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Anti-Gun Measures Don’t Work 

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Guest post By Sheldon Richman, Research Fellow at the Independent InstituteAfter an atrocity like the shootings at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, what’s needed is hardheaded realism, not pie-in-the-sky utopianism. Unfortunately, we always get more of the latter than the former.

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Sheldon Richman is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute.

That a person could walk into a roomful of innocent people, open fire, and kill in cold blood is beyond almost anyone’s imagination. We naturally wonder what “causes” someone to do that and what could prevent it. But the search for solutions soon reaches a fork in the road: one branch represents logical thinking, the other mere wishful “thinking” with no rational connection to the problem at hand.

When realists point out that human action has reasons (complex motivations) not causes, that an open society could never guarantee that mass shootings won’t occur, and that the best we can do is allow people to take responsibility for their own self-defense, the utopians stamp their feet, demanding ill-defined direct action.

Gun-control advocate Rosie O’Donnell was once asked whether the freedom to carry concealed handguns might mitigate mass shootings; she responded, “I don’t want to arm everyone. I want to take the guns away from the bad guys.” So would we all. But must innocent people wait until O’Donnell’s wish comes true? What should they do in the meantime? Here’s what utopians ignore: a society in which bad people cannot obtain guns is not on the menu. It would be nice if that alternative were open to us, but it is not and it never will be.

So like it or not, we must choose among the available alternatives. What’s the point in demanding the impossible? As economist Thomas Sowell once said, there are no solutions; there are only trade-offs. You need to make sure that a purported solution isn’t worse than the problem. Mature thinking recognizes that this maxim applies to the problem of mass shootings.

Utopians believe, for example, that expanded, “universal,” background checks would prevent mass shootings. Never mind that nearly all the recent shooters passed background checks, including the killer in Oregon. That’s just the beginning of the problems with this alleged solution.

Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook shooter, took guns from his mother, who owned them legally. How would expanded background checks have prevented that horrific crime? Should background checks include gun buyers’ children? We certainly cannot expect background checks to keep guns out of the hands of people who buy them in the black market or who steal them (or print them on a 3-D printer). A law requiring background checks for private sales at gun shows would only drive the targeted sales to other, less-visible venues. People who want guns for immoral purposes will get them.

In other words, there’s no such thing as universal background checks. To suggest otherwise is to create a false sense of security, which is worse than no sense of security at all.

President Barack Obama’s favorite “common-sense gun-safety law” would have made no difference in the recent cases. So why do utopians trot out this pseudo-solution each time? And why do they intimate that opponents know it would work but oppose it anyway? Utopians apparently find it impossible to presume good faith in those with whom they disagree. Too bad, for it makes rational conversation impossible.

Similar criticisms can be leveled at other utopian proposals, such as liability for dealers who sell guns to people who later commit crimes. Even if this measure were to scare all legitimate gun dealers out of business (which may be the intent), it would not stop mass murder. With at least 300 million guns in the United States, there will be no shortage in illegal channels, where anonymous sellers who already break the law will not be concerned about being sued.

While the realists’ proposal to allow well-intentioned people to carry concealed handguns to class, church, theater and workplace would hardly prevent or limit all mass shootings, it undoubtedly would help. Utopians object that an armed defender might accidentally shoot an innocent person. That’s obviously true, but that possibility has to be contrasted with the certainty of what will happen when the person bent on mass murder is the only one with a gun. Utopia is not an option.

Reprinted with permission of the Independent Institute, publisher of the books, Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and “Enemies of the State” and The Founder’s Second Amendment: Origins of the Right to Bear Arms, by Stephen P. Halbrook. See other Shooter’s Log coverage of Gun Control in the Third Reich here and here

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Comments (33)

  1. Well, since the true purpose of gun control is to steal our freedom and give evil politicians and their cronies pure, absolute control over us through Big Brother tyranny and oppression – then yes, gun control does work.

    But it doesn’t work at all for its STATED (smokescreen) purpose, to reduce violence and shootings. You have to realize that all the Left ever does is lie, mislead, corrupt, cheat, and deceive – EVER!

    Any time someone on the left uses the terms “reasonable”, “sensible”, or “common sense”, that is the prelude to lies and oppressive policy statements.

    1. >You have to realize that all the Left ever does is lie, mislead, corrupt, >cheat, and deceive – EVER!

      Agreed, but the “right” lies too! (How about all those weapon of mass destruction in Iraq?) Throughout history, lying is how tyrants and politicians who wish to rule over others control the gullible masses. It’s also the reason that the founding fathers of the United States penned the 2nd Amendment. We have yet to see whether or not their plan worked or not!

