Lautenberg: Never Waste A Good Tragedy

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) along with Senators Reed (D-RI) and Feinstein (D-CA)- all decidedly on the liberal side- recently yet again introduced legislation to close the alleged “gun show loophole.”  This photo-op came on the anniversary of the Columbine and Virginia Tech murders- two tragedies which gun control advocates regularly trot out in support of their proposals.  With the standard, “If only we had this law, perhaps this tragedy could have been avoided” statement, they make the claim that increased restrictions on gun ownership somehow automatically translates into less gun violence.  It is a dubious “perhaps” at best.  Ignorant of the facts to how the perpetrators in these cases obtained their guns, they nevertheless forge ahead, often with family members of the slain nodding their heads in approval in the background.  It is also interesting to note that on practically every anniversary of Columbine, Lautenberg uses it as an opportunity to advance his gun control agenda.  If ever grandstanding took advantage of a tragedy, Frank Lautenberg is the poster boy.  Except this year, the alleged urgency is greater because his proposed legislation would solve the drug-related violence in Mexico.

So what exactly gets Lautenberg’s knickers twisted every year?  Firearms dealers are required to be federally licensed.  To sell a firearm, they are required to run a background check on prospective buyers through NICS.  This is federal law and takes priority over any state laws.  However, some (not all) states allow the sale of guns from private collectors or citizens who are not federally licensed and thus not required to run the background checks.  Many states ban outright the sale of guns through private transactions.  Lautenberg’s “loophole” problem is that he either, through federal law, wants to ban private sales in all states, or require the background checks of private sales at gun shows.  Under Bill Clinton and George Bush (and I suspect Barack Obama), the Justice Department has definitively proven that less than 2% of guns used in criminal activities were purchased at gun shows.  Even if Lautenberg is right in his thought processes, it would solve less than 2% of the alleged problem.  One is left with the impression that his proposal addresses a non-problem in the first place.  Furthermore, by closing the alleged “gun show loophole” and requiring background checks and waiting periods and all that, it does absolutely nothing to prevent the private sale of a gun in the parking lot.

Many of Lautenberg’s claims need to be clarified.  First, he and others claim that gun violence kill “12 children every day” in America.  This gives the impression that close to 5,000 toddlers are killed by guns every year.  But actual Justice Department figures prove these claims to be false.  Most of the deaths of “children” at the hands of guns involve those “children” aged 16-20 and gang-related.  Is the problem the gun or the gang?  Second, as was mentioned earlier, guns purchased at gun shows represent a very small fraction of the problem.  When you look at that small fraction of crimes committed with guns purchased at gun shows, the vast majority were purchased legally after passing background checks.  Third, regarding Columbine, Dylan Kliebold and Eric Harris violated 20 firearms laws.  If Lautenberg had his way, they would have violated 21 laws.  Two of the weapons used were purchased by Kliebold’s girlfriend who, ironically, would have not violated any law.  Would one more law have prevented that tragedy?  Fourth, regarding those automatic weapons allegedly purchased at gun shows and ending up in the hands of the Mexican drug cartels, it is true, according to Eric Holder, that 90% of the traceable guns come from the United States.  But traceable guns under American laws account for a small fraction of all the guns used by Mexican drug cartels.  It is like saying 90% of 2% is a problem.  Fact: Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala is notorious for gun trafficking in Latin America.  Fact: most of the guns used by Mexican drug cartels originate from manufacturers in China, Spain and Isreal with no “stop through” in the U.S.  Fact: the vast majority of the guns used are Belgian-manufactured M-16’s.  Fact: Over 30,000 members of the Mexican army desert every year and their weapon of choice is- you guessed it- Belgian-made M-16’s.

Lautenberg’s proposals are nothing more than “feel good” legislation that do little, if anything, to address what amounts to a non-problem.  At the very best, it addresses but 1% of the perceived problem.  It is quite understandable that Lautenberg would be left’s point man in their desire to remove guns from the hands of ALL Americans.  This is the same Senator who, on 6/28/08, requested that the federal government examine the danger presented to children by toy guns.  On the same day, this is the man who stood in the Capitol and railed against the “activist Supreme Court” of George Bush for striking down the D.C. handgun ban as unconstitutional.  To Lautenberg, it was “extreme” to interpret the Second Amendment as stating that Americans have the right to bear arms.  Some may argue that if this is such a small deal, then what’s the problem?  The problem is that it is a slippery slope and the gradual erosion of an affirmed constitutional right.  The more obstacles placed in the way to exercise the right, the greater that right is weakened.

Study after study has indicated that in the 31 states that have concealed weapon permit laws, they have, on average a violent crime rate 24% lower than those states that disallow the carrying of concealed weapons.  Their homicide rates are 19% lower and their armed robbery rates are 39% lower.  In fact, the nine states with the lowest violent crime rates are all right-to-carry states.  Conversely, D.C., which had the most restrictive handgun laws in America, was regularly cited as the murder capital of the nation!  It is estimated that guns are used in self-defense about 2 million times every year (rarely being fired).  At 2 million incidents, this represents about three times the number of actual violent crimes committed with a gun.  If anything, guns prevented or foiled 2 million violent crimes!  Analysis of waiting period requirements before and after enactmen of the Brady Law have concluded that they make no difference in violent, gun-related crime rates and this is coming from gun control advocates.  People like Lautenberg often look to Europe as an example of how gun control decreases violent crime.  But, after Britain passed their draconian gun laws, violent crime involving guns increased 40%.  Why?  Because criminals felt emboldened in this new “gun free” environment.  Conversely, countries with lax gun control laws like Isreal and Switzerland have violent crime rates at or lower than American levels.    The United Nations itself has concluded that gun control laws have little or no effect on violent crime rates across a wide spectrum of nations and cultures.  In 1976, Georgia enacted a law which allowed the carrying of concealed weapons.  That same year, Wisconsin enacted a law requiring a 48-hour waiting period before possessing a gun.  In the five year period after enacting these laws, the homicide rate decreased 21% in Georgia while the rate in Wisconsin increased 33%.  Regardless of gun show loopholes- if they even exist- criminals will get guns, just as drinkers got alcohol during Prohibition and drug addicts get drugs today.  No amount of onerous regulation will prevent this fact other than to keep guns out of the hands of law-abiding Americans.

The evidence is abundantly clear!  Gun control laws do not decrease violent crime nor do they prevent tragedies like Columbine or Virginia Tech, nor will they prevent the inevitable tragedy in the future.  The belief that they do- as Lautenberg, Reed and Feinstein believe- flies in the face of reality.  Either he is remarkably naive or remarkably stupid and ignorant.  Lautenberg has been nothing but consistent in his opposition to gun ownership.  His record is complete with legislation and remarks supporting every form of restriction on legal ownership (including toy guns!) thus making illegal perfectly legal, constitutionally protected behaviors.  His recent call for legislation is nothing more than political grandstanding at its perverse worse, trotting out the victim’s survivors to advance his agenda to further enhance his liberal credentials.  Lautenberg, Reed and Feinstein should be ashamed of themselves for their actions in furtherance of their personal agendas.