A spate of high-profile school shootings has placed gun control at the top of the public agenda. Politicians are engaged in frenzied attempts to prevent gun violence — or at least give the appearance of doing so. Celebrities have lately added glitz to the cause. But is there substance behind the show?
President Clinton wants to require background checks for purchases at gun shows. The U.S. Senate passed a juvenile crime bill with such a requirement on Thursday. But background checks are already the law in California and elsewhere.
Sen. Diane Feinstein, who holds a concealed-weapons permit, seeks a ban on the importation of high-capacity magazines and a trigger safety-lock requirement. But U.S. manufacturers are already forbidden to make these magazines and have already voluntarily agreed to the lock requirement.
Rosie O'Donnell wonders why the National Rifle Association won't compromise on "assault weapons." But those guns, such as the AK-47 and the notorious Tec-9, have been restricted by federal and state laws since 1992.
In short, this flurry of lawmaking and big name hemming and hawing misses the point. In fact, a very small percentage of the population is responsible for committing a large percentage of the nation's crime.
The solution is simple: Strike at the "root cause" of crime and the crime rates will fall. The root cause here is criminals — not social pathology or the social construction of crime, or the host of other reasons fabricated by egghead criminologists and politicians.
California's three-strikes law, for example, has been effective in taking a significant number of habitual criminals out of circulation. Crime rates have fallen dramatically in the Golden State.
Now apply the same reasoning to gun violence. Only a very small percentage of guns are used to commit crimes. Law-abiding citizens don't use their guns for criminal purposes. But they do frequently use them for self-defense.
Some national surveys estimate that as many as three million law-abiding citizens each year use guns in this manner to protect themselves and their property. In most instances, no shots are fired and no reports are filed with police.
Without exception, states with more liberal concealed-carry laws have seen dramatic drops in crime. The reason? Criminals prefer to prey upon the defenseless and are deterred by the prospect that they might be confronted by an armed citizen.
A recent study published by the University of Chicago concludes that liberalized conceal-carry laws are the most effective way to reduce crime. States that do not allow the carrying of concealed weapons have substantially higher rates of violent crime.
The new gun-control proposals address the wrong issue by seeking to disarm the law-abiding citizen rather than the criminal. Such an approach does hold advantages for politicians, however. Law-abiding citizens will obey any new gun laws, draconian though they may be. This will create the dangerous illusion that something serious is being done about gun violence.
Naturally, criminals will not obey these new gun laws any more than they obey laws against bank robbery, car-jacking, or robbery right now. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the criminals who carried out the Columbine massacre last month, violated more than a dozen laws already on the books.
Forget the current schemes, then. Here is a modest proposal that goes to the heart of the problem: Any new federal and state law should impose a mandatory death sentence for anyone who uses a gun in the commission of a crime.
Too harsh? If lawmakers are too squeamish for this, or perceive too many constitutional objections to a mandatory death penalty, then the use of a gun in criminal activity should automatically be considered "three strikes."
This proposal is modest because it is aimed directly at the small percentage of the population that commits crimes. It leaves law-abiding citizens free to exercise their Second Amendment rights. If the success of three strikes laws is any indication, this would be very effective in cutting gun violence.
America was born in revolution. The Declaration of Independence speaks of the natural right of the people to "alter or abolish" their governments when they become destructive of liberty.
The Framers of the Constitution regarded the right of revolution as the right that guarantees every other right. Of course, the Declaration warns that this right should not be exercised "for light and transient causes" but only when there is no prospect of securing liberty by any other means.
If the people retain the right of revolution, then it is axiomatic that they also retain the means to revolution. The Second Amendment recognizes the right to keep and bear arms. And, contrary to what Sharon Stone and others who share her worldview may say, one cannot "choose to surrender my right to bear arms in exchange for the peace of mind of doing the right thing."
Ask the Kosovar Albanians about "peace of mind." How might they have fared against the lightly armed paramilitary forces of Slobodan Milosevic had they been as well-armed as the American people are now? The ethnic cleansers, who singled out adult males, had an easy time with an unarmed populace.
The same people who today wish to disarm Americans were also instrumental in preventing the arming of the Kosovars. "We do not want to increase the violence," they assured a skeptical world. The Kosovars have paid a heavy price for this incredible naivetÃ©.
Americans have nothing to fear from armed, law-abiding citizens. Let us direct our gun laws, not against them, but against those criminal elements who use guns as the instrument of their terror and violence.