Thursday, February 21, 2013

Gun Non-policy

I've said before that I'm actually pretty OK with most gun policies on either side of the aisle, as long as they are implemented constitutionally and with regard for actual evidence. What is immediately noticeable at this editorial at America, however, is that it is not really a gun policy at all; it's a non-policy with a gesture at what they think might conceivably give us a viable gun policy at some point in the future. There is not a single proposal in the editorial that could in any way directly affect gun violence; the one thing proposed, the repeal of the second amendment, is consistent with nothing else being changed at all. This is what I mean about it being a non-policy: it's not even a policy proposal, and despite the rhetoric has no actual relevance to serious gun control advocacy. Merely repealing the second amendment will do nothing at all. What is more, constitutions are not the sorts of things one arbitrarily amends in the hope of some better possibility later; when you repeal a part of the Constitution, you had better have a specific reason. Give us an actual proposal, step one of which is repeal of the second amendment, and then we have a way to judge whether it makes sense to go through step one to get to the other parts of your proposal. If you're just going to say that we need to repeal a part of the Constitution, though, you have something that will do less to eliminate gun violence than if your proposal for handling gun violence is just for people voluntarily to stop using guns -- which would actually be far more of a serious gun control policy, since one can have reasonably good, practical, specific programs working to curb gun violence by voluntary means. There is, in fact, a very small but active voluntary gun control movement, focused on better self-regulation among hunters and other gun owners (the idea being that, in something like the way active hunters are one of the best resources for reducing poaching, gun owners could be a better-used resource for reducing gun abuse, and for the same reason), property-rights-based gun control requirements like private-property gun bans, and encouraging more active citizen involvement in helping to shut down firearm black markets. These people have a far more robust gun control proposal than the America magazine editors do.

I was amused at this, though:

This does not require an absolute ban on firearms. In the post-repeal world that we envision, some people will possess guns: hunters and sportsmen, law enforcement officers, the military, those who require firearms for morally reasonable purposes. Make no mistake, however: The world we envision is a world with far fewer guns, a world in which no one has a right to own one.

In other words, all the most powerful and dangerous guns will still be available to those willing to put up with the cost and complications of getting them, or willing to bypass these complications through the black market. This is the America gun control proposal: Make gun control laws easier, while not doing anything practical about guns.

It should be noted, incidentally, that the editors are mistaken if they think repealing the second amendment will lead to "a world in which no one has a right to own" a gun. The government can't arbitrarily alienate property, so guns already out and about will fall under standard property rights. What is more, forty-three states have gun right provisions in their constitutions: mere repeal of the second amendment will leave these unaffected and still operative. Repeal of the second amendment would make some stricter gun-sale laws possible in a limited way under the interstate commerce clause, but that's about it.

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