Sunday, July 4, 2010

Too much governing, not enough thinking

The laws and politics surrounding guns form a perfect microcosm of over-governance in general. There are too many laws, rules, regulations, forms and stamps, all promulgated with the assurance these things will make everyone safer. The enforcement burden is enormous, upon those tasked to carry it out, and the rules can be onerous upon those simply wishing to exercise their right to keep and bear arms.

The laws are more onerous in some places than others. Chicago, for instance, is putting into place a vast array of restrictions to interfere with the purchase and use of handguns. This follows upon the U.S. Supreme Court telling them, in McDonald, that they could not ban pistols outright. It is clear that the intent of Chicago's new law is to make owning a handgun seem not worthwhile, when you look at all the restrictions and the draconian penalties for any infractions.

No, it's more than that. It is an instance of pettiness and nastiness toward people who want to do something the mayor doesn't like. (Those who recall what happened to Meigs Field, an airport placed where the mayor didn't like it, may see a familiar pattern here.)

Chicago is, of course, an extreme example. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. It would seem to me that a right that "shall not be infringed" is being infringed pretty throughly. This will likely get sorted out eventually through local politics, which are always curious to watch in the city of 'da machine.'

In the many places around the country that have less in the way of restrictions, we still have laws in too much abundance. Some are state laws, some are federal. The ATF web site is a good place to start in figuring out the welter of restrictions. Dey is a whole lotta regulatin' goin' on, I say!

What has all this achieved for us? In addition to employing a great many bureaucrats, our gun laws serve also to insure there is a thriving black market in weapons of all kinds. Those planning to do some kind of evil with a weapon do not go down to the gun store and sign a form. You may take that as a matter of common sense. The heavy scrutiny on the law abiding does nothing to hinder the criminal, who evades it.

Our plethora of gun laws also has the effect of chilling the exercise of a right our nation's founders saw as essential to public safety. The founders did not have the advantage of reading John Lott's excellent book, More Guns, Less Crime, but the commonsense of the matter had always been that one sword keeps another in its sheath, and they meant to keep the right to arms open to the citizenry.

Are we, now, free to keep and bear arms? The question here is how free is free, or to put it another way, how hampered does a right have to be before we say it is infringed? Of course some commonsense limitations on the right have applied from the outset. Let us grant that some limitations are appropriate and necessary. But they are fewer in number than many nowadays suppose.

Alaska, Arizona and Vermont have what seem to me good sound policies on carrying weapons: You may do so. If you may lawfully possess a weapon you may carry it with you, concealed. No carry permit is required. (If you may not own a weapon due to criminality, insanity and so on, you are in a whole lot of trouble if you pack one. Use it in a crime and the law will come down on you like a hod of bricks.) The reason this appeals to my sense of reason and fairness is the criminals aren't going to apply for carry permits and in the process tip off the cops they are packing. So a law limiting the bearing of arms has no particular effect on criminals. The laws of Alaska, Arizona and Vermont punish criminal possession and use, which is right, while leaving the law abiding alone, which is also right.

Now that the national mood seems to be swinging in favor of the right to keep and bear arms, we in the so called gun culture should be continually asking the question, just what gun laws do we really need, and which can  we do away with? It seems clear we have too darned many.

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