In the wake of the horrible events in Newtown Connecticut, as well as the other recent mass shootings, we are hearing calls for gun control measures - but would any of them have made a difference, or are gun control advocates simply exploiting this tragedy?
Let's examine each of these proposals and ask the question, "Would this really have helped in any of the shootings, had they been in effect?"
Proposal One: Ban So Called Assault Weapons. Assault Weapons were not involved in either Virginia Tech or the Giffords Shooting, so banning them would not have helped in these cases. That leaves the Colorado theater shooting and the Newtown school shooting. In both of these cases, the range was short and just as much damage could have been inflicted with any semi-automatic firearm, including a semi-automatic pistol - a weapon that was also used by the Newtown and Colorado shooters. Indeed, this is what the vast majority of mass shooters use. Additionally, when the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was in effect, it had absolutely no effect on crime or mass shootings, according to the FBI. Sadly, you do not need an assault rifle - designed to hit targets out to 300 meters - to kill little children in a classroom or people in a theater, so banning them would have had zero effect. This is confirmed in this government funded report to the Department of Justice.
Proposal Two: Limit Size of Magazines. This measure was also in effect from 1994-2004. It also had no effect, according to the FBI. It did not reduce crime. It did not reduce the number of people killed in mass shootings, or even the number of times people were shot. Results in California, appear to be the same. Why is this? Why does reducing magazine capcity have no effect?
The answer is simple: Modern semi-auto pistols are designed to enable very fast magazine changes. In what is frequently called a "tactical reload" a shooter who believes that they are near the end of a magazine's capacity simply accesses a magazine with one hand, while pressing the magazine release with the other. The magazine drops free due to gravity and the shooter inserts the new magazine. Time required? Less than one second. In addition, with most semi-auto pistols, the round that remains in the firing chamber can be fired during this time if necessary. The gun is never "out of action".
In at least two recent cases, the shooters choice to use 'hi-capacity magazines" actually saved lives. In the Giffords shooting, the shooter used a standard Glock factory magazine to fire his first shots. He then changed to a "hyper-capacity" 30 round magazine, which promptly jammed allowing members of the crowd to attack and subdue him. In the recent Oregon mall shooting, a hi-capacity magazine also jammed enabling many to escape.
The bottom line is that limiting magazine capacity would not have saved any lives - and ironically could have cost lives in two cases. This is also confirmed by the same report to the DOJ.
Proposal Three: Require background checks on private sales. Currently, federal law requires a FBI background check on all sales made at a licensed dealer. The matter of sales made between two private parties within a state is left up to that state. Many states do require that these sales be conducted through a dealer (including Connecticut). Others allow sales only between people who know each other well enough to reasonably believe that they are "of good character". Still others allow sales between any two people, regardless of how little they may be acquainted with each other.
On the news, you may hear talk of "unlicensed dealers" being able to conduct business within the law. This is completely false. ANY person selling firearms for profit is required to have a 01 Federal Firearms License (FFL). Being "in the business of selling firearms" without one is a federal felony. The fact that some people may be doing this at gun shows or other places is an example of how the ATF is failing to do it's job. I hold a 03 FFL (collectors license). While this allows me to buy and sell older, collectible firearms, I am only allowed to do so "in furtherance of the collection". I have to keep records, file reports and I am subject to inspection. If my pattern of buying and selling indicates that I am doing so for profit, I am likely to be awarded a very long vacation at "Club Fed".
Moving on to the issue at had, would any of these mass murderers have been stopped by requiring a background check on all sales? Absolutely not. Every single one of these shooters (or in the case of Connecticut, the shooters mother) was subjected to a Federal background check which they passed. In the Colorado shooting, the mass murderer also had passed a state background check. In Connecticut, the shooter's mother had to obtain a state license before she could buy a firearm. In every other mass shooting in the recent past, a Federal background check was passed.
Which one of these proposals, if they had been in place, would have stopped, or even helped to reduce the effect of, any of the recent shootings: None of them.
So - why is there now a "full court press" to pass laws that those pushing them know will do nothing to stop these mass shootings? Simple: Those pushing these laws are exploiting these horrible tragedies to advance their agenda.
What is their agenda? In addition to the above, what else is possible?
The agenda of all of the main line gun control groups is gun control like what is in effect in the UK: Total ban on handguns, ban on all semi-auto firearms, extreme controls on rifles and only slightly less restrictive controls on shotguns. This is revealed by their support of the D.C. and Chicago handgun bans and their constant praising of UK gun controls - which have still not stopped mass shootings there. They see the current tragedy as an opportunity to "advance the ball". When these measures accomplish nothing, they can call for even more restrictions. They can keep this up until they get rid of nearly all firearms. This is exactly what happened in the UK.
But, under the current Bill of Rights, what is possible? What additional gun laws are possible? Answer: Probably none. The Supreme Court has held that the 2nd Amendment protects a personal right, and that this right is "fundamental to our system of ordered liberty". They have ruled out the kind of gun laws that the organizations really want: Handgun ban, requirement to demonstrate a "need" to own a firearm, etc. In fact, there is a very good chance that the "assault weapons ban" may also be ruled unconstitutional - since all rifles, including so called assault rifles, are used to murder less often than blunt objects and bare hands. In deed, there is a very good chance that the high court will soon rule that there is a constitutional right carry firearms (hopefully with a permit).
This is why there are more and more calls from these groups and their supporters for the repeal of the 2nd Amendment. Since only 1/4 of states can stop it, this will not happen.
If we are looking for measures that will help prevent mass murder incidents, none of these proposals will help. They are worse than doing nothing, because they will give people the false impression that effective action has been taken, when it has not. In my next post, I will suggest measures that may actually help to prevent mass murders.