Kevin D. Williamson writes generally thoughtful articles, even if I don't always agree with him. But in Gun-Control Laws Aren't About Preventing Crimes I think he is onto something. Indeed, what gun control laws are really about is yet another front in the Culture War.
In the latest issue of National Review, I write about the lax enforcement of our gun laws and touch on a theme that is worth exploring a little more: Gun control is not about gun crime — gun control is about gun culture.
If we cared about keeping guns out of the hands of felons, we’d be locking up straw buyers. We’d be prosecuting prohibited “lie and try” buyers who falsify their ATF paperwork. And we’d be confiscating guns sold in retail transactions that were wrongly approved because of defects in the background-check system. But, for the most part, we don’t do much of any of that.
Instead of doing the hard work of enforcing the law on people committed to breaking it, we focus almost all of our efforts on the most law-abiding group of Americans there is: People who legally buy firearms from licensed firearms dealers, a group that, by definition, has a felony-conviction rate of approximately 0.0 percent. These are law-abiding people, but they also are, in no small part, the type of people who mash the cultural buttons of the big-city progressives who dominate the Democratic Party both culturally and financially. From that point of view, what matters is not that retail gun dealers and their clients are dangerous — which they certainly are not — but that they are icky.In explaining why he thinks that the idea of gun control is a culture issue rather than being intended to prevent crime, Williamson cites an article from the New York Times by Gail Collins. And Collins, it turns out, is either ignorant, or a deliberate liar, or both:
That culture-war mentality produces a great deal of sloppy thinking and ignorant commentary. Consider the case of Gail Collins in Thursday’s New York Times. Collins is hopping mad about gun shows, about which she seems to know . . . not a whole lot. “Yeah,” she writes — really, “yeah” — “right now one easy way to buy a gun without having anyone check to see if you have a history of criminal convictions, mental illness or a domestic violence restraining order is to just plunk down some cash at a gun show.”
This is — and this part still matters! — not true.Willimson goes on to point out the many things that are not true. Long guns of all sorts from single shot .22s to 30-06 rifles, the evil AR 15s and shotguns make up perhaps 2% of all gun crime, which is less that fist and feet. Oh, and the same requirements obtain at gun shows as at the dealers store, or anywhere else. And criminals by and large get their guns by stealing them of buying them from the black market (i.e. from someone who stole them.) Oh, and this:
Collins goes on to spend five paragraphs excoriating Texas for its new “constitutional carry” law. I myself preferred the old concealed-carry regime, with the required classwork, shooting test, and background check. But what Collins does not mention is that this is not some new innovation unique to the redneck states — Texas now has the same law as radical, right-wing . . . Vermont, which has had constitutional carry for as long as we have had the Constitution. Texas joins Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming in this arrangement. Some of those states have relatively high rates of murder and other violent crimes (Alaska, Arkansas) — though not a single one of them has a murder rate as much as half that of the District of Columbia — while others (Maine, Vermont, Idaho) are among the safest states in the Union. The obvious conclusion is that whatever the important variable is in murder rates, it isn’t this.It always amazes me that people like Collins think everyone has a life as pampered as her life is. I know a guy who is a retired telephone installer. He confessed to me that he used to keep a pistol on his truck, despite the fact that the telephone company required them to be unarmed, because he often found himself in some questionable neighborhoods. Maybe Collins doesn't feel the need for a gun, but that doesn't mean the single mom working a late night shift at a convenience store doesn't need a gun for protection. Or how about a nurse working the late shift at a hospital? I suspect it has to do with the fact that todays journalist all come from the upper middle class because of the need for J-school credentials to get a job in journalism. In the old days, journalists came from the working class and had more empathy with their fellow man.