Tighter Gun Laws Will Leave Libertarians Better-Armed Than Everybody ElsePosted: November 17, 2017
In a politically polarized America, gun control is destined to be obeyed primarily by its advocates.
J.D. Tuccille reports: Has it occurred to anybody that when restrictive laws are imposed, they’re likely to have the greatest impact on the people most willing to obey them?
The past week saw yet another invocation by the usual suspects of the supposed need for tighter gun controls. This time, we had a special emphasis from lawmakers on such “innovations” as banning people convicted of domestic abuse from owning firearms—which is to say, restrictions that are already on the books and have been in place for years, but which haven’t had the wished-for effect. Honestly, so many of gun-controllers’ preferred laws have been implemented that they can’t be expected to know that their dreams have already come true. But laws aren’t magic spells that ward off evil; they’re threats of consequences against violators, enforced by imperfect and often incompetent people, and noted or ignored by frequently resistant targets.
Gun controls then, like other restrictions and prohibitions, have their biggest effect on those who agree with them and on the unlucky few scofflaws caught by the powers-that-be, and are otherwise mostly honored in the breach. As a result, gun laws intended to reduce the availability of firearms are likely to leave those who most vigorously disagree with them disproportionately well-armed relative to the rest of society. That raises some interesting prospects in a country as politically polarized and factionalized as the United States.
That gun restrictions are widely disobeyed is a well-documented fact. I’ve written before that Connecticut’s recent “assault weapons” registration law achieved an underwhelming 15 percent compliance rate, and New York’s similar requirement resulted in 5 percent compliance. When California imposed restrictions on such weapons in 1990, at the end of the registration period “only about 7,000 weapons of an estimated 300,000 in private hands in the state have been registered,” The New York Times reported. When New Jersey went a step further that same year and banned the sale and possession of “assault weapons,” disobedience was so widespread that the Times concluded, “More than a year after New Jersey imposed the toughest assault-weapons law in the country, the law is proving difficult if not impossible to enforce.” That’s in states with comparatively strong public support for restrictions on gun ownership.
Across the Atlantic, despite varying but generally tight laws on gun ownership, “Contrary to widely-accepted national myths, public gun ownership is commonplace in most European states,” according to the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey. How can that be? “Public officials readily admit that unlicensed owners and unregistered guns greatly outnumber legal ones,” possibly because of “a pervasive culture of non-cooperation with public authorities” in many places.
Just a thought, but existing examples of defiance of gun laws in the United States might be an indication that “a pervasive culture of non-cooperation with public authorities” is exactly what we should expect in response to any future successes gun controllers might achieve legislation-wise.
And restrictions don’t affect everybody the same way. Some people embrace them, while others reject them. And no issue is as politically divisive as the gun debate.
In the United States, gun ownership and opinions on gun laws tend to divide rather starkly along tribal political lines … (read more)