The United States has far too many gun laws. There are laws about where you buy a gun, who can buy a gun, who can possess a gun, who can carry a gun, what kind of gun can be bought, shot, loaned, carried or given, where a gun may be possessed, purchased, shot or traded, what kind of ammunition can be sold, possessed, made, or shot, and where it can be at what times.
There are laws about how big, small, old, new, where a gun is or was made, and what it is made of.
These laws have proliferated across thousands of polities across the United States as politicians have used the laws to disarm out of favor minorities, political opponents, and worked to create “do something!” laws which play to media driven hysteria.
In the colonies and the early Republic, there were extremely few gun laws. The rare gun laws were almost never enforced, in part because there was little serious mechanism to enforce them. The electorate would not accept any significant attempt to disarm them. Some early laws required people to be armed.
If you wish to understand how few gun laws there were, read the majority and minority opinions in Bruen, the Second Amendment decision from the Supreme Court in 2022. From Bruen p. 4:
Respondents next direct the Court to the history of the Colonies and early Republic, but they identify only three restrictions on public carry from that time. While the Court doubts that just three colonial regulations could suffice to show a tradition of public-carry regulation, even looking at these laws on their own terms, the Court is not convinced that they regulated public carry akin to the New York law at issue. The statutes essentially prohibited bearing arms in a way that spread “fear” or “terror” among the people, including by carrying of “dangerous and unusual weapons.” See 554 U. S., at 627. Whatever the likelihood that handguns were considered “dangerous and unusual” during the colonial period, they are today “the quintessential self-defense weapon.” Id., at 629. Thus, these colonial laws provide no justification for laws restricting the public carry of weapons that are unquestionably in common use today. Pp. 37–42.
The debate in the decision centers around a handful of laws. Thirty years after the ratification of the Second Amendment, a few states passed laws banning concealed carry of weapons if you were not traveling.
In the early to mid-19th century, some States began enacting laws that proscribed the concealed carry of pistols and other small weapons.
There was no regulation of the making of guns, almost none about the selling of guns, and almost none about the carry of guns by citizens.
Guns were essentially unregulated, bought and sold freely, and manufactured by anyone who wished to do so.
The closest thing to gun regulation was the enforcement of patents, which was done by lawsuit brought by the owner of the patent, decades after the Constitution was ratified.
A significant increase of gun laws in the United States came about during and after Reconstruction (1865-1875), where state governments worked hard to create laws to disarm black people and other disfavored minorities.
Growth of gun laws accelerated with the popularity of Progressive philosophy among intellectuals and politicians about 1900. A basic concept of Progressivism was and is a disdain for the limits imposed on government by the Constitution. Gun control is in Progressivism’s DNA.
In cities, organized crime in conjunction with corrupt city government worked to disarm people to protect their enforcers, such as the Sullivan law in New York, passed by the notorious “Big Tim” Sullivan.
Sullivan knew the gangs would flout the law, but appearances were more important than results. Young toughs took to sewing the pockets of their coats shut, so that cops couldn’t plant firearms on them, and many gangsters stashed their weapons inside their girlfriends’ “bird cages” — wire-mesh fashion contraptions around which women would wind their hair.
Ordinary citizens, on the other hand, were disarmed, which solved another problem: Gangsters had been bitterly complaining to Tammany that their victims sometimes shot back at them.
The number of laws regulating firearms exploded when Progressive ideology came to dominate politics and government, from the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1932 to about 1994.
None of these laws have been found to be effective in reducing crime or increasing safety. The potential effects of these laws are so small as to be nearly impossible to measure, as was determined by a comprehensive Rand Study in 2020. The reasons for this are found in a video interview of Aaron Brown, an expert on the use of statistics.
In order to make policy changes appear to be effective, proponents of gun laws create studies which are examples of how to lie with statistics.
Any study which claims a law restricting guns reduces murder with guns while not mentioning any changes in the overall murder rate, is lying with statistics. If the murder rate remains the same or goes up, while murder committed with guns goes down, the law has not been effective. Only a substitution effect has happened.
Similarly, when the suicide rate remains the same or goes up, even if suicide with guns is reduced, there has not been any positive effect.
Gun laws have effects. Those effects are mostly negative.
The results are millions of people whose lives are disrupted, who are convicted of crimes for exercising their Constitutional rights; whose property is stolen under the color of law, and whose ability to defend themselves is severely compromised.
These are serious costs. Those who push to disarm people ignore the costs of their measures. Those who bear most of the costs are the poor, who are most vulnerable to the machinations of the legal system, and the middle class, who have resources which can be plundered by the government, careers which can be destroyed, and property which can be confiscated.
Because of the multitude of gun laws in the USA, it is easy for a person to run afoul of the law through simple necessity.
In many “bad” neighborhoods, otherwise law abiding people determine that carrying a gun illegally is a lesser danger than the risk of being caught unarmed by the numerous human predators. Most guns are confiscated from people for ‘illegal’ carry.
When the Supreme Court decision in Bruen was delivered, public defenders in New York City cheered:
This state of affairs has left some New York Times journalists scratching their heads in surprise. As a recent Times headline put it: “Unlikely Fans of Supreme Court Ruling on Guns: Public Defenders.” The accompanying article describes the Black Attorneys of Legal Aid, the Bronx Defenders, and other groups as “unexpected” allies of the gun rights movement.
Anti-slavery activists had long championed the Second Amendment as necessary to freedom for former slaves. It was Frederic Douglas who wrote of three safeguards to liberty:
.. the liberties of the American people were dependent upon the Ballot-box, the Jury-box, and the Cartridge-box, that without these no class of people could live and flourish in this country…
The mass movement to reform gun carry laws by removing requirements for permits is a good start. Half the states have restored what is known as Constitutional or permitless carry.
Guns are not the only arms protected by the Second Amendment. Laws against the carry of knives are being repealed as well, with excellent work done by Knife Rights, the second front in restoring the Second Amendment.
There is much which remains to be done. Laws restricting magazine size, barrel length, or the legality of gun mufflers (suppressors/silencers), are obvious targets for repeal.
Laws which prohibit armed citizens from going where armed law officers can go should be repealed.
Laws which prohibit non-violent offenders from being armed should be repealed.
Laws which prohibit purchasing firearms across state lines should be repealed.
Laws which require government permission before purchase of a gun should be repealed.
All of these laws are based on a false premise: More guns create more problems.
It is not true. It appeals to those who do not own guns, because it offers something for nothing. They believe they lose nothing, because they do not have guns. In reality, their freedoms are also restricted as the Leviathan of the government restricts the ability of everyone to do anything.
As the numbers and percentages of gun owners in the United States have climbed to the highest numbers ever, the political repercussions are coming.
Over 21 million people have carry permits. By definition, they can and do vote. Gun ownership is extremely difficult to measure in the USA, but appears to be over 100 million. Increasing percentages of minorities and women are becoming gun owners, year after year.
Thousands of gun laws across the United States have destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives and done untold economic damage. They were passed with lies and false promises. It is time to repeal most of them.
©2022 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.
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