President Obama passed through Minneapolis today to push his gun control agenda. He met with local law enforcement officers, and delivered a photo-op speech in front of a backdrop of uniformed law enforcement personnel. The speech, while brief, was marked by Obama’s trademark incoherence. Everything is “reasonable,” and “common sense,” and favored by pretty much everyone. And yet, if you actually listen to what he says, it makes no sense at all.
You can watch the speech here. After introducing various dignitaries, Obama set the stage by declaring that the U.S. is experiencing an “epidemic of gun violence.” But that simply isn’t true. “Gun violence,” like violent crime in general, is declining. The homicide rate in the U.S. has been cut in half since the Clinton administration:
And mass shooting events like Sandy Hook continue to be vanishingly rare; as we have noted before, you are 42 times as likely to be struck by lightning as involved in one of them.
Obama explained why he chose Minneapolis for his speech by saying that city fathers and local law enforcement agencies became concerned about a high rate of youth gun crime, and were able to reduce the number of young people wounded in gun incidents by 40% over a five-year period. That is a statistic I have seen before, and it’s terrific. But wait! How did Minneapolis do it? Not through gun control. If Minneapolis’s experience really is significant, then Obama should be promoting the measures that were taken here–he never mentioned what they were–not promoting an irrelevant gun control agenda.
Obama assured his listeners that pretty much everyone supports universal background checks as a way of keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals. But firearms dealers–stores–already run background checks on all firearms purchases. There is a vast background check apparatus in place. Criminals know this, so they don’t buy guns in stores. They buy them from friends, from fellow gang members, or from a guy in an alley. Or they steal them. Suppose Congress were to enact a law that says private citizens, as well as gun dealers, are somehow supposed to run background checks. Does anyone seriously think that the fellow gang member or the guy in the alley will tell the would-be purchaser, “Sorry, I can’t sell the gun to you, you came up as a criminal on a background check!” Such a law, like so many gun control measures, would be a pain in the neck for law-abiding citizens but would do absolutely nothing to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and crazy people.
Next, Obama went from stupid to demagogic, saying that “weapons of war have no place on our streets or in our schools,” and adding that “our law enforcement officers should never be outgunned on our streets.” This was offered as a rationale for banning “assault weapons.” But the “assault weapons” addressed by the Feinstein bill, or any other gun control measure, are not weapons of war. Military weapons, which include true assault rifles, are automatic. But automatic weapons have been illegal, without a special ATF permit, since the 1930s. So if law enforcement is being “outgunned” by “weapons of war,” those weapons are already illegal in civilian hands, and have been for around 80 years.
The “assault weapons” that Obama wants to ban are semiautomatics like a zillion other firearms, distinguished only by cosmetic features that have little to do with the rifle’s function. Semiautomatic rifles are almost never used to commit murder, but they are effective self-defense weapons, which is why so many police departments and other law enforcement agencies issue them. And the homicide rate has dropped since the first “assault weapons” ban expired in 2004, which suggests that reinstating the ban is unlikely to have any positive effect. But Obama doesn’t do math.
The president closed with a plea for his listeners to call their Congressmen and demand that they support gun control. These words were intended, I guess, to be reassuring:
Tell them there’s no legislation to eliminate all guns, no legislation being proposed to subvert the Second Amendment…
So the Second Amendment is subverted only if all guns are banned? That certainly isn’t what the Second Amendment says, or what the Supreme Court has ruled. Would the First Amendment be violated only if all speech were made illegal, so that censoring television news, for example, would be just fine? Barack Obama is living proof that you don’t have to make any kind of sense to be elected president.