Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Gun Control

I was listening to NPR last night on the drive home and happened to tune into an interview discussing gun violence in Trenton, NJ. The person being interviewed was complaining that gun violence in Trenton was so high because gangsters were able to easily buy guns from neighboring Pennsylvania where there is much looser gun control laws. He was arguing that New Jersey had strong gun control laws and there would be much less gun violence in Trenton if only Pennsylvania adopted tighter gun control. The implication was also that there should be Federal gun control.

This is another example of how bad government policy creates a problem and people on the left argue that the solution is to have more government, more regulation, and less freedom.

The speaker did not think to consider what causes the gun violence in the first place. The gun violence is not caused by lack of gun control. It's caused by our drug policy. By making drugs illegal, the government creates a lucrative black market for criminals. This results in gang warfare over drug territory in our inner cities. Just as Alcohol Prohibition is well known for giving rise to the Mafia in this country, bad drug policy and the War on Drugs gave rise to drug gangs in our inner cities. Government officials rarely understand the unintended consequences of their actions.

I am pretty confident that if currently illegal drugs were legalized and regulated just like alcohol and tobacco are, this would take away most of the incentive for these gangs to kill each other. Now, I am not saying the gangs would instantly disappear. Unfortunately, there is path dependence. The mafia remained after Prohibition was repealed and we can't undo decades of the environmental damage and conditioning that has taken place in these gang-infested parts of our cities. But it's the first step.

But people will still argue on national radio that if we only had strict gun control, we would see reduced gun violence. Let's see -- we probably spend over $100 billion each year fighting the War on Drugs, funding military action in foreign countries to combat illegal drugs, and incarcerating millions of non-violent drug offenders in this country in an effort to rid our streets of illegal drugs. Yet, illegal drugs are easily found. If I desired, I am sure I could buy any number of illegal drugs tonight just by going to the right street corner in San Francisco or Oakland. So if we're spending hundreds of billions of dollars trying to stop illegal drugs from being bought and sold, how can people argue that gun control will stop guns from falling into the hands of the same criminals who so easily are able to possess illegal drugs? It's a ridiculous argument.

Gun control does not take guns away from criminals. It takes guns away from law-abiding citizens who want to own guns to protect themselves and their families. My liberal friends will quote all kinds of stats that guns do not really protect people and are often used against the people who own them. I believe these stats are flawed. For example, the stats often just quote cases where a gun is fired, but in the vast majority of cases, a gun is never fired. It's just shown and the criminal runs away. But still this type of argument completely misses the point...

Gun ownership is a right. Our founding fathers wanted us to have guns as a final check against a tyrannical government. James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, said "Americans have the right and advantage of being armed - unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms." Federalist Noah Webster wrote, "Tyranny is the exercise of some power over a man, which is not warranted by law, or necessary for the public safety. A people can never be deprived of their liberties, while they retain in their own hands, a power sufficient to any other power in the state" and "Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed." It's annoying when people on the left argue that the Second Amendment does not protect an individual's right to arms. It's crystal clear what the authors of the Second Amendment meant if you only read what they wrote.

I agree with the founders. I wish there was a gun in every household in the country, like in Switzerland. I would feel safer knowing that tyranny could not come to this country no matter how many acts Congress passed to suspend habeas corpus or to spy on our communications.

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