Do We Want Better Enforcement of Misguided Gun Restrictions?

“The single most important thing we can do to prevent gun
violence and mass shootings,” President Obama
said last week, “is to make sure those who would commit acts of
violence cannot get access to guns.” Toward that end, he wants
to require background checks not just for sales by federally
licensed firearms dealers (as under current law) but for all gun
transfers except those between relatives.This idea seems to be the most popular of Obama’s gun control
proposals, supported by nine out of 10 respondents in a recent

CBS News poll. Yet it is unlikely to stop mass shootings, and
enforcing it would require the sort of surveillance that has long
been anathema to defenders of the Second Amendment, exposing
millions of peaceful people to the threat of gun confiscation and
criminal prosecution.Although an expanded background check requirement is ostensibly
a response to last month’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School
in Newtown, Connecticut, it would not have stopped the gunman in
that attack, who used firearms legally purchased by his mother.
Even if he had tried to buy guns, it seems he would have passed a
background check because he did not have a disqualifying criminal
or psychiatric record.That is typically the case in mass shootings,
observes Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox.
And if they could not pass a background check, Fox says, “mass
killers could always find an alternative way of securing the needed
weaponry, even if they had to steal from family members or
friends.”  Meanwhile, to make sure that every gun buyer undergoes a
background check, the government would need to know where all the
guns are at any given time. Although Obama did not mention that
little detail last week, The Washington Post
reported earlier this month that the administration was
“seriously considering” creating a system that would “track the
movement and sale of weapons through a national database.”
 Second Amendment supporters historically have opposed gun
registration, fearing that it could ultimately lead to
confiscation, something that has actually
happened in places such as Canada, Great Britain, Australia,
California, and New York City. While wholesale disarmament would be
clearly unconstitutional in this country, confiscation of guns that
legislators arbitrarily deem unnecessary or excessively dangerous
is easier to imagine, especially given Obama’s support for a new,
stricter ban on “assault weapons.”Perhaps fear of confiscation seems paranoid to you. But consider
what would happen if the federal government merely enforced
existing law through expanded background checks and improved
records—another step nearly everyone seems to think is
self-evidently sensible. Such a crackdown would reveal the folly of
restrictions, which prohibit gun ownership by several absurdly
broad categories of people under the threat of a five-year prison
term.One disqualifier is a felony record, whether or not the offense
involved violence or even a victim. It is doubtful that check
kiters, marijuana growers, or unauthorized farm workers (another
banned category) are substantially more likely to go on a shooting
rampage than the average person.Federal law also bars “an unlawful user of…any
controlled substance” from owning a gun. Think about that for
a minute. If you smoke pot or use a relative’s Vicodin or Xanax,
you have no right to keep and bear arms. Survey
data indicate that nearly 40 million Americans have used
“illicit drugs” in the last year, and the true number is probably
higher, since people may be reluctant to admit illegal behavior
even when their answers are confidential.One of Obama’s “common-sense
steps” to reduce gun violence is better sharing of data by
federal agencies, including lists of employees or job applicants
who have
failed drug tests. Seeking such information from state agencies
and private employers seems equally logical.This is one of those situations where “better” could be worse.
Although better enforcement of existing restrictions on gun
ownership sounds unobjectionable, it would unjustly deny millions
of people the right to armed self-defense.

See the article here:

Do We Want Better Enforcement of Misguided Gun Restrictions?

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