      You know the old joke: How can you tell when a politician is lying?

      When his lips move!

    2. Calin Brabandt,
      When you make reference to the Right lying, I have no dispute. Of course they lie when it suits them. But, then doesn’t everyone? Have you never told your wife something less than completely honest? I have to say mea culpa. Not proud of it but guilty none the less.
      However, let me correct a bit of misinformation you have received and which is all to common among those who only have reference to current media and who do not readily understand the issue. Concerning WMD — Weapons of Mass Destruction — Saddam Hussein did, in fact possess them and what is more it is incontrovertible.
      By definition, WMD include nuclear, chemical and bacteriological weapons. Unfortunately, too few really understand that. Far too many people think it only applies to nuclear weapons. It is not that limited. The question of whether or not Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear weapons is unclear and there are conflicting data points on that issue. However, on one point concerning WMD, there can be no dispute. Saddam possessed and used on several occasions both nerve and poison conventional chemical weapons. Large stockpiles of “poison gas” (a loose and very imprecise term) artillery shells were discovered and destroyed. Allegedly, even more were removed to Syria. Whether true or not, there is absolute proof of Bashar el Assad using chemical weapons on his own people and he had to get them from somewhere.
      There is incontrovertible documentary evidence, in the form of reports, medical treatment records and even a few video tapes of Saddam’s forces using chemical weapons on the Kurds and of the effects on Kurds which can only be caused by chemical weapons. It seems like most people either do not know that or chose to ignore the knowledge as inconvenient to their agenda.
      Not only did Saddam’s forces use them, his forces used them very cleverly and to good effect. If memory serves, Saddam’s artillery would bombard local Kurdish villages and cities with high explosives in large caliber Russian made artillery tubes. The Kurds learned to dig shelters and go underground as soon as the bombardment started. After a while, the artillery was less effective using conventional munitions.
      Saddam’s troops figured out that whenever they shelled, the Kurds sought shelter below ground. So, they began shelling with “mustard gas”, a chlorine based deadly and incapacitating chemical that either killed, blinded, scalded lungs, and caused serious skin blisters and lesions. Since the gas was heavier than air, it would settle into the Kurds underground shelters and stay there in great concentrations, killing indiscriminately among the men, women and children of all ages in the shelters.
      Again, the Kurds learned and after a while, they figured if they could get above ground quickly enough, they could escape the worst effects of the mustard gas. Again, Saddam’s forces changed tactics and would fire high explosives, followed by Mustard Gas and then in a while followed by the nerve agent VX gas. It was deadly but had low persistency. But, when the Kurds came out of their shelters to escape the Mustard Gas, they would be met with the VX. The triple whammy of conventional artillery explosive shells, followed by Mustard Gas, followed by VX was a deadly combination that left no safe haven above or below ground for the Kurds.
      There is a great deal of documentation and much of it is not from US sources. The question of did Saddam have WMD has to be answered in the affirmative, and he used them against the Kurds. It was not a lie to state the facts. We feared that he would use them against our troops. Saying that Saddam had no WMD is not correct.
      Perhaps no nuclear weapons although that is not exactly a certainty. There was some evidence of unusual convoys of trucks into Syria and their contents were not exactly totally known.
      Forgive an old man’s memory. 1989-91 was some time ago and I may have mixed up the order of the use of the chemical weapons on the Kurds. But, the fact of their use is absolutely correct.
      Part of the problem stems from decisions made repeatedly by Democrat dominated administrations and congresses. There is a perception that spying out the secrets of our enemies is a dirty and unseemly business for gentlemen. Our history of intelligence gathering is inconsistent at best. We have sometimes had active intelligence efforts and other times cancelled them, at the peril of foreign citizens who had spied for us.
      Most recently, it began with a well intentioned but overly naive President Jimmy Carter and his CIA head, retired Admiral Stansfield Turner. They decided that human spying was a dirty business since many foreign agents were coercively recruited by blackmail, based upon the threat of exposing their homosexuality or serial infidelity. Admittedly, a dirty business. Standsfield Turner and Jimmy Carter decided to do away with our human agent networks and instead rely exclusively on technological intelligence collection efforts — satellites (visual, Infrared and other sensors), ultra-high flying aircraft (U-2 and SR-71, as well as less well known others) communications intercepts and technical analysis of open source materials. It was submitted that all the intelligence we needed could be gathered through technical means and that there was no need for human intelligence or “Humint”.
      That probably worked fairly well against highly sophisticated enemies with huge installations obviously of a military nature, like the Soviet Union. But, it does not work at all against unsophisticated operations like face to face meetings inside buildings. Nothing to photograph from above, no transmissions to intercept and so forth. The only way to learn what happened in the meeting was to have someone present at the meeting who accurately reported what was discussed..
      Two nations had human agents and networks of spies that could have assisted us — Israel and Britain. Israel has had active, dedicated and motivated spies throughout the Arab world since the Roman scattering called the Diaspora. Britain administered the area after WWI when the Ottoman Turkish Empire was dissolved, giving control over that part of the world largely to the British and the French.
      Our mouthy politicians and their worse and more mouthy staffs who were willing to disclose highly classified material to news media to curry favor, disclosed information that allowed bad guys to trace and identify the source. After having lost several key agents to just such disclosures, the Israelis began to develop selective memories as to what they chose to share with us. The Brits were better about sharing, but their networks were not as effective. So, the quality of the Brit information was lower than that of the Israelis. After the Israelis virtually shut us off, it left only the Brits.
      I was informed that the intelligence on WMD largely was furnished by British sources and was not information we developed on our own. Not knowing chapter and verse about the source means it is more difficult to evaluate the quality and correctness of the information. But, even if not gold plated, it was better than nothing. So Bush and the boys said WMD and they were obviously right about chemical weapons as was proven from multiple sources, may have been right about potential bacteriological weapons, although that is certainly less clear and were probably wrong about nuclear weapons. Still, one of the 3 WMD categories was clearly there and used against the Kurds. So, at least to that extent, it was not a lie. Instead, it was the truth.
      As I said at the beginning, I have no doubt everyone lies when it suits them but in this precise case, Bush was not lying about WMD. However, some of our people choose not to be confused by the truth if it does not suit their agenda.

