Gun control laws. The “silver bullet” that will stop all gun crime in the world everywhere.
I’m going to show you in very simple terms, without (much) sarcasm, why gun control laws, whether passed or not, are doomed to failure. I’m going to take a few moments here to explain the intentions of gun control laws as they’ve been “helpfully” explained by their proponents. First, many proponents of gun control claim that too many people die from gun violence and it needs to stop. I am led to believe that stopping gun violence–not decreasing it–is the ultimate goal of this faction; that’s what they say, so I take them at their word. Second, other proponents say that they need to cut back on the numbers of people killed by guns (a flawed statement, but more on that later.) This is a worthy goal and more realistic than the first, but they’re going about it all wrong. Third, it appears that nearly all gun-control activists say that nobody has the right to own “assault rifles” or “high capacity” this or that because they’re weapons of mass destruction and are made for wholesale slaughter and yadda blah blah. I’ll save the analysis of their epic misunderstandings of the Constitution, terminology, and whatever else for much later in life; we’re not here for that now.
What we are here for is to point out why gun control laws don’t and won’t work. I’m only pointing out the various camps and their most frequently repeated refrains. There are also other reasons like guns make you more liable to kill yourself, statistics show one thing or the other, and nigh-uncountable permutations and degrees of crossovers and interpretations. What all of them have in common is the desire to get rid of guns in their entirety. How do they propose doing this? Through the law. By one means or another, there absolutely must be laws passed to prevent anyone from owning guns at any time in any place, which is the only means available to achieve freedom from death by armed criminals.
Now comes the stinger: laws do not prevent crimes. They never have, they never will, they never can. The function of laws is twofold: a law is primarily to outline for the people subject to them what behaviors are acceptable in that given society and to outline punishment for breaking those laws. The second function of a law is to guide the courts in passing down an appropriate sentence when a law is broken. That’s it. This is one of the reasons laws are generally so complex in their formulation and verbiage, so that there is no ambiguity in understanding the appropriate behavior or punishment. (Another is the legal concept of “fine print,” which makes it easier for someone to be convicted or provide a loophole, depending on the skills of your attorney.)
So what does prevent crimes? There are again two things. First is a respect for one’s fellow human. The second thing is a bit more primitive in nature: the fear of punishment or reprisal. Remove one or both and you’ve a criminal in the making. The issue of respect should be self-explanatory, because if you respect your neighbor, your community, or humanity in general, you’re obviously not going to intentionally do anything to harm them. If you lack respect for them, the inverse is true in that you’re more apt to do something of a negative nature, even if it’s only flying the furious finger.
The major component here is the second item. If a potential criminal fears reprisal in its immediacy, severity, or certainty, he will have second thoughts about breaking the law in question and he’ll refrain from committing the crime. Let me put this into a more familiar scenario for most. There was a time when most of us were children, some longer ago than most. Your parents set up rules for you to follow, put some kind of boundary in place. “Don’t do X or Y will happen to you.” You were either not supposed to watch TV, go somewhere, or whatever, and there was a punishment in place, be it a spanking, grounding, revocation of privileges, or whatever. And like most kids, you likely tested Mom and Dad.
You went across the street or to an arcade or some place you were forbidden to go. You stayed out past curfew, had a piece of candy, or you took something you were told to leave alone. Why? Why would anyone do that? Simple. As a child, you had no real concept of consequences, therefore (wait for it) you didn’t fear the punishment. Then you got busted for doing whatever you did, and then you learned that actions have consequences, bad for bad and good for good. You saw the reward for your behavior, took your chance, then paid the penalty. What happened the next time you saw temptation on the other side of that boundary? You backed off. You had learned to respect the law by learning to fear the punishment.
As you got older, you learned to respect laws as you interacted more with other people. That, coupled with what you were taught about consequences, helped turn you into a more law-abiding person than you were before, and the continued reinforcement through the years kept you on the proper path.
But not everybody is you or me. There are those out there who do not fear reprisal, do not respect society, or both. You’ve seen them recently or heard of them before. The Weather Underground. The Unabomber. Timothy McVeigh. The Columbine shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. The Symbionese Liberation Front. Christopher Dorner. There are more, trust me, and you can probably add a few names off the top of your head right now. To a person, the people I’m describing had absolutely no fear of any punishment at all. They either expected to die before going to prison or accepted prison as a necessary outcome.
There’s another breed of criminal out there that suffers from mental sickness, like Adam Lanza or Seung-Hui Cho. Their lack of fear comes from a different source, be it PTSD, chemical imbalance, psychoses, or whatever the term. They may or may not be responsible for their actions, but that’s a different debate. In the end, they also do not fear reprisals.
It is a simple conclusion to reach if you’re willing to ignore party rhetoric and left- vs right-wing. Laws will not prevent crimes. Laws against murder, assault, and trespassing were in place at the times of the Newtown and Virginia Tech shootings, but they happened. Laws against minors in possession of handguns, concealed weapons, and murder were likewise in effect in Colorado. Columbine High School was victimized, anyway. If laws were the all-powerful panacea the gun control crowd wishes to believe they are, or if the laws were half as effective as the anti-gunners wished, there would have been no crimes. Somehow, though, there are still those who believe that just one more law, one more stipulation here or there or an amendment somewhere else will be the cure-all we’ve been missing.
It will not be. It never will be. If someone is of a mind to disregard one of the most highly regarded laws of all–the law against killing a fellow human–do you honestly believe that they will heed a law barring them possession of a 20-round magazine? Will the next Jared Loughner or Naveed Haq stop himself and think, “Wait, I’m using a semiautomatic rifle with a detachable magazine. Those are illegal here. I can’t go shoot somebody now.” Do you think that will happen? Is that a realistic expectation?
Hopefully you’re not that naive or foolish. I don’t need to cite papers or studies to prove my point. Buford Furrow, Jr., proved it when, in defiance of California’s standing semiautomatic rifle ban (Roberti-Roos, 1989, amended in 1999) in 1999 fired into a Jewish community center in Los Angeles. In that case, the semiautomatic Uzi he used was illegal to possess in California, and obviously he used it. Every one of the shooters I listed and all of the ones you’ll see had something in common: they hated someone and didn’t care if they were caught or punished.
Stop and think. Laws in place since Hammurabi, laws society has needed since society even formed, were broken then and are being broken as you read this. Will one more make a difference? The painfully brutal answer is obviously “no.”
You may ask what measures would stop crime. The answer would be “none.” What might reduce crime? Several things might. Better parental involvement in raising children. Better mental health care. Giving enough of a damn about your neighbor to help when he’s hurting or warn someone if he’s about to act out. Certainly additional laws will not have an effect.
After all, what’s the use of placing a hurdle in our road when these people walk a different path?