One ironic legacy of the Clinton administration is the rearming of
the American citizenry. Each time Clinton and his friends in Congress
threaten another round of anti-gun regulations, the American people
respond by stocking up on as many guns as possible. This is all to the
good: an armed citizenry translates to less crime and more security, and
reminds the government that its bureaucrats aren’t the only ones with
The trend began in 1989 with the passage of restrictions on so-called
“assault weapons,” which brought about the initial boom in gun sales.
After a brief respite, the Brady Bill, which imposed background checks
on buyers, was passed in 1993. The politicians claimed they were only
after the criminals. But the main effect was to convince people that the
federal government was determined to disarm the public.
Of course the politicians always say that they are only after the
criminals, not hunters and not people who only desire self-protection.
But by definition, criminals aren’t interested in regulations. Legal
restrictions on gun sales only make it more difficult for people who
scrupulously keep the law to defend themselves against those who do not.
This point may be too complicated for politicians to understand, but
average people get the point. After the Brady Bill, another gun boom
ensued, as people loaded up in anticipation of further regulations.
Public perceptions were right on the money. Without missing a beat,
the feds banned the domestic manufacture of military-style guns and
clips holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. The result was the
biggest regulatory backfire of them all. The limited number of “assault”
(i.e., government-style) weapons still in circulation are selling at
twice their pre-ban prices. And since it takes more clips to equal the
old firepower, clip manufacturers are profiting as never before,
according to data assembled by the Wall Street Journal.
Finally, sending the market into overdrive was the threat that gun
makers will be bankrupted by lawsuits. People saw what the courts did to
tobacco companies, and what happened to cigarette prices in the
aftermath. Unlike cigs, guns are not perishable, so people figured they
might as well stock up now, before judges do to gun makers what they did
to cigarette makers.
The flurry of legislation introduced after the Littleton, Colo.,
shootings (in which the killers paid no attention to all the existing
laws) underscored the message that government does not want private
individuals to own guns. The gun industry is benefiting once again from
people’s fears of
what government may be prohibiting in the future.
Anti-gun fanatics view all this stockpiling as a catastrophe, since
their goal is the disarming of Americans. But they are caught on the
horns of a dilemma. Weaving gun bans through the legislative process
takes more time than the waiting periods and regulatory barriers already
enacted into law. The existing windows of freedom permit people to defy
the intentions of the
gun banners while there is still time.
The countrywide stockpiling now taking place should cheer the hearts
of even people who have no interest in owning a gun. That is because
wide ownership of guns confers what economists call “positive
externalities” on people who do not wish to own them. For example, if
you do not own a gun, you still benefit from the perception that you
may, a perception that can only continue so long as the reality of
widespread ownership is true. The fear of people willing to fight back
is what keeps criminals at bay.
A massive and detailed literature has proven time again time that the
more guns that are owned in a community, the less crime that community
has to put up with. The data are so overwhelming that no reasonable
person can deny them. (The
“Firearms Fact Sheet”
should be in every thinking person’s
favorites list). Why, then, does the gun-ban lobby continue to say that
restrictions on guns are the key to cutting crime?
It’s time that the ideological orientation of the gun grabbers be
examined more carefully. Notice that their theory about gun ownership
does not appear in isolation; it is part of a larger package of
political beliefs about the role of government in society. Almost to a
man, they favor the entire
big-government/politically-correct agenda. What they want is not a
disarmed society, but a society where government has a monopoly on gun
Consider this shocking reality: the present anti-gun hysteria is
taking place in the very month in which the federal government’s guns
have laid waste to an entire nation. The U.S. has brought about a
large-scale massacre in Yugoslavia, and set back its standard of living
some fifty years. It is a display of brutality that hasn’t been seen on
Europe’s soil since the 1940s.
Also consider that the Congress’ feeble attempt to place controls on
the warfare state’s use of guns has amounted to nothing. Clinton’s war
was defiantly illegal. The White House has put the War Powers Act
through a shredder, and when a few brave congressmen tried to sue, a
federal judge (which is to say, a judge in the pay of the Clinton
out the case.
This is in keeping with the general principle that criminals don’t
obey the law — and it doesn’t matter whether those criminals are street
hoodlums or the holders of high elected office. Just as the Littleton
killers ignored anti-gun statutes already on the books, Washington’s war
party ignored legal strictures designed to restrain their ability to
kill and destroy.
Where are the gun control advocates when it comes to preventing
politicians from the unrestrained use of violence and weapons of mass
destruction? They avert their eyes, because what they want is not a
disarmed America, but an America in which only criminals in the public
sector own guns. In short, the attempt to strip regular Americans from
owning guns is a totalitarian agenda unaffected by any amount of facts
and data that contradict their claims.
Thank goodness for what is left of the free market in guns, which has
made it possible for people to respond to the threat of gun regulation
by stockpiling. If we truly value freedom and security, we need not more
restrictions on private ownership, but repeal of existing restrictions.
given recent events in the Balkans, it should be clear that Congress
needs to pass very severe restrictions on the ability of bureaucrats and
warmongers to acquire and use weapons.
The danger to a free society is not the guns owned by the citizens
but an unconstrained government, especially one that is better armed
than the public. An armed society is a self-governing society, just as a
disarmed people are vulnerable to arbitrary power of every kind.