By PETER T. TOMARAS
The gun control debate needs a reality check, and I will provide it, aware that those hostile to firearms do not welcome rational viewpoints. This is because people who fear, hate, or simply do not like guns — and do not possess them — do not want others to employ or enjoy them, either. And that is the first irrationality I contest: the effort by some to restrict the legal activities of others.
Government efforts to control human behavior by regulating alcohol, addictive drugs, tobacco, sex, fatty foods, and sugary beverages have consistently failed. Lawmakers cannot legislate morality, nor prevent abuse or misuse of anything. Efforts to remove firearms from law-abiding citizens are as indisputably unconstitutional as are attempts to curtail free speech. Only police states do this, and before they suppress free speech (our First Amendment), they first seize firearms (our Second Amendment).
But, say the freedom restrainers: guns are dangerous, evil, and kill innocent people. In untrained or criminal hands, a gun can be dangerous, but is no more inherently evil than a knife, chain saw, baseball bat, or motor vehicle — none of which kills without human negligence or misuse. Confronted by the impossibility of doing away with all guns (as Sen. Feinstein and Piers Morgan fain would do), those who dislike guns demonize certain ones (today it is assaulttype rifles like the AR-15) as "more evil," or "only designed to kill people." At best, that statement is ignorant; less euphemistically, it is an outright lie.
First, references to AR-15s as "high-powered" and "unduly lethal" are untrue. Most common hunting rifles are more powerful. Second, rather than having "no sporting purpose," the AR-15 and clones are the most popular rifles in America, used widely for legitimate shooting activities. Thousands shoot them nationwide in sanctioned competitions. At the 2006 National Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio, the winners of the Whistler "Boy" junior match were two mid-teens girls, using AR-15 rifles.
Where they are rarely used, Sandy Hook notwithstanding, is in the commission of crimes. Gun-hostile people exploit tragedies, leveraging emotional pleas and disinformation to promote feel-good laws that are useless in stopping deranged killers or gang violence. One typical distortion is the claim that "guns kill more children than cancer." The "children" referenced include teenage gang members involved in the majority of murders in our major cities. A second deception is TV reportage showing someone firing a fullyautomatic assault rifle, as did "CBS Evening News" in early March. This is a dishonest attempt to sway an unaware public: full-auto guns have been illegal for decades.
Gun control backers resort to these fraudulent ploys because they can produce no legitimate studies or facts to support their "common sense" demands. In contrast, the "gun lobby" (really the gun-owners lobby), cites statistics from unbiased sources such as the FBI. Congress allowed the Clintonera ban on assault rifles to expire because FBI studies showed that the law had no effect on crime. Laws never prevent sociopaths from committing criminal acts.
However, in every state where shall-issue concealed carry has been enacted, violent crime has decreased. No state has ever repealed its concealed carry law. Punishing thousands of law-abiding citizens for the actions of a few mentally ill sociopaths is like punishing all Muslims for the actions of radical extremists.
Sometimes police prevent crimes, but mostly they respond after the carjacking, rape or murder. Who protects us, and our neighbors, at the moment of threat? The only defense against an armed bad guy is an armed good guy, a fact from which gunban advocates recoil in horror. They so abhor that idea that they insist upon "gun-free" schools, libraries, universities, etc. — the opposite of common sense. We protect banks, politicians, airports, and celebrities with armed guards — but not our children? Public awareness that someone in schools is armed will deter cowardly murderers who seek defenseless victims.
Limiting magazine capacity is another exercise in futility. I do not own an AR-15, but I compete in action matches with semiautomatic handguns that hold 1927 cartridges. John Browning produced a semi-auto pistol in 1911, and in 1935 came the first staggered-column magazine for semi-autos, holding 13 cartridges. Since the 1980s, police agencies nationwide have adopted pistols holding 15-18 rounds.
The magazine capacity termed "high" is, in truth, standard, or normal, for contemporary firearms. With millions already in circulation, restricting "hi-cap" magazines will have zero effect on crime — another bogus demand by those ignorant of how guns work.
A recent "study" by a biased group claiming that strict gun laws reduce shooting deaths is deceptively constructed, and is refuted by high murder counts in Chicago, Detroit and Baltimore, which have highly restrictive gun laws. The nation's most dangerous town, despite virtual martial law, is East St. Louis — no concealed carry, of course. The truth is that firearm homicides rank far down the list behind deaths from alcohol, poisoning, medical errors, autos, and murder by other means. In short, our perceived gun-crime problem is societal, and cannot be reduced by gun bans.
So what can be done? I'll defer comment on violent computer games and films, and cite three essential steps with which the NRA agrees. First, recognize that "gun-free" zones actually invite massacres. Second, in nearly every case of mass murder, family or psychologists were forewarned. We must add mentally unstable people to the National Instant Check System (NICS), even if psychologists oppose this. Third, we must increase — and enforce — existing penalties for gun crimes. Even in Champaign County, the charges frequently dropped in routine plea-bargaining are gun-related, sometimes Class X felonies. If gang punks knew they would serve 20 years for merely possessing a gun illegally, gun crime would be reduced. Sadly, courts tend to oppose mandatory sentences because prisons are overcrowded with non-violent drug offenders.
Viewed objectively, the truth is unassailable: those hostile to guns make emotional, "do-something" arguments that in reality do nothing but eviscerate constitutional freedoms. If we dump the Second Amendment as irrelevant, the entire Bill of Rights becomes vulnerable.
Peter T. Tomaras is a Champaign-based hospitality industry consultant and writer.