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.

 

 

Advertisements

Politics is Still Boring or How I Learned to Love Path Dependency

I’m sorry. Your grand socialist scheme for the U.S. won’t work. That said, I have little hope for my great free market solution, either.

There will be no revolution. Politics is still boring.

Whether it be ‘Medicare for All’ or the ‘Green New Deal’ or whatever warmed up bolshevism being dreamed up by the newly empowered leftists in the Democrat Party… it ain’t gonna happen. The same can be said for my free market revolution — not happening.

Path dependency is the idea that decisions made in the past on sometimes irrelevant issues limit the choices we have in the here and now.  They serve as guard rails and limit our ability to make change.

Long before Socialism became a thing–again–amongst the younger set in the Democrat Party, decisions were made, votes were held and interests were created and the die was cast. We chose relatively liberal markets, a federalist system of governance and a pluralist society in the beginning.  Decisions have moved to and fro since, and each of these have established interests. As we all know, established interests are the greatest barrier to overturning the status quo. Whether it be health care reform, climate change or even gun control, decisions made long ago are going to determine we can do today.

In the 1960’s, Congress created the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Both have proven quite durable and popular. Everyone, for example, has a family member, friend or other person in their network that have been recipients of the program. They are both popular with voting public and recipients alike.  That popularity gives these programs a great deal of insulation from swings in public opinion.  But when we add of all the other stakeholders in the system, it becomes really apparent that we will neither repeal nor replace these programs.

In his recent New York Times column, David Brooks, made the argument against Medicare for All. He pointed that the doctors would be loathe to support a program that cut their pay. The thousands and thousands of insurance employees would never sign on to their own economic death, nor would the 80 percent of the insured that have private insurance want to transition to something else should we eliminate private insurance. Then there are the pharmaceutical companies who would not want to be dependent upon a single purchaser.  All of these interests — those of patients, providers and suppliers — would all have to be satisfied in order to transition to a government run/single payer system. Conversely, we aren’t getting rid of government insurance anytime soon.

Energy is another sector in which decisions made decades, and even a century ago, act as guardrails to any reforms. Gasoline was the favored choice of government in the early days of the autos. Gasoline, a byproduct of kerosine, was being dumped into rivers.  By using it to fuel cars, an environmental hazard (burning rivers, poisoned water etc.) was mitigated. But from coal to oil to natural gas, fossil fuels have made and make far more  sense than renewables.  Regulatory regimes, livelihoods, and habits are in place. At the end of the day, carbon is not going anywhere. The die was cast long ago.

One issue that hits my hot button is gun control.  Once I calm down, however, I do have the sense that there is little chance of change. Prior to the establishment of the Constitution the Right of Self Defense was part of English Common Law. People made their own weapons. They can and still do today. Regimes to regulate the purchase of rifles and handguns are useless when the average Joe can do it himself in his garage or basement. Technology — such an CNC machinery can be housed in the at home.  You can build an AR with hand held tools.  The rise of 3D printing assure that better than military grade weapons are in the hand of the common man. These are just the recent developments.

In order to establish meaningful gun control, the country still would have to disarm a Nation of 320 million. Impossible. Any regime imposed without the consent of gun owners has been and will be continue to be ignored –thus creating more problems than solutions. Guns are staying.

Decisions made long ago continue have outsized impact on the outcomes of today’s political debates. While the Great Sorting and the tyranny of small differences is upon on us on the small issues of the day, there is still agreement on the large issues such as rules, norms and governing institutions. Elections results are still being accepted–except by the fringes.  While we cannot undue the damages of the progressive era and our most recent leadership, even that damage is been limited. We are not living in a dystopian society. In sum, Politics is still boring. I am grateful for that.

 

 

 

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.”