Want to see a return of machine guns? Then ban semi-automatic weapons.

One of the under appreciated aspect of our legal system surrounding firearms, is that the firearm owning public is a compliant bunch when it comes to the law. NCIC background checks and waiting periods are followed with nary a peep. It is well documented that concealed carry permit holders are the least likely to commit a crime with a firearm.

It is when laws move from regulatory to restrictive that rules tend to be ignored. In states such as New Jersey and Connecticut compliance has been less than stellar after passing draconian restrictions of limited to no value in wake of mass shootings. For example, some 40,000 magazines were turned in to Connecticut authorities out of an estimated 2.4 million of them after passing magazine restrictions a few years back. Gun advocacy organizations and gun blogs are filled with anecdotal evidence of non compliance. Gun owners in Illinois are currently telling their statehouse representatives that, “I will not comply,” with similar restrictions imposed in states such as New Jersey and Connecticut.

It’s not just in the U.S. either. Australia, the model for American gun control advocates, has had uneven compliance with its strict gun laws. Different jurisdictions in the country have seen lower levels of compliance and enforcement than others. It seems the necessity of the consent of the governed is not unique to the United States. So do not bemoan the United States’ rotten culture here, either.

Liberalization of state gun laws and the Federal Courts recognition that the Second Amendment deserves equal billing with the rest of the Constitution has been a triumph of Civil Rights. States have been liberalizing gun laws for a generation; the trend in gun crime is downward (albeit with a recent uptick) and the number of guns sold each year has increased. Finally, U.S. Supreme Court appears to be poised to turn a more jaundiced eye toward gun restrictions after progress stalled in the wake of the landmark Heller and McDonald Decisions.

Fueled by big donors and supporters in the media, there is a sense that gun control has momentum. Democrat Party candidates for the Presidency — except maybe US Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) —  openly propose banning semi-automatic weapons. Illinois is moving to implement more limits on their already draconian laws.  On the West Coast Washington is putting more restrictions on the ballot and California officials brag about gutting the Civil Right in their state.

Despite these efforts, however, the march for Civil Rights and the Second Amendment continue.  The advantage still lies with individual rights.

Yet, what if gun control movement were to succeed? Would “gun crime” decline, would there be no difference or would things become worse? The law of unintended consequences in public policy still apply. And it seems they get short shrift in this debate. So, here are three unintended consequenes I considered if the United States were to turn away from this important Civil Right.

  1. It could undermine the Rule of Law –As noted above, compliance has not been great wether it be through ignorance or civil disobedience. Currently in Illinois, downstate counties and local prosecutors are warning politicians that further restrictions on their citizens will be ignored. Legitimacy in the United States is based upon the consent of the governed and respect for minority rights. The Rule of Law takes a hit when government goes too far.
  2. More gun control could be a boon to the Black Market — European restrictions on gun ownership have not stopped gun crime from occurring.  In the US, where there are more firearms in circulation than people, privately held weapons will suddenly become worth much more valuable creating incentives for theft or earning some quick cash illegally. Firearms can be built with shop tools in a basement or a garage. Where gun manufactures have quality standards, a way of tracing firearms used in crimes, and other regulatory guardrails, the black market does not. States want to ban “ghost guns,” prohibitions on the AR-15 will proliferate them.  Prohibition failed, the War on Drugs is not working and neither will War on Guns. Think gun running into Chicago is bad, just wait.
  3. Automatic Weapons could re-appear — This would be the most ominous development. The legal sale of new machine guns was banned in 1986. It sticks because gun owners are satisfied with owning semi-automatics and have access to them. But if your semi-automatic is now illegal why not convert to select fire?  A few trigger group modifications and a cut to a bolt carrier and your AR-15 is now a M4. And again, illegal manufacture of automatic weapons could become a lucrative black market opportunity.

