We would do the young victims of the Newtown shootings no honor by frantically enacting futile restrictions on freedom.
It may be satisfying to “do something.” But two things ought to be kept in mind. First, liberty is never more in peril than when politicians sense that the people want them to do something — anything. Second, a false sense of security is worse than no security at all. Legislating in the heat of emotion will not prevent future attacks, but it will do irreparable harm to innocent people.
The proposition that restrictions on gun sales will prevent shootings has been debunked many times. One wonders how often it must be pointed out that someone who is willing to commit murder is not likely to be deterred by gun laws or gun-free zones, which merely amount to an invitation to killers seeking to create maximum mayhem before killing themselves. Increases in violent crime followed tighter gun laws in Britain and Australia.
Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook school killer, used a semiautomatic rifle modeled on a gun used in combat, but it does not follow that if the so-called assault-weapons ban were reinstated, mass shootings would stop. The original ban singled out rifles based on cosmetic considerations, but even a more comprehensive ban wouldn’t make anyone safer. Millions of such rifles exist and would not disappear with the passage of a ban. Nor would the existing supply be confiscated. Thus, a plentiful black market would exist. Anyone who wants a banned rifle badly enough will have no trouble getting one. However, rifles are used in only a small percentage of crimes — and let’s not forget that violent crime has been declining for decades.
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Sheldon Richman (photo)