Failure of Local Gun Control

March 4th, 2010

By Tom Carter

The Supreme Court is considering Chicago’s handgun ban in McDonald v. Chicago, which is likely to result in the law being invalidated and the Second Amendment being incorporated against the states.

I strongly support gun control, particularly for handguns.  It has to be done by the federal government because local controls simply don’t work.  Although I doubt that he would agree with my position, Steve Chapman makes the point in a column today at Real Clear Politics:

When Chicago passed a ban on handgun ownership in 1982, it was part of a trend. Washington, D.C. had done it in 1976, and a few Chicago suburbs took up the cause in the following years. They all expected to reduce the number of guns and thus curtail bloodshed.

And what happened in these two cities after they banned handgun ownership?

In the years following its ban, Washington did not generate a decline in gun murders. In fact, the number of killings rose by 156 percent — at a time when murders nationally increased by just 32 percent. For a while, the city vied regularly for the title of murder capital of America.

Chicago followed a similar course. In the decade after it outlawed handguns, murders jumped by 41 percent, compared to an 18 percent rise in the entire United States.

One problem is that the bans didn’t actually have any discernible effect on the availability of guns to people with felonious intent. As with drugs and hookers, when there is a demand for guns, there will always be a supply. …

This is especially true at the local level. Banning guns from one city makes about as much sense as banning them on one block.

It’s hard enough to halt the flow of guns over international borders, where governments police traffic. It’s impossible to stop them from crossing municipal boundaries — which are unmonitored, undefended and practically invisible.

Tens of thousands of cars enter Washington and Chicago each day from places where guns are easily and legally obtainable. Any of those vehicles could be transporting a carton of pistols to sell to willing thugs. If you’re on an island, you’re going to get splashed by the waves.

McDonald v. Chicago will become a landmark decision if the Court uses it to incorporate the Second Amendment against the states (and lower levels of government).  Some may not know this, but the Bill of Rights was originally intended to apply only to the federal government as a means of limiting its power.  However, over the years most of the Bill of Rights has been extended to apply to all levels of government.  (Wikipedia has an excellent summary.)

The Second Amendment should be incorporated against the states.  It doesn’t make sense to interpret the Constitution as permitting states, counties, cities, school districts, and what-not — there are almost 90,000 local governments in the U.S. — to deny or limit rights that the federal government can’t deny or limit.

However, Congress should immediately pass a law banning all private possession of handguns, and the President should sign it.  I know that isn’t going to happen, but it should.  There would be court challenges, of course, but I think carefully-worded legislation could survive scrutiny.  The only point that would have to be made, both in the law and before the courts, is that if the federal government can ban some types and classes of firearms — which is firmly established — it can ban any type or class of firearms.

Handguns are designed for the specific purpose of killing people.  No reasonable person uses them for hunting, and there are much more effective weapons for home defense — a shotgun is the best weapon for that purpose, in fact.  Banning handguns might be a minor convenience for those who like to go to the range and blast away at targets — ever notice that many are human-shaped? — but that’s a minor sacrifice, considering the number of lives taken by handguns every year.

Would criminals still have handguns if private possession were prohibited?  For a while, yes.  But with rigorous enforcement and much longer sentences for any offense in which a handgun is used, that problem could be brought under control over time.  And let’s face facts — very few private citizens get in gunfights with the bad guys, John Wayne fantasies notwithstanding.  When it does happen, the cowboy wannabes usually don’t have the moxie to do it right, and the bad guys are most likely to win.

I spent my life using weapons of all kinds, from pistols and assault rifles to artillery and aerial rockets.  I’ve slept many a night with a pistol at hand and a rifle within easy reach, for very good reasons.  I’ve also seen highly-trained soldiers have deadly accidents with firearms, and I’ve read accounts of other professionals, including police officers, having the same problems.  Frankly, the idea of all those handguns out there in the possession of largely untrained people ought to scare the hell out of all of us.

It’s time to join the modern world and get rid of handguns in America.  Those whose handguns represent a validation of their manhood can find another ersatz phallus — maybe a Bowie knife in a fancy scabbard would do the trick.


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15 Responses to “Failure of Local Gun Control”



  1. Brianna |

    “Congress should immediately pass a law banning all private possession of handguns, and the President should sign it.”

    This squares with the Second Amendment… how, exactly?

    “Handguns are designed for the specific purpose of killing people. ”

    My martial arts is designed for the express purpose of breaking people into itty bitty pieces. I’m not going to stop training

    “Banning handguns might be a minor convenience for those who like to go to the range and blast away at targets — ever notice that many are human-shaped?”

