I’ve been covering Second Amendment issues on a daily basis since 2004, and I swear that the arguments from gun control activists have gotten dumber in recent years (though they’ve never been all that great to begin with). The shootings in Boulder have prompted a flurry of idiotic statements, non sequiturs, and bad faith attacks on those who support the right to keep and bear arms and don’t believe in the idea of banning our way to safety, and on today’s Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co we take a closer look at some of the recent low-lights from anti-gun activists.
While on the show we kick off the discussion with a look at social media, my colleague John Sexton over at Hot Air has a fantastic piece that covers the odd fixation by some on Twitter when it comes to the race of the Boulder shooting suspect and the abrupt about-face from many on the Left once it was revealed that he wasn’t a white guy (I’m really not sure why the race matters to begin with, but there are lot of voices on the Left who are strangely obsessed with viewing everything through the lens of racism). Rather than quote from John’s post, I’d just encourage you to read it in full. It’s a revealing look at the mindset of the average gun control supporter, who often seem less concerned about gun laws themselves and more interested in how they can use events like this to suit their other political purposes. While they might be in favor of new gun control laws, they don’t actually seem to be a top priority for some of these folks.
Professional gun control activists, on the other hand, have done their best to try to use the Boulder shootings to advance their ideological agenda, including former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who has a piece at USA Today in which she argues for a number of new restrictions on legal gun owners, starting with the background check bills recently approved by the U.S. House.
An estimated 22% of U.S. gun owners acquired their most recent firearm without a background check. This translates to millions of gun sales with no questions asked every year. Background checks won’t prevent every shooting, but they are a foundational policy on which other gun laws are built.
If millions of private firearms transfers are taking place, then the vast majority of them don’t involve any criminal activity whatsoever. In 2019, there were a little more than 10,000 homicides across the entire country in which firearms were used, and while we don’t know how many of them were legally acquired in private transactions, it’s obvious that most private gun sales didn’t result in any criminal activity. As Giffords says, however, the importance of imposing universal background check requirements is that they’re a “foundational policy” that leads to more gun control laws like firearms registration, restrictive licensing regimes, and gun bans.
We also should enact waiting periods, which might have prevented the Atlanta shooter from going on a murderous rampage hours after he purchased his gun. We must pass extreme risk protection order laws, which could have been used to disarm a shooter in Parkland, Florida, before he killed 17 of his classmates and teachers in 2018. And we need to fund community violence intervention programs, which are proven to reduce gun violence in under-resourced communities, violence that almost never makes the national news.
There’s no evidence that the suspect in the Georgia shootings would have been dissuaded or even prevented from acquiring a firearm if a waiting period had been in place. On the other hand, we know that waiting periods can put good people at risk. In 2015, Carol Bowne was murdered by her abusive ex, several months after she had applied for permission from her local police to purchase a firearm. She was still waiting to hear back from law enforcement when her ex showed up and stabbed her to death in the driveway of her New Jersey home. Bowne tried to do everything by the book, and ended up dead as a result.
As for extreme risk protection orders, Giffords fails to acknowledge that Colorado has an ERPO law on the books, but it wasn’t used against the suspect in the Boulder shooters. In Florida, law enforcement had multiple opportunities to deal with the Parkland killer, but failed to take action even after threats had been reported to police. Florida also has a civil commitment law that could have been used, but wasn’t. And finally, Giffords doesn’t mention the biggest flaw of “red flag” gun seizure laws (aside from the constitutional and due process concerns): these laws can take guns away from someone a judge deems to be a danger to themselves or others, but they don’t do anything to address the dangerous individual at all. Guns are seized, and the dangerous person is left to their own devices.
I happen to agree with Giffords on the usefulness and effectiveness of community-based violence intervention programs, but these aren’t gun control programs. They don’t involve new laws, new crimes, or even more policing, and they don’t require any sort of congressional approval either. Instead, they focus on the most likely offenders and victims of violent crime in an attempt to get them to stop shooting. Programs like Project Ceasefire have been hugely successful in reducing violent crime and homicides in cities across the country without the need for any new gun control laws at all.
If programs like that were the exclusive focus of organizations like Giffords, I’d be happy to support them. Unfortunately, they’re an afterthought to gun control groups precisely because they don’t involve new restrictions on the right to keep and bear arms. Ultimately violence prevention and gun control have two different goals and two different strategies. One is about reducing violent crime through local programs that target at-risk individuals, and the other is about reducing the number of firearms in the United States by restricting the rights of legal gun owners. Focusing on the perpetrators of violence is a smart idea. Trying to ban our way to safety? Well that’s just dumb.
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