There Oughta Be a Law!

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Two beautiful young ladies were shot and killed in a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, and most of the news channels have covered little else.

The news agencies have all reported the Lafayette shooting with a lead-in line referring to three deceased victims. That is both inaccurate and disingenuous, since one of the dead is the shooter, who turned his gun on himself, an action that Dave Workman of correctly described as a public service.

Any horror like that is a tragedy, but the reaction to this shooting in particular has been a universal call for more laws, for greater, stronger, more stringent, more draconian laws, specifically more “common sense” gun laws. CNN aired a segment with a panel almost immediately in which they called for, “…a more realistic interpretation of the second amendment,” and “common-sense gun laws.” The usual politicians, notably President Obama, who gave an interview to BBC News just before he left for Kenya, lamented yet again that America does not have, “…sufficient, common-sense gun safety laws.”

It’s a very natural, knee-jerk reaction to tragedy. You look at the dead and think of all the unspeakable heartbreak of the people who loved them, the loss of so much potential, the senselessness of it all, and your first reaction is, Somebody’s got to do something! This sort of thing must be stopped! There oughta be a law!

I have bad news: there is a law. In fact, when you combine federal, state, county, and local ordinances, there are over 22,000 laws on the books governing every aspect of gun ownership from purchase to use to misuse down to the disposal of the chemicals used to clean a gun after firing it. (By now it’s probably considerably more than 22,000 laws; that statistic is at least a decade old.)

Part of the problem is that all the laws in the world will have no effect on either evil or stupidity. The greater part of the problem is that all the laws in the world are meaningless when they are not enforced, particularly at the federal level.

Syracuse University, which describes itself as a “private research university,” has something they call their “Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse,” where they monitor federal law enforcement in various categories. One of those categories is the federal enforcement of firearms laws currently already on the books against armed criminals. Some of those laws include: prohibitions against illegal possession of a firearm in a school zone; sale of a firearm to a juvenile, a felon, or a drug addict; illegal transport of a firearm across state lines. Some of those laws are redundant, since it is also a violation of federal law for a convicted felon to even touch a firearm. Ever. The penalty is a mandatory ten-year sentence. And yet…

And yet, US News & World Report, quoting Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, states that when it comes to enforcement of those laws, the three districts—out of ninety—with the worst, lowest record of prosecuting federal weapons crimes, per capita, are the districts of eastern New York (that includes New York City) in eighty-eighth place; central California (that includes Los Angeles) in eighty-ninth place; and northern Illinois (that includes the shooting and murder capital of the United States, Chicago) in ninetieth place. Dead last, you should pardon the expression. It is no coincidence that those three cities, in particular Chicago, also have some of the highest homicide rates and the highest rates of crime and violence in which a firearm is used.

It has been well documented that the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has, since it was signed into law, resulted in a pathetically small percentage of prosecutions (less than ¼ of one percent) of those people who attempted to break the laws governing gun purchases.

(For the record, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System is the system that many anti-gun organizations, most notably Shannon Watts’s Moms Demand Action, claim doesn’t apply to 40% of gun purchases. That claim is a lie that has long been debunked. No one can legally purchase a handgun in this country, from a licensed store, at a gun show, from a buddy at the range, without passing the NICS check, which means going through a licensed FFL dealer.)

But the point is, it is a violation of federal law to lie on any federal form, specifically, in this case, on ATF 4473, and if you are the kind of person who is willing to violate federal law to get your hands on a firearm, we can safely assume you might be the kind of person who would violate other laws, like those that prohibit killing people. And yet the government doesn’t prosecute these cases.

To be fair, in some of those cases, federal prosecution would be redundant because the state involved does charge and prosecute some felons earmarked by the NICS system, but no one knows what percentage are caught by the states because those records are not kept. But the federal government can’t claim a law doesn’t exist just because they can’t be bothered to enforce it.

Consider Chicago. I don’t have to document the ludicrously out of control murder rate there. Look at the news. Murder is up 48% so far this year, with roughly (the statistics vary, depending on who is doing the reporting) 250 people shot to death so far this year. Yet Chicago has the most restrictive, most draconian gun laws currently on the books of any American city.

If you can’t buy a gun in Chicago, where are the guns coming from? Out of state, smuggled into the city. That is a violation of federal law carrying a ten-year sentence. If you’re already a felon doing the smuggling, that’s another ten years added on top. If drugs or violence are involved, that could result in an automatic life sentence. But it’s all meaningless because the federal government doesn’t enforce its own laws. The government could mandate a sentence of public execution by boiling convicted criminals slowly in oil in the town square. What difference would it make? Nobody’s going to be prosecuted anyway.

A nasty, suspicious, paranoid kind of person—the kind of person who thought the government’s Operation Fast and Furious, where they illegally allowed guns along the border to “walk” into drug cartel hands, was a deliberate attempt to boost the government’s argument in favor of stricter regulations in border states—that kind of person might well think the government is deliberately not enforcing its own laws in order to build a case for new laws that it can also not enforce.

My suggestion is to make it a violation of federal law for any politician to suggest, and for the government to pass, any law and then not enforce it. I would recommend the death penalty.

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