It hasn’t even been a week since McDonald v. Chicago, and lawmakers are already trying to find ways to get around the Supreme Court ruling.
The day after the Supreme Court cleared a path to overturn this city’s ban on handguns—among the toughest in the U.S.—frustrated city officials began Tuesday to consider new measures to circumvent the high court’s ruling.
At a tense City Hall meeting packed with citizens holding up photos of children who’d been shot, city aldermen discussed forcing gun owners to purchase liability insurance and to undergo criminal background checks and periodic firearms training. They also peppered a firearms-law expert and Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis with questions while promising to pass something meaningful.
Chicagoans, it seems, just don’t get it.
Leaving the Constitutional arguments aside, most gun-control advocates ignore an important factor in the roles that handguns play in criminal activity: that criminals, much more often than not, obtain guns the same way they do everything else… illegally.
That’s why, as drug prohibition lessons have taught us, regulating the market won’t do any good if there’s a healthy black market thriving. In fact, unlike drugs, a heavily-regulated market actually hurts the public, because it keeps guns out of the hands of decent law-abiding citizens at the very times and places where they’d need them most.
John Stossel echoes this observation in a recent article for Reason magazine:
Suzanna Hupp and her parents were having lunch at Luby’s cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, when a man began shooting diners with his handgun, even stopping to reload. Suzanna’s parents were two of the 23 people killed. (Twenty more were wounded.)
Suzanna owned a handgun, but because Texas law at the time did not permit her to carry it with her, she left it in her car. She’s confident that she could have stopped the shooting spree if she had her gun. (Texas has since changed its law.)
Today, 40 states issue permits to competent, law-abiding adults to carry concealed handguns (Vermont and Alaska have the most libertarian approach: no permit needed. Arizona is about to join that exclusive club.) Every time a carry law was debated, anti-gun activists predicted outbreaks of gun violence after fender-benders, card games, and domestic quarrels.
John Lott, in More Guns, Less Crime, explains that crime fell by 10 percent in the year after the laws were passed. A reason for the drop in crime may have been that criminals suddenly worried that their next victim might be armed. Indeed, criminals in states with high civilian gun ownership were the most worried about encountering armed victims.
Of course, gun laws are largely a distraction from the real issues that are known to be strongly correlated with high crime rates: namely poverty and education. Guns are merely an easy scapegoat: just like violent video games and Marilyn Manson albums.
Let’s just hope that these well-intentioned efforts to curb violent crime by discouraging gun ownership don’t backfire.