Faith in Gun Bans: Magical Thinking
By Jeff Knox
(June 14, 2016) My brother Chris and I were once again asked to offer up a rebuttal to an editorial in USA Today newspaper after the terrorist attack in Orlando. Unfortunately the paper rescinded the offer when Chris Cox, Executive Director of NRA-ILA, offered to do the job. Here’s what we didn’t get to tell USA Today readers.
In their editorial, the USA Today editors called for a ban on “assault weapons.” They talked about various attacks utilizing “assault weapons,” mentioned the Clinton ban from 1994 to 2004, and made excuses for the ban’s failure to reduce crime or prevent atrocities. They called for bans on magazines with a capacity greater than 10 rounds, citing “research” from Johns Hopkins – which happened to be funded by Mike Bloomberg – claiming that if a new ban “only prevented 20%” of incidents involving “assault weapons” and/or “high-capacity” magazines, 100 lives would be saved. And if my grandmother only had wheels, she’d be a wagon.
There is no evidence that any of the proposed bans or restrictions would prevent 20% of any sort of crime or misuse – none. Real research into the 10-year Clinton ban on “assault weapons” showed that it was completely ineffective and had no impact on crime. Faith in these sorts of bans and restrictions are based purely on magical thinking.
The editors suggested that the problem with the ’94 ban was that its definitions were too loose and easily sidestepped by manufacturers. They decried the “ever-powerful gun lobby” for standing in the way of “logical changes by twisting any move to limit the sale of certain kinds of guns into a menacing attempt to take away all guns.” Of course the irony of them endorsing the expansion of one failed gun ban to encompass even more guns, while they deny the existence of this “slippery slope,” was completely lost on them. Is there any doubt that the same people would be back calling for an even broader ban and even stricter limits on magazine capacity after this one proved to be ineffective? That’s what happened in Australia, which Hillary and Obama cite as a good example to follow.
It’s easy for people with no knowledge of firearms to imagine they can distinguish “certain kinds of guns” and just ban them. Those of us who have some knowledge of firearms recognize the magical thinking at work. Those “certain kinds of guns” are functionally indistinguishable from many other guns. From there, the progression moves backwards in the inverse of how it moved forward through the late 19th and early 20th centuries, encompassing first all auto-loaders, then pump-actions, then lever-actions, until we are left to debate bolt-actions and rolling blocks, and looking at bans on stripper-clips.
Long guns of any style, function, or configuration – including all of the so-called “assault rifles” – are only used in about 2% of gun crimes in the U.S. The other 98% of “crime guns” are handguns. Can anyone imagine a scenario in which today’s advocates of an “assault weapon” ban would not eventually turn their attention to the most common guns used by criminals and in suicides? And once they start down that road, where can we expect the road to end? Will they be satisfied with just limiting legal magazine capacity, or can we expect all semi-auto handguns to meet the same demise as semi-auto rifles? What then of double-action revolvers, “high-capacity” 8 and 9-shot revolvers, and speedloaders. Heaven forbid these hoplophobes ever see videos of Jerry Miculek hitting a target with 12 shots from a 6-shot revolver in under 3 seconds, or Bob Munden hitting two targets with a single-action revolver so quickly that it sounds like one shot. Would they call for bans of these guns or just forbid access by people like Munden and Miculek?
While the Orlando shooting is the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, it is not the worst mass murder, or even the most deadly attack on a nightclub. The most deadly assault on a nightclub was a spur of the moment crime perpetrated by a jealous drunk in 1990. He decided to take revenge on his ex-girlfriend and her employers at the Happy Land Social Club in “gun free” New York City. His weapons were two matches and less than a gallon of gasoline. Eighty-seven people perished. That’s more deaths than in any shooting rampage in U.S. history.
Guns don’t cause, or even enable mass murder. The cause is evil in the human heart. No magical solutions like banning “assault weapons,” expanding background checks, or giving the AG power to delete gun rights without due process, are going to solve – or even favorably impact on – the problem. Even in Australia, where they brag that they haven’t had a major mass shooting since the Port Arthur atrocity, the absence of guns has not reduced the loss of life. Records indicate that as many people died in mass murders during the 10 years after the ban as in the 10 years prior to the ban. The murderers simply chose other weapons.
Restricting good people will not keep evil people from committing evil acts, and it won’t save lives.