Saturday, May 26, 2007

The "Scary Weapons" Ban

An issue that rests at the emotional core of social policy, politically charged, and well funded, has emerged in recent months in one particular bill, HR 1022. A new "assault weapons" ban. This bill reflects international pressure that's growing at an alarming late, and this policy is the manifestation of moot and flawed arguments contrary to the preponderance of empirical literature in criminology research; not to mention foundational policy ethics. There are four principle reasons to reject the proposal of the new assault weapons ban.

First, the bill's definition of "assault weapon" is arbitrary at best, asinine at worst, relying on standards that, at times, don't even significantly deal with the functionality of weapons (e.g. the type of clip). The general reasoning for such bans is that no one needs an "assault weapon." There are certainly legitimate uses for these weapons; standard semi-automatic rifles can have multiple functions ranging from hunting to sports. Regardless, legislative fiat to the idea that a person doesn't "need" something is a response not founded in any ethical system of governmental power. I might not need many luxuries in life, but if I should avoid infringing on the equivalent rights of others with my tools or property, the sustained principle is that we err on the side of liberty. Such naive policy subverts the core purpose of such legislation.

Second, this measure, like most gun control measures, it is an ineffective reaction to emotion and emotionally charged anecdotes that aren't grounded in empirical precedent. Unfortunate situations such as the tragic massacre at Virginia Tech underscore the fact that there is evil in this world, and there are desperate criminals who will stop at nothing to harm those who have done no harm. Yet, such an event took place in a "gun free zone," in which the criminal (who didn't observe the gun free state ordinance) preyed on the disarmed law-abiding citizens. Great Britain, which passed a complete gun ban, has been lauded by many as a great step forwarded in the progress of Western Society. Yet, it has been ineffectual, and undermines the spirit of liberty. As the venerable British newspaper The Observer noted in 2000, since the enactment of the gun ban the quantitative number of firearms in England has increased, not decreased, and the black market flourishes. Those who wish to commit crimes with firearms are still able to do so, it is the law-abiding who are left defenseless. Advocates of more stringent regulations frequently cite the fact that Britain has lower homicides with firearms per 100,000 citizens than the United States, yet that overlooks the fact that Britain has lower crimes with or without firearms due to cultural, sociological, and demographic differences. Former visiting criminologist professor Dr. John R. Lott aptly noted that 96% of the time the citizen only must brandish a weapon to deter attack. The deterrent factor of an armed citizenry is an inherent right that must be preserved. The precedent of banning some "scary looking" semi-automatic weapons cannot be established.
Third, fundamental principles of human liberty object to the notion that a citizen can have his rights suspended when he has harmed no one. The natural Lockean right to self-defense has been recognized throughout the history of mankind, and involves the necessary tools to carry out such a right. Err on the side of liberty, not license.

And, finally, there is no legal reason to contextually the Second Amendment to exclude these weapons. While this is not currently the Rule of Law in the United States, since the Supreme Court never heard a case regarding the original assault weapons ban, if one should maintain the interpretation that the Second Amendment applies to all arms, then one cannot escape the conclusion that the individual's right to bear arms shall not be infringed. The founders intended the Second Amendment to apply to muskets no more than they intended the First Amendment to apply to quill pens and newspaper presses.

In short, I ask Americans to not allow emotionally charged rhetoric to override empirical literature and foundational rights.

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