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Excessive Gun Control Does Not Work

By Mike Phillips and the Libertarian Party Solutions Team

Every day we hear it on the television, the radio, and from well-meaning friends. They repeat the same claims that were being made nearly a half century ago. They keep telling us that if we just enact one more set of gun control laws we will be much safer. If we limit who can own guns just a little more and turn our rights in to licensed privileges, criminals will behave. If they don’t believe the laws will stop criminals, they believe that restricting the law abiding will dry up the criminal supply of weapons. It seems to make sense on the surface.

However, it greatly ignores the effect of the black market, economic issues, mental health, and culture. It also blatantly ignores the fact that gun control fails at all of its intended goals. Nowhere in the world, where gun controls are excessively tightened, do they produce a net positive impact on crime problems.

Australia enacted extremely harsh laws in reaction to mass shootings. The first step was to ban semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. They didn’t just go after cosmetic features. They went after all of them. The second step was to enact strict licensing rules for gun ownership. The Australian population was told this would end mass shootings and curb violent crime. It didn’t do that. Six years later there was another mass shooting; this time the perpetrator used pistols. So, being brilliant politicians the parliament moved to place magazine limits, caliber limits, barrel length limits, and tighter “sporting use” restrictions on pistols. Then Don Weatherburn came along and exposed everything as a farce. Don Weatherburn just happened to be the head of the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, and an honest government official. He said that there was no evidence the laws had any effect on downward trending crime rates. He was lambasted by gun control advocates for giving ammunition to the pro-liberty people of the world. His response was a study in candor and character.

The fact is that the introduction of those laws did not result in any acceleration of the downward trend in gun homicide. They may have reduced the risk of mass shootings but we cannot be sure because no one has done the rigorous statistical work required to verify this possibility. It is always unpleasant to acknowledge facts that are inconsistent with your own point of view. But I thought that was what distinguished science from popular prejudice.”
Weatherburn, Don. Statistics and gun laws, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 November 2005

That is a fluke, a pure anomaly, some have told me. So, I say, let us look at Brazil. Brazil has enacted a number of tough gun control laws over time. Since 1936 all guns have had to be registered. For years an ownership limit of only two rifles, two pistols and two shotguns (without a federal permit) has been in place. Semi-automatic long guns that use centerfire ammunition are prohibited. Plus, you can only buy one gun per year. Their overall murder rate is more than four-hundred percent higher than in the United States. One astute crime policy observer noted, “We don’t have as many guns [in Brazil] as the United States, but we use them more” (Rubem César Fernandes, executive secretary of Viva Rio, Christian Science Monitor, August 10, 1999). Again, we see that despite the most valiant efforts to stop crime by limiting liberty, only failure ensues.

Now, our politicians want to enact these same laws at home. They ask you to accept that your liberty should be limited simply because they don’t like scary looking guns. This is despite Joe Biden himself saying, “Nothing we’re going to do is going to fundamentally alter or eliminate the possibility of another mass shooting. . .” They know they offer no solutions. So what are our solutions?

Eliminate gun free zones in schools. According to a 2011 report from the Texas Department of Safety concealed carry permit holders commit only 0.2% of all crimes. Of 63,679 people convicted of crimes only one-hundred-twenty were concealed carry permit holders. These aren’t the people you have to worry about going on a shooting spree or killing someone over an argument. In fact, as was evidenced in the Clackamas mall shooting, a concealed carry permit holder can very likely bring a mass shooting to an end by merely presenting his weapon. If a teacher wants to volunteer to carry while on duty there is no reason to stop them.

Simply keep the background check system we have. According to the Regional Justice Information Service the number of NICS background denials turned over to the ATF for investigation is falling. It had fallen by nearly 50% between 2006 and 2010. The vast majority of denials never make it to a field investigator, because they are overturned, canceled, or don’t meet ATF standards for investigation. Of over 72,000 denials submitted to the ATF (in 2010), only 4,732 warranted investigation, and only 4,184 were worthy of being turned over to a prosecutor. Of those turned over to prosecutors only sixty –two were worthy of prosecution. To me that says, if anything the current background check system is overly thorough. If more than 68,000 legal owners are being delayed for every sixty-two prosecutable offenses, the filter is working. Why further restrict law abiding citizens with regulations that don’t work?

Weatherburn, Don. Statistics and gun laws, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 November 2005

Rubem César Fernandes, Chocloates for Guns, Christian Science Monitor, August 10, 1999

Texas Department of Safety Conviction Report 2011

Regional Justice Information Center, Enforcement of The Brady Act 2010


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