    Well, yes. Then again, so are criminals. Just because you’re practicing a skill that involves harming people doesn’t mean you’re going to go on a rampage. Just the opposite; the people who take the time to train these skills are the same one whom you will almost never find using them negatively. It’s the idiots who’ve never been to the range you have to watch out for, frankly.

    “Would criminals still have handguns if private possession were prohibited? For a while, yes. ”

    You might be able to decrease the number of guns. I sincerely doubt this will lead to a decrease in violent crime. People kill people, not guns.

    “very few private citizens get in gunfights with the bad guys,”

    I’ve never actually broken a bad guy’s kneecap, but I was damned glad I knew how to defend myself a few months ago when were were having problems with assualts and robberies in the area where I live.

    “Frankly, the idea of all those handguns out there in the possession of largely untrained people ought to scare the hell out of all of us.”

    Why? How are they more dangerous than, say, a student driver behind the wheel of a 2-ton car?

    “It’s time to join the modern world and get rid of handguns in America. ”

    Oh yes, Europe, where the streets are so safe at night compared to benighted, backwards America

    http://wheelgun.blogspot.com/2007/01/crime-in-uk-versus-crime-in-us.html

    You go foward into the world of progress. I’m sticking with my anachronisms and sex objects.


  2. Tom |

    As I said, it would square with the Second Amendment the same way other firearms prohibitions and restrictions do. The only other alternative would be no restrictions or prohibitions at all, which would allow every numbskull to have a howitzer in his front yard and a machine gun poking out a window. (Just in case the black helicopters start landing on his lawn, doncha know.)

    Martial arts skills can’t be stolen and used to rob a 7-11, found by a kid who accidentally kills a playmate, used in drive-by shootings, accidentally kill a family member when a noise is heard in the house at night, etc. There’s no comparison at all. And I wouldn’t recommend relying on kung fu moves to defend your home — a shotgun is much more likely to be effective.

    The pro-gun site you linked to, typically, doesn’t present full data or valid comparisons. The firearms homicide rate in the US is about three times higher than it is in the UK, and you can find that information in many places. Here’s one.

    Beyond statistics, I’ve lived in Frankfurt, Berlin, Moscow, Yerevan, Budapest, and Belgrade, in addition to visiting many other cities in Europe. I’ve been on the streets in the middle of the night in all those cities, and never once did I feel threatened like I would in Washington, New York, Chicago, Detroit, or LA. The biggest difference is those foreign cities aren’t awash in handguns.

    As far as the danger of kids driving two-ton cars, I couldn’t agree more. But that’s another discussion.


  3. Brianna |

    “The only other alternative would be no restrictions or prohibitions at all, which would allow every numbskull to have a howitzer in his front yard and a machine gun poking out a window. ”

    Either we have to completely eliminate all handguns, or we have no restrictions on them at all? No middle ground at all? What’s so horrible about a waiting period and a background check?

    “Martial arts skills can’t be stolen and used to rob a 7-11”

    I’ve heard of people who successfully robbed convenience stores with boxcutters and fake guns. Shall we outlaw those, as well?

    “I wouldn’t recommend relying on kung fu moves to defend your home”

    It’s better than nothing. And your shotgun is something I wouldn’t be allowed… by your idea of the perfect law… to tote around with me on the street at 3am. My martial arts skills on the other hand, will always be on hand no matter where I am, even if they are of limited utility.

    “The firearms homicide rate in the US is about three times higher than it is in the UK”

    Yes, the firearms homicide rate; I stated myself that you might be able to lessen the number of physical guns on the streets. But the violent crime rate? Who cares about the how of how people are getting murdered? Isn’t the important thing about whether or not people die?

    “never once did I feel threatened like I would in Washington, New York, Chicago, Detroit, or LA”

    Washington and Chicago are places which, by your own admission, have incredibly strict gun control laws. As for Detroit, according to a friend of mine who grew up there, robberies in his area lessened considerably once the law-abiding citizens purchased weapons. I’m also willing to bet that NYC and LA have strict gun control laws. As for me, when I was in Britain I used to openly laugh at their complaints about “knife culture.” Just more proof that it isn’t the gun that kills people and there’s no way to completely disarm a populace.


