, GA. Kennesaw passed a town ordinance that required all heads of households to have a gun, with exceptions for religious reasons. Crime in Kennesaw dropped to essentially zero.

We should not allow laws that limit our ability to defend ourselves – that is, laws that disarm potential victims. Real sensible gun laws allow law-abiding citizens the option to own guns to maintain the balance of power on their side of the scale.

Thomas Jefferson understood the importance of gun ownership in the balance of power. Jefferson wrote: “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”

The Second Amendment guarantees our right to self-defense by prohibiting the government from infringing on our right to the tools of self-defense. It is our responsibility to remain vigilant and protect that right.

Charles Bloomer is a Contributing Editor for Enter Stage Right. His website is Liberty Call U.S. © 2008 by Charles Bloomer

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