  2. I heard that buying ammo in the future might involve a background check. I collect pistol and rifle cartridges. I attend gun shows and purchase one or two at one table, one or two at another table etc. etc. Has been my hobby for over 50 years. Will I have to undergo a background check at every table I buy cartridges at? Don’t think the law-makers have ever thought this one through enough. Anybody like to comment?

  3. America became America only and only due to the fact that during most of the US history, the Pragmatics prevailed over Utopians. However, within past 25 years, the picture has been changing drastically. And that’s what scares me, to be honest with you, my friends. Why? Because when Utopians take over, people always have to learn how many rolls of toilet paper they can carry in both hands at the same time. Why? Because when Utopians come to power, a chance to buy a few extra rolls of the t-paper (as well as a few extra pounds of meat, potato, rise, flour, e.t.c) without using your ration coupons happens only twice a year. I know. Been there…

  4. I think a real utopia would include Constitutional Concealed Carry at a national level. People need the right to defend themselves, that is how it used to be and it needs to be that way again.

    1. Some excellent points made, too bad politicians don’t think with common sense. The only goal they have is to strip the people of there rights one at a time until they have full control over us all.

  5. How long has the gun control debate been going on? Forty years? Fifty years? It has gone on as long as I can remember and I am 73. What is always the proposed solution? New laws that make legal ownership of guns more restrictive or outright illegal under some technicality that is designed to get around the conferred freedom of the Second Amendment.
    Einstein said something like the definition of stupid is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. When some well intentioned, or evil minded, liberal spouts about the need for new laws I counter with two points.
    First, that is what you have been doing and advocating as the only solution for 40 or 50 years and you have gotten 50 or 60 different state and federal laws and yet the mass shootings continue virtually unabated. How will one more law make any difference whatsoever when 50 or 60 have failed to do the job. How would any new law be different and more effective than all the existing laws?
    Second, given 40 or 50 years experience, why can’t you come up with a new or different solution that might actually work yet doesn’t involve sacrificing my individual liberty? Are you incapable of learning? Is there no other legal and yet viable solution?
    It is not the gun. It is the loose nut attached to the gun. That is the problem. I am old enough to remember when the mentally unbalanced were incarcerated in either a state or federal institution. They were “warehoused” in secure facilities and kept separate from those who do not suffer from their mental aberration. Why can we not identify those who are mentally ill? Why can we not entrust them to a secure facility and have them kept separate from the rest of society?
    When I was young and the mentally ill were incarcerated, mass shootings either did not exist at all, or were very much less common.
    Is the freedom of the mentally ill more important than the life and death of innocent people?
    The only liberal response offered to me thus far is: “It is not that simple.” Actually, it is.
    One final thought, since the majority of mass shootings I have read about end with the death of the shooter, either self inflicted or finally administered by law enforcement, why not allow guns to be carried by anyone willing to undergo enough training to reasonably ensure that they can shoot accurately and not just “spray and pray”. I submit that there are tens of thousands of shooters, besides currently sworn peace officers, who are former military or police or other wise trained in the proper use of firearms . Why not encourage them to use their skills for the benefit of society and those not similarly trained or capable?

