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New Gun Law Proposals

January 14th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

One thing almost all of the pundits and politicians agree on in the wake of the Arizona shooting tragedy is that there’s no way we’ll be able to pass any stricter gun control legislation in response to it. The NRA is so obscenely powerful that most lawmakers now surrender before even thinking about putting up any kind of fight on this issue. There are a few proposals on the table but they’re all tiny small-ball approaches that barely even scratch the surface of the massive gun-violence problem in America. Jason Linkins at the Huffington Post does an excellent job dissecting each one, and while I agree with him on each one I’ll just briefly add my two cents on a few of them.

But before I do, I will say that gun control is one of the few issues in which I actually take a more conservative position than most of my liberal brethren. I think that people should have a right to own a gun and that this right should not be impinged upon—though unlike most conservatives I would make plenty of exceptions for things like assault rifles and automatic weapons that serve no other purpose than to kill lots of people. I also think there’s a huge difference between a farmer in the countryside owning some rifles to protect his livestock, and people living in a crowded city carrying around a concealed weapon. If local governments want to ban guns in a city, I’m much more open to that idea than any kind of nationwide federal ban on gun ownership (which will never happen in a million years anyway).

My main reason for supporting gun ownership rights for average citizens is similar to the reason I support drug legalization. Whether or not something is illegal, people who really want it are going to find a way to get it. If there’s no legitimate market for guns, there will only be a black market, and we’ll wind up in a country where the only armed individuals are police officers and violent criminals. If a regular person wants to buy a gun to protect his family, he should be able to. Keeping that gun away from his children is his responsibility and if anyone’s child does get ahold of it and something terrible happens, the parent should be severely punished for criminal negligence.

Now, on to the proposals:

Peter King has proposed that there be a 1,000-foot gun-free radius around all lawmakers at all times. This is a stupid idea because it’s mostly un-enforceable—are you going to have government agents in a 3,142-foot circle around all politicians at all times? How about just outlawing concealed weapons within 1,000 feet around any organized event involving a lawmaker? That doesn’t seem like too much of an impingement on anyone’s rights, and it would probably serve to prevent at least a few assassination attempts.

Louis Gohmert, Republican from Texas, wants to take the completely opposite approach and declare that all lawmakers can carry guns at all times, including inside the Capitol! Leaving aside that Louis Gohmert is quite possibly the dumbest person ever to serve in Congress (he’s the one who warned us all about “terror babies”), this is also one of the most useless ideas ever proposed. If a lawmaker is worried about getting shot at, he can hire something called a “bodyguard”. And if he’s afraid of someone going on a shooting rampage inside the Capitol building, they can set up something called “metal detectors” at the entrance…oh wait, they already have them! (On the flip-side, if all of our senators were armed it might actually speed thing up in the Senate: “I’ve got your filibuster right here!!!” And who doesn’t love the idea of Anthony Weiner up there waving his pistol around? “The gentleman will sit! I’m serious! Don’t make me bust a cap in the gentleman’s ass!”)

And finally, the only one of these proposed laws to make complete and utter sense is the proposed ban on extended magazines like the one Loughner used in the Arizona shooting. Loughner was only taken down when he paused to reload, and because of his extended magazine he was able to get off twice as many shots as he would have with a standard magazine. It’s likely that at least one of the dead would still be alive today if his handgun had been limited to the standard 15 shots.

Hunters do not need extended magazines, and it’s unlikely that anyone who owns a gun to protect his family will need more than 15 bullets to scare off any intruders. A ban on extended magazines is, I believe, a totally sensible response to this shooting. These have only been available for legal purchase since the ban on assault weapons was allowed to expire during the Bush administration, so we’d only be going back (and not even all the way) to the way things were in the slightly less insane Clinton years.

Honestly I think the roots of the problem behind the shooting in Arizona and the dozens of other violent shootings that take place in America every single day goes much deeper than gun ownership laws, but I hate the fact that the NRA has our government so firmly sealed in its pocket that we can’t even hope to pass the most common-sense regulations. For the sake of all of the victims of the Arizona shooting, I’d like to see at least something change as a result. Even if the ban on extended magazines only saves a handful of lives over the next decade, that would most definitely be worth it.

In conclusion, this remains the best gun-control policy ever proposed by anyone:

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