The Gun Control Push

Since everyone else on the Left has been using the Tucscon atrocity to push their agenda, it’s not surprising the gun-control lobby is joining in.  As reported by the Washington Post, gun control advocates are pointing to Jared Loughner’s legal purchase of two firearms – the Glock 19 pistol he used in the attack, plus a shotgun – despite an arrest for possession of drug paraphernalia, which also kept him out of the Army.

America’s new least favorite mayor, Michael Bloomberg of snow-covered New York City, complained that “the law says drug abusers can’t buy guns.  Even though Jared Loughner was rejected by the military for drug use and arrested on drug charges, he was able to pass a background check and buy a gun.”

Wait, hold up a second.  “The law says drug abusers can’t buy guns?”  Well, then how the heck did Loughner get one?

The answer is that his drug citation came during a traffic stop, and the charge was dismissed after he completed a “drug diversion program.”  Pima County judge Jose Luis Castillo notes that Loughner filled out additional, and unnecessary, paperwork to ensure the drug offense was cleared from his record, and suggests he did so to ensure access to firearms.

In other words, Loughner correctly followed the rules of a complex system that was designed to treat him with leniency, but we’re not talking about tightening the aspect of the system he had direct contact with.  We’re talking about dropping more draconian gun control laws on everyone else.  It looks like the Second Amendment will be getting an intrusive patdown from the Transportation Security Agency, which perfectly understands the mindset of making easy targets suffer because it’s too difficult to focus on the bad guys.

Some of the remedial measures gun-control advocates are daydreaming about, such as more extensive background checks, sound like expensive upgrades to systems that already work… provided we don’t ignore the results.  Others are just plain crazy, like Republican Peter King’s idea to make possession of a firearm within 1000 feet of a government official illegal.  I can just see Jared Loughner realizing he was about to bring his Glock within a thousand feet of his intended victim and scurrying home, worried sick that he was about to break the law.  It’s also sad that King doesn’t provide any protection for mere candidates.  The anti-gun force field doesn’t go up until you win that election and become a government official.

The focus on Loughner’s drug offense also raises an interesting question about drug legalization, which has lately been all the rage among hardcore libertarians (and people who just plain enjoy drugs).  If we legalize drugs, does that mean drug users will cheerfully forfeit their right to possess firearms?  Or will we drop the prohibition against guns for those who use approved recreational drugs?

The Gun Control Act of 1968 also prevents mentally ill people from purchasing firearms, but the system resolutely refused to classify Jared Loughner as mentally ill.  A discussion on that topic has also arisen in the wake of the Tucson horror.  Summarizing “The Case For Involuntary Commitment” at The New Republic, William Galston proposes a requirement those who obtain “credible evidence of an individual’s mental disturbance” to report it to the authorities, with legal penalties for failure to do so, along with a lower threshold for involuntary commitment to a mental health facility. 

Of course, as Galston readily admits, such ideas are not easily digested by civil libertarians.  People are really going to pay fines, or do hard time, for failure to refer loony poetry and web pages to the police?  And who gets to define the “delusional loss of contact with reality” that would trigger the commitment process?  Based on the events of the past few days, we’d have better than half the media in treatment programs, and the staff of the New York Times would be enjoying ping-pong with the Joker down at Arkham Asylum.

Bottom line: sick people and drug addicts aren’t supposed to have guns.  The authorities in Arizona systematically refused to classify Jared Loughner as either a sick person or a drug addict.  The solution does not lie in attempts to compromise the Second Amendment for everyone.