  4. Tom |

    I didn’t say that there is only one alternative. The point is that if some types of classes or firearms can be restricted or prohibited, then so can other types or classes, such as handguns. However, if it’s ever decided that there can be no restrictions or prohibitions (which is not the case now and never will be), then come the private howitzers and machine guns.

    I realize that a federal law prohibiting private possession of handguns isn’t going to happen. Given that unfortunate reality, I would welcome the strictest possible background checks, training requirements, and licensing before anyone could own a handgun for private and personal use. That’s all certainly constitutional, and it wouldn’t prevent qualified people from owning handguns.

    The fact that cities with strict gun laws have found that they don’t work is the point of the article. Only federal law will work.


  5. Brianna |

    “I didn’t say that there is only one alternative.”

    I disagree, but will let the matter rest.

    “I would welcome the strictest possible background checks, training requirements, and licensing before anyone could own a handgun for private and personal use. That’s all certainly constitutional, and it wouldn’t prevent qualified people from owning handguns.”

    I don’t mind background checks and training requirements. Licensing is iffier, because of the inherent problems of government having a list of where all the guns are. The whole point of the second amendment is that it is a last-ditch resort against tyranny; this fact does not square with giving the government an easy way to confiscate the populaces’ weaponry.

    “The fact that cities with strict gun laws have found that they don’t work is the point of the article. Only federal law will work.”

    I concede your points about the futility of having a gun-free island in an ocean of guns. However, I disagree that a federal law will do what the local laws are designed to: decrease violent crime. After all, outlaws do not care about breaking the law and “when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.” I think it’s better to trust responsible people to behave responsibly with the tools and weapons available at their disposal, than to legislate all of those tools away on the premise that they might hurt people and then hope that legislating against the tools used to commit crime will make that crime go away.


  6. Brian Bagent |

    As it happens, when I wake up this afternoon, I’m going shopping for a pistol.


  7. Tom |

    Well, given your training and experience as a police officer, it doesn’t bother me that you own handguns. You’re also a whole lot less likely to feel the need to resort to a firearm to resolve a physical dispute, you won’t leave them laying around where kids can find them or they can be stolen, and you aren’t going to re-sell them to thugs and criminals. However, you’re definitely the exception and not the rule.


  8. Brian Bagent |

    Tom, I don’t have any current friends that are police officers or former police officers. I do have a friend that is ex-army, but he was in the band at Ft. Myer and later at Ft. Lewis that is an avid collector and shooter. All of my friends that own firearms are as level-headed and conscientious as I am, as are most firearms owners. Otherwise, we truly would be awash in a sea of blood.

    I’d love to see a law passed that required every female that has attained the age of majority to carry a handgun. Men that are prone to such acts of violence might think twice before raping or beating them if they knew that there were good odds that they were going to get ventilated for doing so.

    As the old saying goes, “God made man and woman, Sam Colt made them equal.” I’d wager that there isn’t one woman in 100,000 that could defend themselves against somebody like me if they weren’t armed with a pistol. A pistol may only give them a slim chance, but that certainly beats the alternative of no chance at all.

    Ever read any of the research that Dr. Gary Kleck (Florida State) has done on the defensive use of firearms in this country? He makes quite a solid case that defensive firearms use, without even having to fire a shot, is far more prevalent than what we are led to believe.

    LAPD did a study, maybe 20 or 25 years ago, that found that on average, officers arrive on-scene when the bad guy is still there 1 time for every 6000 in-progress calls dispatched (in-progress calls are generally “lights and sirens” felony calls). Those aren’t very favorable numbers for dial-a-prayer (AKA 9-1-1), and that’s in officer-dense Los Angeles. If memory serves, there are something like 50K officers/deputies in LA and Orange counties.

    The police are under neither legal nor moral obligation to protect anyone. It may say “To Protect and Serve” on lots of patrol cars and badges, but it just isn’t true. So if the police cannot protect you or will not protect you, your safety is your primary responsibility.

    Plus, I’ve seen how many, perhaps most, officers shoot. It doesn’t inspire confidence. I’ve seen the manner in which many officers care for their guns. Again, it doesn’t inspire confidence.

    I’m aces at the range. But I couldn’t honestly tell you how I’d do in a real fight, even though I always shot between 590 and 595/600 on our qualification course. That’s 50-55 in the X or 10, and 5-10 in the 9. I know lots of civilians that shoot better.


  9. Brian Bagent |

    Just remembered this: “It’s time to join the modern world and get rid of handguns in America.”

    Excerpted from Federalist 46:
    “Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation…Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.