    1. Macll, Your comments make a great deal of sense, and I too have seen this ‘gun control’ debate raging since I was barely old enough to take my .22 hunting by myself. Those who want to take away guns from good, hopefully sane people, aren’t looking for something that makes sense. They like their Liberal predecessors from 50-60 years ago want an unarmed population. As has often been quoted in this blog, “It isn’t about gun control’, it’s about control.” Adolf Hitler had a great deal to say about Gun (Control). ‘Those you would first subjugate, you must first, disarm.’ Any more questions?

    2. Dark Angel,

      Of course, you are right about the “brains” of the outfit. I completely agree about the puppet masters. However, where I live, there are more “puppets” than puppet masters. Some of them can be saved and convinced by a slightly different agrument and that is the audience I aim for.
      The others will never be convinced simply because it is not support of their agenda of control. All you can do with them is isolate them. Strip them of their less enlightened supporters.
      For some it is as Winston Churchill said: If you are not a liberal at 20, you have no heart. If you are not a conservative at 40, you have no brain. My hope is to strip some of the controllers of their subjects and either convert them to neutral, if not downright enlightened.
      Keep up the good fight!

    3. I get your point, but the Hitler quote has been batted around the internet for far too long, and it was never said by him. However, the closest thing to this statement that WAS said was in 1942 when Hitler was referring to the colonization and denationalization of conquered territories:
      “The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the supply of arms to the underdogs is a sine qua non for the overthrow of any sovereignty. So let’s not have any native militia or native police. German troops alone will bear the sole responsibility for the maintenance of law and order throughout the occupied Russian territories.”

    4. Max, thanks for the info. Anyway, if Hitler only did and said half of what has been attributed to him, he was still one sorry SOB and still should have been smothered at birth. It would have served the world a great deal of misery. Meanwhile, far too many leaders have been taking notes from Hitler’s playbook. The current U.S. President and I fear, the next are completely committed to disarming the U.S.. This is why, I still love America, but live elsewhere, in a place where gun ownership is somewhat restrictive, you don’t hear politicians screaming for gun-owner’s blood, either.

  6. We how many have forgotten about the Bow and Arrow. I bet if you took a poll on how many people on a mass scale that the English long bow killed during England Crusades throughout history, I bet the number would be mind blowing.

  7. Good rational logical writeup, missed 2 points;
    1. Rational works not against irrational.
    2. Solution utopia. Which is, attack the shooter! Umpqua example is so off, just imagine all the college goers watching the shooter shoot their classmates one a rt a time and doing nothing, frozen like deer in headlights. Not one single one thought of rushing that shooter.
    School, mall,church, theater, whatever, any time a shooter begins his rampage, RUSH HIM! You need no gun, no laws, no hope, just attack, take him down. You are probably going to get shot anyway and this way you have a much better chance and so do those around you.
    MY solution, and one that should be taught to all from grade school on up. So there. That’s my Utopia.

  8. Great Job!!
    I have been bringing this thought process up to every anti-gun person that will have an honest conversation. And in most cases it is not heard, but there are some that actually have changed there point of view. YEA!
    We can see by the increase number of women purchasing firearms for self protection, a change in the thought process.
    So the utopia wishers are not alone in the wanting of a safe place all the time feeling! But us realist know it is never possible. We are a society that reflects who we have become as a whole. The un-ethical leaders we have are a direct reflection of this situation. I am convinced that the current leaders, down deep inside of themselves, are scared little boys and girls. THAT IS WHY THEY WANT CONTROL OVER US!!

  9. Is it not strange that the majority of politicians that don’t want you armed are protected by armed security and so are their children. It is obvious it is about control and being politically correct no matter the consequence. Most who profess gun control see no use in firearms because of the culture they grew up in-one that political correctness is what they live by. Make sure you vote and get your friends and family to support only those that are staunch 2n Amendment supporters

  10. Look, there is no debate. These liberals only want to eliminate the secpnd amendment and truth be ever told, trash the Bill of Rights and the entire Constitution. So, your just wasteing time trying to talk sense to people who are absolutely deaf to anything but their idealogy.
    So, this is what we, millions strong responsible legal firearms owners must do. VOTE!! Get registered, get informed and get inline at the ballot box. If your tired of all this BS, the abuse and direction that this country is taking. VOTE!!
    Now, instead of voicing our fustrations about a bunch of rocks lets actively pass the word to VOTE!! So get active, get informed and VOTE. And if after this election we lose, I’m turning my blame to YOU! So VOTE!! Friends, family, friends of family and associates etc… Get the word oit to get informed and VOTE!!

