Payne: Could gun laws have stopped him?

Posted by hpayne on July 22, 2012

That didn’t take long. Within hours of the James Holmes’ Batman massacre, the usual suspects were calling for restrictions on America’s Bill of Rights.

“There are so many murders with guns every day, it’s just got to stop,” said billionaire New York dictator Michael Bloomberg who has been choking New Yorkers’ civil liberties with everything from soda bans to salt diet restrictions.

“Given what has happened today, do you think there is now legitimate cause to press politicians for tougher gun control in America?” raged British-transplant and CNN talk show host Piers Morgan who favors harsher gun restrictions as in his native country. But neither does Mother England have a Bill of Rights – a detail that, ahem, inspired America.

America is horrified at Holmes’ violence. It is horrified at Detroit’s violence. We all weep for the victims. But is a ban on guns the solution? Do Bloomberg and Morgan honestly believe that by gutting the Second Amendment, the First Amendment would not suffer as well? Do they think they can pick and choose our civil liberties?

Besides, the idea that the rest of the world is free of guns is nonsense. Britain and, closer to home, Canada (which has suffered two similar public shootings in Toronto this summer), have much tougher gun laws than the U.S. – but guns are still plenty prevalent and Canada is currently trying to loosen its gun restrictions to accommodate sportsmen. Despite a raft of new gun laws in the 1980s and 1990s, gun crime has increased in England, according to the British Journal of Criminology.

The culture of violence in more homogenous nation-states like Britain and Canada is historically lower than the U.S. – even before gun laws. Meanwhile, Americans are much freer thanks to their own history of Constitutional civil liberties.

Like anti-immigration activists (round up 11 million illegals and deport them!) or global warming fanatics (stop CO2 increases!), the gun-ban lobby traffics in knee-jerk “this must stop” rhetoric while ignoring market realities. America, after all, is not without gun control laws over its estimated 200 million guns – none of which stopped James Holmes from acquiring what he needed to commit a despicable, criminal act.

– Colorado gun control: Like all states, Colorado lives under the federal 1994 Brady Law – enacted in the wake of President Reagan’s shooting and requiring a background check on gun purchasers. Holmes, with a clean criminal record, apparently passed these required checks. In the wake of the 1999 Columbine massacre, Colorado voters reacted with more gun control, passing a constitutional amendment requiring background checks before purchasing firearms at a gun show.

– Gun availability: Gun control advocates point out that under the federal assault weapons ban that sun-setted in 2004, Holmes would not have been able to purchase his AR-15 assault weapon. Not exactly. Manufacturers simply replaced the AR-15 with something called the XM-15 that circumvented the law’s barrel threading and bayonet mounting language.

Where there’s a market there is a way. So what to do?

I am in favor of gun control. As a licensed race-car driver of fiberglass missiles that can reach 180 mph, I strongly advocate the licensing and safe use of potentially deadly products. In the case of race cars, that means extensive training (as is required for a Michigan concealed carry license, for example). In the case of guns, licensing and laws limiting clip sizes are practical and doable.

“I don’t see any constitutional bar to regulating high-capacity magazines,” says libertarian Cato Institute scholar Robert Levy in support of a 10-round clip limit that would have reduced the lethal abilities of, for example, Holmes’ AR-15. “The Second Amendment is not absolute. (A clip law)may stop a few of these looney tunes.”

These are sensible responses – unlike the unworkable ban hysteria of Bloomberg and Morgan.

Because when their civil liberty ban fails, activists like them will simply move on through the gaping hole in America’s Bill of Rights to restrict more rights. Holmes (and the Columbine teens) were fans of violent movies? Ban them. Holmes reportedly marinated himself in violent, online role-player video games? Ban video games.

James Holmes was hell-bent on putting people in danger. Without a AR-15, he could have done it with a pistol. Without a pistol, a shotgun. By refusing clear-eyed solutions to what really deter psychopaths, America’s policymakers are hell-bent on putting the civil liberties of millions in danger.


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