Don’t believe me not he last one? Look at Europe where the fully automatic weapons were used in multiple attacks. They were easily purchased on the black market. The weapons came from converted weapons from Eastern Europe and surplus weapons still circulating from the Balkan conflict (Important Note: guns can be serviceable for decades or even a century).

Right now the United States has systems and institutions in place that have been accepted by the vast majority of gun owners. These systems and institutions channel behavior. Tearing these systems down now–given the technological and intellectual property developments that can turn every basement into a factory–is not going to make things better.

The reality is that the toothpaste is out of the tube. Firearms in the United States are here to stay.  Bans, restrictions or infringing on the Right to Self Defense are not going to change that reality.

In fact, they may make things worse.



Being a Gun Owner/Soldier Doesn’t Make You an Expert on Gun Policy

As a gun owner, I’m not an expert on guns.  I can freely admit that. However, this is hard for some.  Usually, as in the example linked, they know less about guns than I do. They want their kids to be safe but they don’t like the NRA. They fail to realize that the National Rifle Association (NRA)  pretty much wrote the book on gun safety education.  Here’s a link to that site.

Next, is GI Joe (or Jane or both, I guess).  He carried a gun the military but doesn’t believe the rest of us should — even though a lot of us who were in the military own and still train with firearms.  Here is Army veteran and transgender (I’m not sure why that matters here) Charlotte Clymer:

The problem with this narrative (besides a lack of research or data suggesting more guns does indeed prevent violence broadly) is that killing another human being, even a “bad” one, is not easy. This is not “Call of Duty”: Despite the damage that modern weaponry can inflict, there is a reason that soldiers and law enforcement officers receive thousands of hours of training in firearms and tactics. This training is physical, mechanical and, most importantly, psychological, because in order to efficiently and effectively kill other human beings in high-stress situations, one must be conditioned to negotiate that stress.

I should know, because I went through it. As an U.S. Army infantryman, I spent thousands of hours, beginning in basic training and continuing throughout my service, becoming comfortable with killing and learning how to do so in a responsible manner. The psychological strength required to act quickly and effectively in a mass shooting comes from the kind of monotonous training that over several years builds up muscle memory. It is tedious and often boring, and that’s the point: it enables soldiers to respond in stressful situations as though it’s second nature.

The U.S. Army’s basic marksmanship training — just learning how to care for a rifle and shoot it — is three weeks long. That’s 18 full days (Sundays are usually semi-restful) spent getting comfortable with your rifle, learning how to dissemble and reassemble it, clean it, perform a functions check, correct malfunctions, load and unload it, conduct peer training with fellow privates, adjust its sights and, finally, how to actually aim and fire it.

It took him/her — again why does this matter– years of rigorous training and “thousands of hours” over an 18 day period.  Clymer’s argument, not mine.

How does this stuff get published?

These people are not experts. They do not know the history of guns, the law, the policy, or even, probably, how guns work. Fun fact, there is not a center fire rifle or handgun out there that at one time was not the latest, most deadly weapon in the hands of soldiers.  That bolt action Remington/Winchester rifle was based on a German infantry rifle.  The lever action rifle was a calvary weapon. Colt pistols were built for the military as well (revolvers).  The AR-15 (M4 clone) and it’s variants are just the latest in a long, long line of American soldiers bringing home their rifles.  It’s the same with modern handguns.  So, please, spare me the weapons of war… They all have military applications; they all come from the military.

Being a hunter or soldier does not make you an expert.  Just like being a driver doesn’t make you a Formula 1 racer.  Firearms policy is complex. It deals with trade-offs and is filled with misinformation, misnomers and plain old prejudice. Even the experts get things wrong.  But it is more so for that soldier who had years of training over three weeks. Being a soldier doesn’t make one a military historian or an arms expert.  It doesn’t make them an expert on the use of force nor on training. I’m sorry, but that you can point and shoot doesn’t give you any particular insight. In fact, it may even hinder your perspective.

Weigh that in mind the next time you read or hear, “As a gun owner.”