Murder is illegal. People still commit murder. Therefore, we shouldn't enforce laws against murder.
Silly right? No one in their right mind would argue that we should legalize murder because the laws against homicide are not perfect. But that is exactly the logic being used by many on the gun rights side of the gun debate. Consider this sentence from the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action: "Gun control has not worked because criminals, by definition, do not obey the law."
Again, what if we were to apply the same logic to other things:
Traffic laws do not work, because drivers refuse to slow down.How about this:
Laws against burglary do not work because burglars, criminals by definition, do not obey the law.As I said, that would be absurd. But no one seems to blink when this kind of logic comes from the politically powerful NRA.
Let me say this: I am sympathetic to a second-amendment defense of gun rights -- the founders viewed the right to bear arms not only as necessary to ensure the speedy formation of militias, but as a necessary bulwark against a tyrannical government. That defense, however, is limited in the same way that other rights stipulated in the Bill of Rights are limited. We can't scream fire in a crowded theater, after all, and our speech rights in commercial situations are limited to matters of fact (knowably false claims can be adjudicated in civil and sometimes criminal court). And the vast military arsenal wielded by our government does leave the owner of the individual gun at a distinct disadvantage.
That said, gun rights do exist, but not without limits. The need to protect the general citizenry from gun violence demands that we look at every aspect of ownership -- from what kinds of guns we should allow, to where and how we buy them.
It is easier, in most states, to buy a gun than to buy a car. It is easier to get a gun license than a driver's license. And access to ammunition online and by mail order makes it virtually impossible to track.
This brings me, of course, to today's announcement by President Barack Obama of his sweeping plan to reform the nation's gun laws. As described by The New York Times, the mix of legislation will include
a ban on new assault weapons, limits on high-capacity magazines, expanded background checks for gun purchases and tougher gun trafficking laws to crack down on the spread of weapons across the country.
He also signed
The proposal does what is necessary, in my view, without infringing on the right of Americans to own guns. What it does, however, if enforce a level of responsibility and accountability on gun owners and sellers that has been lacking and that has existed in other areas for a long time.nearly two-dozen executive actions designed to increase the enforcement of existing gun laws and improve the flow of information among federal agencies in order to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and others who shouldn’t have them.
The NRA issued an immediate press release, accusing the president of "Attacking firearms and ignoring children," saying that it
is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation. Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy.What the NRA has proposed -- and alludes to in its statement -- is the notion that we can safeguard children by arming more adults. It is a notion, at once, demonstrably false and potentially laughable -- only the stakes are too high. The proliferation of legal and illegal guns have turned too many of our cities into war zones and has left us with the highest rate of gun deaths in the civilized world. We need to change this reality.
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Here is an interesting, three-part examination of gun culture comparing the United States to other nations. It is very worthwhile reading.
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