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On Guns, Like Other Issues, Liberals Are Out of Ammo

One of the striking features of the current debate over gun control is how tired the liberals’ ideas are. Chief among their proposals is re-instituting the ban on “assault weapons.” But we’ve already tried that: a ban on “assault weapons”–a meaningless term that finds significance only in the arbitrary definitions of the defunct federal statute–was in effect for ten years, from 1994 to 2004, and no one claims that it did any good. Connecticut, like a number of other states, already bans “assault weapons,” but that availed the kids at Sandy Hook nothing.

Today New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo grabbed headlines by attacking “gun violence” and proposing measures to respond to the Sandy Hook murders. But what were they? The same tired old ideas:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for closing loopholes in a state ban on assault weapons and ammunition magazines that carry more than 10 bullets as part of a wide-ranging gun control package he proposed in his State of the State speech Wednesday.

This is beyond stupid. Rifles, notwithstanding Adam Lanza’s murder spree, are involved in hardly any homicides. More than five times as many Americans are murdered with knives than rifles–all rifles, not just “assault rifles.” More Americans are murdered with blunt objects; more are beaten to death with bare hands. The idea that banning “assault weapons” is the key to a more peaceful America is ludicrous.

Likewise with “ammunition magazines that carry more than 10 bullets.” I own two such magazines; there are countless millions in circulation. A magazine is a simple device, made from sheet metal and a spring; many thousands of Americans could make them in their garages. But let’s suppose that you could magically make all such magazines disappear. All a would-be mass murderer needs to do is pre-load, say, four 10-bullet magazines and carry them with him. People do this all the time. It takes only a second or two to drop an empty magazine from a semiautomatic rifle or pistol and slide a new one in. The idea that lives will be saved by making magazines smaller is pathetic. And yet, this is pretty much what the Democrats have to offer.

There are, actually, things that could be done to reduce the number of mass shootings, although mass shootings are already so rare that success would be hard to measure. (Check the statistics; you are far more likely to be struck by lighting than involved in a mass shooting.) First on the list would be revitalizing the nation’s mental institutions. Ever since the institutions were depopulated in the 1960s, large numbers of crazy people have roamed the streets of America. Most of them are harmless, but many are not. If we were serious about preventing lunatics from committing murders, mass and otherwise, we wouldn’t harass law-abiding gun owners, we would lock up lunatics. But liberals don’t want to do this, because they think it violates the rights of the insane. When the inevitable consequences come home to roost, they blame guns.

Short of institutionalization, there are other measures that might help to make it more difficult for the deranged to obtain firearms. But liberals don’t seem interested in such practical proposals. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that with respect to guns, as with many other issues, the Democrats are interested only in demagoguery, not serious governance.

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