The roughly two dozen Democrats currently running for President are of one mind when it comes to the issue of gun control: they want a lot more. Gun licensing, gun bans, “universal background checks”, ammunition background checks, and “red flag” laws are just a few of the proposals we’ve seen from the likes of Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker, and there’s more to come as the candidates try to outdo one another in their anti-gun proposals to try and capture the votes of the Democrat base.
Cornell Professor Glenn Altschuler has some advice on what Democrats should say about guns at The Hill, and sadly, he doesn’t recommend “stop talking.” Instead, he recommends lying to the American people.
First, he says Democrats should tell voters that the United States is the “world capitol of firearm homicides, suicides, and mass shootings”. As it turns out, he’s 1/3rd right (which is also 2/3rds wrong). The U.S. isn’t the world capitol of firearm homicides. In fact, the U.S. doesn’t even have the highest firearm homicide rate in North America. That distinction belongs to Mexico. Other countries in the Western hemisphere with higher firearm homicide rates than the U.S. include Brazil, Jamaica, El Salvador, Honduras, Venezuela, and Belize. When it comes to mass shootings around the globe, the U.S. isn’t even in the Top 10, according to researcher John Lott.
Unfortunately, the United States does have the highest firearm-related suicide rate. That’s not the same as having the highest suicide rate overall, however. According to the World Health Organization, in 2016 the United States had the 34th highest suicide rate in the world. In recent years non-gun related suicides have been increasing even faster than gun-related suicides in the U.S., which suggests that Professor Altschuler is more interested in an anti-gun talking point than actually addressing why more Americans are taking their own lives, regardless of the means.
Altschuler also recommends that Democrats tout the belief that “like gun possession, gun regulation is as American as apple pie”, which is kind of like saying that having a beer is as American as Prohibition. Regulation is un-American when the goal or result is to deprive people of their Constitutional rights, and that’s exactly what many anti-gun activists publicly are calling for: making guns harder to get for law-abiding Americans through gun bans, licensing, mandatory insurance, and other laws that will price some people out of exercising their rights, and deprive many more through discretionary policies that allow law enforcement to deny licenses to a prospective gun owner for any reason, or no reason at all.
Democrats should also bring up past bi-partisan support for gun control measures, according to the professor. Of course it would be just as easy to bring up past bi-partisan opposition to gun control measures. And frankly, many Democrats these days seem to have big problems with the past in general, so I’m not sure how effective an argument this really is.
Background checks seem to be the big legislative item Altschuler is hoping Democrats will push, but once again his argument in favor contains a big lie.
In Feb. 2019, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation mandating background checks on all gun sales, including purchases made privately, online or at gun shows. Had it been the law of the land, the bill might have prevented a white supremacist — who had been arrested for possession of drugs — from buying a gun and killing nine churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., in 2015.
That killer, whose name I will not use, went through a background check. There’s been some finger-pointing between state and federal law enforcement agencies over where the system failed, but a federal judge blasted the FBI last year for “abysmally poor” policies and interpretations of rules that allowed the killer to buy a gun despite the fact that he was legally disqualified from doing so.
When it comes to “universal background checks”, Altschuler also fails to mention how they’d be effectively enforced. What’s the point of putting a law on the books if it does nothing? At that point, it’s simply a soundbite solution; something that sounds good in a ten-second soundbite, but doesn’t stand up to scrutiny upon deeper examination. We’ve already seen that “universal background check” laws didn’t lead to more background checks in Colorado, nor did they lead to fewer homicides or suicides in California. Sheriffs in New Mexico, where universal background checks became law on July 1st, have noted the unenforceable nature of these laws, but their expert opinions fell on deaf ears at the Democrat-controlled state capitol.
Then again, Professor Altschuler is offering advice on what Democrats should say when it comes to guns, not what would actually be effective at continuing to reduce the country’s violent crime rate. Americans should keep in mind that the talking points from Altschuler and Democrat candidates are intended to win votes, not make us safer.