  11. Bad guys will always find a way to get a gun even when law abiding citizens cannot because they want to obey the law. Period.

    Gun control goes beyond a bad joke.

  12. >We certainly cannot expect background checks to keep guns
    >out of the hands of people who buy them in the black market
    >or who steal them (or print them on a 3-D printer).

    You are correct, of course, but keep in mind that the public’s fear of 3-D printed guns is completely the product of media drama, hype, and sensationalism. Fortunately, the drama appears to be waning in popularity. I remember the day when people were only afraid of zip guns and cap guns! Guns are simple mechanical devices. Media hype (lies) touting the “push-button” ease of using a 3-D printer notwithstanding, a 3-D printer is not a terribly efficacious means of making a gun. More user-friendly and similarly priced fabrication tools have been available for making guns for a long time. Most traditional hobby and “home-brew” methods surpass the 3-D printer in their usefulness to that end (like a simple manual hobby milling machine that also fits on a kitchen table, or even silicone urethane molds or casting sand.) Of course very few conspiring and plotting killers-to-be will ever bother to make a gun at all, because guns are plentiful and readily available. As you say, the hope that this situation will change is only a false hope and wishful thinking.

    1. Calin, great spin on 3D printers. They are expensive, first of all and require a degree, almost in advanced programming to make them work. While, the person of average mechanical ability can and have built firearms in their garage or basement. Too, printed pistols are awkward to hold and fire, are single shot, and prone to catastrophic failure, even on the 1st round. But, the media and Hollywood have completely bypassed this aspect of printed guns and hyped them so much that gullible people believe that they pose more danger than the average psycho with a club or a knife.

    2. Thanks, Dark!

      Your assessment is spot-on! I consider myself to be a decent hobby machinist who sometimes does a bit of prototyping for business use too, but my experience and skill level with 3D-printers is more advanced (relative to the state of the art). I’ve been 3D printing for a few years now and consider myself to be an expert at it (and also with the specialized CAD that’s usually necessary to 3D-print anything mechanically useful, instead of just printing little widgets, toys and trinkets). All the media buzz about 3D-printed guns was (and still is) a storm in a teacup!

    3. Agreed. The current media environment is one of the greatest threats to America there is. They sensationalize, misrepresent, and slant the truth in what used to be reporting but is not little more than editorializing. They have one goal . . stir up as much hate and dissension as possible in order to gain power over the minds of uninformed listeners/readers so that they can push their own Liberal agenda.

  13. We could go back in time, before the invention of gunpowder, when there was no murder or war………….Oh wait.
    No utopia.

  14. We are kidding ourselves when we say gun control does not work. Gun control works exactly as it is planned to every time it is tried. Gun control disarms law abiding gun owners and THAT is it’s purpose.

  15. These shootings are all tied to SSRI and other LEGAL drugs, even the anti-smoking drug Chantix has a black box warning on it saying people might commit suicide (They don’t mention homicide, but people with common sense can figure that part out)

    The Government will of course never admit that guns have nothing to do with the killings, even though a 10 year old with brains can figure out the ties to the Psych drugs…

    The Government will of course never get rid of the Trillion dollar chemical mind control drug industry either, but would love to ban guns…

    Notice, when that CA college kid killed because girls didn’t like him, his first 3 victims were killed by a knife… Any recent anti-knife chatter going on???

    Lets just say for the sake of argument that no guns existed… Some kind of alternate universe in which Liberals controlled everything… The killers would still be taking those drugs, would still be homicidal and suicidal, and would probably kill people with knives and axes and pencils… What would the Liberals try to ban then???

    1. … and bombs and fires and poison gas and … The list goes on and on. A mass killer can always find a weapon to use. A gun is actually less effective than several of the other choices.

  16. As long as there have been guns, almost a thousand years, there have been people that wanted to see them banned, if not outright destroyed. One argument used, possibly, by the first anti-gun person: ‘They make killing to easy.” Never mind that since the dawn of time, people have killed and easily, with clubs, spears, axes, swords. Cheerfully beating and hacking people to death. Lack of access to firearms won’t change that. Just recently in Sweden, where some of the strictest gun laws on earth exist, a lunatic bent on committing murder, attacked a school, killing one and injuring two. Gun control didn’t prevent this ‘school’ killing. People have and will continue to commit mayhem with or without guns. And guns do not make it any easier. Too, it isn’t about guns, it’s about control. Hitler and Mussolini, both disarmed their citizens, even the local police, then only the military had weapons. We all know how well that worked out.

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