    Is that the modern world you are talking about, the one Madison wrote about in 1787 and 1788, the one where European governments are afraid to let their subjects be armed? The modern world? Unquestionably not the modern world, you seem to want a return to antiquity, because the European policy of having a disarmed populace is centuries old.


  10. Tom |

    I would, with great humility, add to Federalist 46:

    “Besides the advantage of being armed, America will suffer one of the highest murder rates in the world, much higher than that of the several kingdoms of Europe, by the dawn of the 21st Century…”

    Source and source.


  11. Brian Bagent |

    You’re going to have another bugger of a problem outlawing handguns if you stop and think about the US v. Miller case, a case built upon a lie uttered by a US attorney in front of the USSC, a lie which ended up affirming the grossly unconstitutional NFA ’34.

    The federal government’s authority to ban certain classes of firearms rests on the NFA ’34 and the subsequent Miller case. That will end up being addressed if there is an attempt to ban handguns.

    It wasn’t even until 1934 that there had ever even been an issue with the 2nd amendment. How was it that from 1791 until 1934, we went merrily along with the 2nd amendment, and all of a sudden in 1934, our “leaders” finally figured out that the 2nd amendment didn’t mean what it had been held to mean for 143 years?

    Here’s an interesting article that discusses this. We Don’t Need no steenking 2nd amendment


  12. Brian Bagent |

    We don’t need no steenking 2nd amendment. Sorry, switching back and forth from BBS to HTML speak screwed up the link in the last response.

    Do you suppose, just for an instant, that if the Jews hadn’t allowed themselves to be disarmed in the early 30s of Germany that there might not have been a Holocaust? Have you ever read of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in the Spring of 1943, where 7 armed and determined Jews held up a division and a half of Wehrmacht for nearly a month? Seven versus 40,000? For a month?

    Thomas Jefferson on private arms ownership: “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government.”


  13. Tom |

    I don’t have a problem with interpreting the Second Amendment to mean that people have a right to keep and bear arms, as I’ve said many times. The Amendment is ambiguous, at best, but in the face of ambiguity, the nod must always go to the pre-existing right in question.

    We’ve discussed U.S. v. Miller before. I don’t see it as the definitive problem that you do. What it means, in fact, is pretty much colored by the position of the person talking about it.

    Aside from that, all rights are limited to some extent where their exercise negatively impacts others. I’m as strong a supporter of freedom of speech as you can find, but I recognize the legitimacy of denying people the right to scream “Fire!” in a crowded theater, laws against incitement to riot, etc.

    Where firearms are concerned, it’s also reasonable (and constitutional, by the way) to prohibit or limit the possession and use of certain classes and types of firearms. If that weren’t true, it would be possible for every wannabe Rambo in America to walk around with an M-60 under his arm and linked ammo around his neck (assuming he wasn’t such a fat couch potato that he couldn’t carry it; those things are heavy). But we have laws against that, thankfully. By the same logic, handguns can be constitutionally prohibited — and should be.

    Lest I be misunderstood, let me say that I don’t “hate” handguns. I’m better trained and more experienced in their use than most people. I spent many years of my life carrying a handgun of one kind or another, often loaded and ready for use. I consistently fired “expert” (the highest level) in periodic range qualifications. I love the damned things — the way they look, the way they feel in my hand, the way they smell, the beauty of their design, and the perfection of their efficiency in performing as intended. But that’s the problem — the purpose for which they exist is to kill people, and that’s what makes them ugly, frightening, and highly dangerous in the hands of most people.


  14. Tom |

    Brian, the article you linked to basically presents an outdated argument, given U.S. v Heller. And it still isn’t clear whether the Second Amendment even applies to states and local governments; that’s something the Supreme Court will (or won’t) decide in the near future.

    I’m not aware that the disarming of Jews in Nazi Germany was an issue. But even if it had been, no relatively small group of civilians can stand up to the organized strength of the military and security forces of a state. That’s particularly true when you consider that Jews represented less that one percent of the German population in the early 1930’s. If they had been armed to the teeth, it would have made no difference.

    In fact, the Warsaw ghetto uprising was carried out by two organized groups of Jews numbering a total of about 750. SS, police, and other forces (totaling no more than 2,000-3,000 per day) broke the organized resistance during the first few days and mostly wiped it out in about a month. It was one of the very few urban uprisings against the Nazis, and despite it’s heroic nature, it isn’t much of an example to support the idea that armed civilians can defend themselves against a government.


  15. Rahul |

    Good Work Dude.


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