January 11, 2013

Some sensible words about gun control

Whether you agree with Robert Levy or not on all points, this article in the Washington Post is an example of the sort of discussion we could be having about guns, instead of the current nuts vs nazis name calling.

Washington Post - Robert A. Levy was a driving force behind the landmark 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the Supreme Court struck down the District’s gun laws and recognized an individual right to keep and bear arms. Not only was he one of the lawyers on the case, but he also personally funded the litigation. Levy, who is also chairman of the board of the D.C.-based Cato Institute, spoke with Style’s Eva Rodriguez. What does the defender of gun rights think of the talk about new gun regulations in the aftermath of the Newtown, Conn shootings? You might be surprised. Below are edited excerpts.

On banning high-capacity ammunition magazines:

There are three problems that occur to me. One is that homemade magazines are easy to assemble; it’s just a box with a spring. The second is there is not any effective way to confiscate maybe 25 million high-capacity magazines that are now in circulation. And third, a significant number of existing firearms are configured for 12- to 19-round magazines. So I think a ban on any size of less than 20 rounds would meet with great, great resistance. All of that said, I don’t share the NRA’s view that we shouldn’t consider a ban on high-capacity magazines. I think a ban on magazines of 20 rounds and above seems to me to be reasonable.

On banning ‘assault weapons’:

We had an assault weapons ban from 1994 to 2004. The New York Times, after the ban expired, reported that despite dire predictions that the streets would be awash in military-style guns, expiration of the assault weapons ban has not set off a sustained surge in sales or caused any noticeable increase in gun crime. There are, of course, millions of these so-called assault weapons, and they’re used by millions of Americans for all sorts of things, including hunting, self-defense, target shooting, even the Olympics. Criminals use handguns because assault weapons are expensive and they’re difficult to conceal.

Now, [the Supreme Court] said that the Second Amendment would likely pose no barrier to outlawing weapons that are not in common use and are especially dangerous. And we have proof of that because fully automated weapons, like machine guns, have been essentially banned since 1934.

I don’t consider myself an expert on the technical features of firearms, and so I’m not prepared to say exactly which weapons would go on the list and which shouldn’t, but I think experts should be able to come up with a pretty good list — obviously not needed for self-defense, obviously dangerous, not in common use. And that would be the new assault weapons ban.

 On the ‘slippery slope’:

The NRA and the gun lobby had argued that each new gun regulation was a step down this slippery slope, leading ultimately to confiscation. . . . That clearly is what some radicals among gun controllers had in mind. But this is a new environment now. I think [the Supreme Court’s decisions] have taken the slippery slope argument pretty much off the table because [the court] has now established — for the first time ever — some hard-and-fast rules. There’s some wiggle room in those rules, to be sure. But at least we do know now that there’s an individual right to defend yourself, and a wholesale ban on a type of weapon that does have self-defense utility and that is in common use is not going to be permitted by the Supreme Court.

On gun registration:

Criminals don’t register firearms. I mean, what the heck? Why would a guy who’s not deterred by a law against murder be deterred by a law that says he has to register a firearm? It’s only law-abiding citizens who register weapons, so I’m pretty skeptical about the value of registration.

On the other hand, I’m not adamant about resisting it. Again, I think the burden is on government to come up with some evidence [that it improves public safety], and so far they haven’t met that burden...

On federal background checks:

The one thing that’s pretty clear is that the existing [background information database] is not being provided the information it needs to keep the weapons away from mentally deranged people. Whether that information is so intrusive that it does create civil liberties problems I’m not prepared to say, because I don’t know enough about the subject. But I add, though, that I do think this is not a legitimate function of the federal government. I think this is part of a state’s police power, which includes protecting residents against rights-violating activities, such as the criminal use of firearms.


Dan Lynch said...

Levy's remarks are not that far out of line, but ....

-- if only 2.5% of murders are committed with rifles of any kind, let alone "assault rifles," why are even bothering to discuss assault rifles ?

-- since homicide rates correlate strongly to economic inequality, why isn't a Presidential task force preparing recommendations to address economic inequality ?

-- since urban homicide rates correlate to unemployment rates, why isn't a Presidential task force preparing recommendations to address unemployment ?

-- since homicide rates correlate to the prohibition on recreational drugs, why doesn't the President decriminalize pot ?

-- since black homicide rates are 5 times white homicide rates, even though blacks and whites have the same degree of access to firearms, why is a Presidential task force focused on firearms but not racial issues ?

-- since many of the mass murderers had a known history of mental issues, why isn't there a Presidential task force on locking up people with mental issues ?

-- since children who experience violence are more likely to become violent adults, why don't we outlaw physical punishment of children, as most 1st world countries have done ?

-- why are we surprised that there is a culture of violence in a country where the President has a "kill list"

In other words, why aren't we having a conversation about the root causes of violence, instead of the symptoms of violence ?

Anonymous said...

to address lynchs 2nd and 3rd points, the powerful business interests,i.e.,oil,banking, insurance, pharma, etc, as well as the republican party, have no interest in addressing economic inequality or unemployment.

Anonymous said...

Better watch out, Dan, ideas like yours are subversive of ruling-class priorities. That's dangerous.