Guns: Stop Playing Politics with the Second Amendment

To his credit, President Barack Obama said one thing right during his State of the Union speech: “The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem.”  In typical Obama fashion, though, he went on to propose a government solution for every problem he identified, failing to realize that government solutions rarely solve their intended problem.  Thus begins the gun control debate.

The senseless and tragic massacre of twenty children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut shocked every American.  Innocent victims of violence deserve real solutions, not just a vote on politically contrived policies.  As the Heritage Foundation explains, real solutions “lie at the state and local levels, in the community and within the family.”

To identify real solutions, Heritage explains we must first “identify the specific problems to be addressed,” a process which extends beyond the misuses of firearms.  Second, “we must analyze potential solutions to [those] specific problems identified.”  Finally, we must implement those real solutions “in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution.”

To see how Washington so quickly failed this commonsense test, last month Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) introduced the “Assault Weapons Ban of 2013.”  The bill would ban the import, sale, manufacture, transfer, or possession of a semiautomatic assault weapon. 

The bill goes into excruciating detail backed by tortured logic, categorizing “semiautomatic assault weapon” based on style and appearance.  For example, a rifle “regardless” of the “caliber of ammunition” that contains a “pistol grip” or “forward grip” or “detachable stock” would be banned.  A “semiautomatic pistol” that has the “capacity to accept more than 10 rounds” would be illegal.  A “semiautomatic shotgun” with a “pistol grip” would be covered.

There is much more in the Feinstein-McCarthy proposal, including the creation of a national registry for weapons grandfathered under the proposal.  Despite the sweeping scope and specificity, this proposal would not have prevented the tragedy in Newtown or countless others around the country.

Even for those who believe an assault weapon ban would prevent future violence, contrary to the evidence, a CNN “Reality Check” makes clear the numbers simply do not add up.

Although the media’s obsession over assault weapons may continue, lawmakers are likely to adjust their sights to something they believe is more achievable: universal background checks.  Bloomberg reports “A coalition of House Republicans is willing” to join with Democrats in “broadening background checks for U.S. gun purchases.”

As with most things, there is a lot of misinformation floating around regarding background checks for gun ownership.  One of the most egregious distortions is tied up in one number: 40 percent.  That is the number of gun purchases that are not subject to a criminal background check, according to gun control proponents. 

Heritage explains, “this oft-repeated statistic is based on stale data that was grossly exaggerated even when it was fresh.”  The number, based off a 1997 report, was derived from “a telephone survey sample of just 251 people who acquired firearms in 1993 and 1994,” which was before the current background check system – National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) – went into effect.  Not only is the data irrelevant, but gun control proponents used the 6-percentage point margin of error to round up. 

What may earn you an “F” in college statistics should not pass as fact in our nation’s capitol.

Proponents of universal background checks cite another seemingly harrowing statistic: 1.7 million.  In a Politico opinion piece, Representatives Peter King (R-NY) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) claim, “Since 1999, the federal background check system has blocked more than 1.7 million permit applications and gun sales to prohibited purchasers at federally licensed dealers.” 

Does that mean 1.7 million guns were kept out of the hands of criminals?  Not so fast says John Lott.  That number represents only “initial denials.”  Lott explains, “The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives dropped over 94 percent of those “initial denials” after preliminary reviews.  Further review cleared at least a fifth of the other 6 percent.”

To put the exaggeration into perspective, it would be like claiming to have an income of $1 million when you took home $50,000.  If you try doing that on a mortgage application, you’re probably committing fraud.

From Chicago to Washington, the evidence strongly suggests greater gun control is not the solution to senseless violence.  Instead of taking the well-worn and ineffective path focused exclusively on guns, lawmakers should focus on the root cause.  It is important to reemphasize that the federal role must be limited, constrained by constitutional principles.  Real solutions lie at the state and local levels, in the community and within the family.

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