Dou­ble talk: So if ‘no one wants to take our guns’ . . .

Manteca Bulletin - - Opinion - LARRY ELDER Au­thor

Al­most im­me­di­ately after the Las Ve­gas shoot­ing came the calls for “com­mon sense” gun con­trol. The quest al­most al­ways be­gins with a re­as­sur­ance that “no one wants to take away your guns.” Not ev­ery­one read the memo. Nel­son Shields, founder of Hand­gun Con­trol, Inc., the or­ga­ni­za­tion that be­came the Brady Cam­paign to Pre­vent Gun Vi­o­lence, in a 1976 in­ter­view could not have been more clear about his group’s goals: “Our ul­ti­mate goal — to­tal con­trol of hand­guns in the United States — is going to take time. My es­ti­mate is from seven to 10 years. The first prob­lem is to slow down the in­creas­ing num­ber of hand­guns be­ing pro­duced and sold in this coun­try. The sec­ond prob­lem is to get hand­guns reg­is­tered. And the fi­nal prob­lem is to make the pos­ses­sion of all hand­guns and all hand­gun am­mu­ni­tion — ex­cept for the mil­i­tary, po­lice­men, li­censed se­cu­rity guards, li­censed sport­ing clubs, and li­censed gun col­lec­tors — to­tally il­le­gal.”

In 1993, a Los Angeles Times edi­to­rial called for the re­peal of the Sec­ond Amend­ment: “You will not feel safe, your chil­dren will not be safe, un­til there are al­most no guns on the streets and in homes. No guns, pe­riod, ex­cept for those held by law en­force­ment of­fi­cers and a few oth­ers, in­clud­ing qual­i­fied hunters and col­lec­tors. ... We must, as a na­tion, move to­ward a very dif­fer­ent model, one that pre­sump­tively bars pri­vate cit­i­zens from own­ing a firearm un­less they can demon­strate a spe­cial need and abil­ity to do so. ... We think the time has come for Amer­i­cans to tell the truth about guns. They are not for us; we can­not han­dle them. They kill peo­ple, our chil­dren in­cluded. It’s time to get rid of them. Pe­riod.”

Fast-for­ward to the Las Ve­gas shoot­ing. The Washington Post colum­nist Eu­gene Robinson calls for a gun “buy­back”: “A real gun de­bate has to look at that fact: 300 mil­lion guns. And we need, you know, to look at what was done in a place like Aus­tralia, where they had a gun buy­back. And gun con­trol is per­mis­si­ble, ac­cord­ing to the Supreme Court. And so if Con­gress were to de­cide -- it won’t hap­pen -- were to de­cide that au­to­matic as­sault ri­fles, long guns ... (and) mil­i­tary-style weapons are some­thing that cit­i­zens should not have, they should be po­lice and mil­i­tary only, and we’re going to buy them back, that would have an im­pact. ... And that’s what the de­bate ought to be.”

Re­call that Hil­lary Clin­ton, dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion, also gushed over the al­legedly suc­cess­ful Aus­tralian gun buy­back pro­gram: “Aus­tralia had a huge mass killing about 20, 25 years ago. Canada did as well, so did the UK. In re­ac­tion, they passed much stricter gun laws. ... The Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment as part of try­ing to clamp down on the avail­abil­ity of au­to­matic weapons, of­fered a good price for buy­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of guns and ba­si­cally clamped down going for­ward, in terms of hav­ing more of a back­ground check ap­proach — more of a per­mit­ting ap­proach.”

True, Aus­tralia, over 20 years ago, banned semi­au­to­matic and self-load­ing ri­fles, as well as self­load­ing and pump-ac­tion shot­guns. The gov­ern­ment of­fered up to a one-year grace pe­riod dur­ing which it would buy back the banned firearms at pre­set “market value” prices, fi­nanced by a tax on health in­sur­ance. After that, peo­ple pos­sess­ing the banned weapons would be sub­ject to strict penal­ties, in­clud­ing im­pris­on­ment.

But did Aus­tralia’s gun buy­back pro­gram re­duce vi­o­lent gun crime?

No, ac­cord­ing to John Lott of the Crime Preven­tion Re­search Cen­ter. “Their firearms homi­cide rate,” said Lott, “had been fall­ing for a decade prior to the buy­back. It con­tin­ued fall­ing at the same rate after the buy­back. There was no sud­den drop, just a fairly con­stant de­cline that con­tin­ued even as gun own­er­ship rose back up to pre­vi­ous lev­els. The armed rob­bery rate rose in the first five years after the buy­back. After an­other 10 years, the rate had fallen to pre-buy­back lev­els.”

The near-term “com­mon sense” goal of the gun con­trollers is to ban the “bump stock” that en­abled the shooter to turn a semi­au­to­matic into a fully au­to­matic weapon. Never mind that of the mod­ern mass shoot­ings in Amer­ica, only one killer used a ma­chine gun: Stephen Pad­dock. And where was this “com­mon sense” when Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ATF ap­proved the bump stock, pro­nounc­ing it a part, not a weapon? Cal­i­for­nia has some of the most strin­gent gun laws in the coun­try, yet has ex­pe­ri­enced mass shoot­ings, in­clud­ing the San Bernardino shoot­ing in 2015, where 14 were killed.

This is not to say that noth­ing can be done to make a Las Ve­gas-style shoot­ing more dif­fi­cult. But most of these things will be done by pri­vate ac­tors. Las Ve­gas ho­tel/casino owner Steve Wynn, for ex­am­ple, said his Ve­gas re­sorts al­ready had ad­di­tional se­cu­rity mea­sures in place.

The “com­mon sense” goal of many “gun con­trol ac­tivists” is not a ban on this or that fea­ture but a ban on civil­ian own­er­ship of guns. Just ask the Los Angeles Times.

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