Gun control: ignorance in search of power

RealClearPolitics brings us a new intellectual high-water mark in the gun control debate, as Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette, a Democrat, makes it clear that she doesn’t really know what a “magazine” is, or how they work – she just knows she wants power over them: “I will tell you these are ammunition, they???re bullets, so the people who have those now they???re going to shoot them, so if you ban them in the future, the number of these high capacity magazines is going to decrease dramatically over time because the bullets will have been shot and there won???t be any more available.”

Golly, whatever will we do if those cunning criminals – er, excuse me, “persons who choose to operate outside the law,” in accordance with the new Associated Press stylebook – figure out that magazines can be reloaded?  

This degree of nitwittery is not uncommon in the gun control debate.  The anti-gun crowd is having a good day if they can avoid referring to ammunition magazine as “clips.”  Barack Obama’s phony statistic about “40 percent of all gun purchases taking place without a background check” – which has been debunked by conservatives many times, but is finally getting a fact-check workover from the mainstream press – could most charitably be described as ignorance of how gun sales work.  I suspect Obama himself knows it isn’t true – his advisers certainly do – and he’s just flogging the lie because it sounds useful.  But a lot of his supporters don’t know it’s untrue, because they have minimal personal experience with the purchase and transfer of firearms.

The hysteria around “assault weapons” is an example of using loaded language to exploit a general lack of knowledge about rifles.  Most of the characteristics that land rifles on the “assault weapons” ban list are cosmetic, with little bearing on the weapon’s effectiveness.  Sometimes gun control zealots like to slip in terms like “military weapons,” to conjure images of rocket launchers and squad automatic weapons tucked into gun racks in the pickup trucks of NRA life members, who are one fender-bender away from pumping entire neighborhoods full of lead.  For that matter, the concept of “semi-automatic” guns is deliberately conflated with fully automatic fire.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently kicked off a $12 million ad campaign designed to work up support for gun control measures.  His ads feature people who are pretending to be “responsible gun owners” in favor of more gun laws.  But as Emily Miller of the Washington Times immediately noticed, the actors in these ads were violating basic gun safety rules while brandishing their weapons for the camera.  One of them actually had his finger resting on the trigger of his weapon while delivering his little sermon about “responsibility.”

New York’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, became a laughingstock by ramming through a hastily assembled package of gun-control laws he obviously had not read, or thought much about.  As written, these measures would have disarmed police officers, and left citizens with the “right” to buy gun magazines that don’t actually exist.  Cuomo ended up calling for the repeal of his own laws.

The cynical observer would conclude this deliberate ignorance is designed to panic the “soccer moms” with imagery of incredibly powerful weapons that no private citizen could handle safely.  It also allows the gun control crowd to pump out a huge blizzard of proposals, leaving them comfortably ahead if only ten or twenty percent of their ideas find purchase in the popular imagination.  And they must be given something after a headline-grabbing atrocity, right?  We’ve got to Do Something!  Even if it doesn’t make sense, or has a very tenuous connection to the incident that prompted hasty legislative action.

Proper respect for the Second Amendment would make greater personal knowledge of firearms unnecessary for political leaders.  One of the virtues of having an “inalienable right” is that other people don’t have to understand its nuances to refrain from alienating it.  It’s going to be a dreary spectacle watching some American politicians take the United Nations’ new gun laws seriously, when the only response necessary is a silent nod at the Second Amendment, perhaps accompanied by impatient tapping of the foot.

But if we’re going to venture further into the political control of our rights to self-defense, we really should insist that everyone involved in the discussion develop a solid working understanding of firearms, based on personal experience.  Modern guns are impressive technological achievements.  A thorough understanding of their intricacies is not easily gained – and Hollywood is the worst possible teacher.  It becomes increasingly annoying to hear blanket demands for the power to control something politicians clearly don’t understand.  But that could be said about more than guns, couldn’t it?