There’s a part of me that really wants to believe that this is just trollish clickbait and not a serious argument, but sadly, I think Amanda Marcotte of Salon actually means every word of this dumb argument. First, she makes the increasingly common argument among gun control advocates that we should make it harder to legally get a gun because that will magically make it harder to illegally get a gun too.

It is true that the suspect, Maurice Hill — who had an arsenal sufficient to hold off the cops for hours — has a lengthy criminal record, including a 2008 federal conviction for illegal gun ownership. But it’s simple-minded to suggest that this crime therefore has no implications for how we regulate guns. On the contrary, there’s ample reason to believe that making it harder to get a gun legally will also make it a lot harder to get a gun illegally.

“All guns start out as legal guns,” epidemiologist Anthony Fabio of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health told the Washington Post in 2016.  But although they are legally sold in the first instance, a “huge number of them” end up in criminal hands, he added.

This is the theory of trickle down criminal justice; go after the much larger pool of Americans trying to legally exercise their rights, and the effects might eventually trickle down to the far fewer number of criminals and make it harder for them to illegally possess a gun. Of course it’s easy for Marcotte to make this argument about a right she has no interest in exercising. I wonder what kind of restrictions on her access and use of the Internet she’d be willing to make to help combat the spread of child pornography?

Anyway, according to Marcotte, conservatives should be embracing these gun control proposals in order to protect cops. What Marcotte doesn’t realize is that gun control really isn’t popular among law enforcement. According to a 2013 survey of more than 15,000 law enforcement officers, fewer than 10% thought an “assault weapons ban” would be effective at reducing violent crime. More than 90% of respondents said they support the right of citizens to carry firearms for self-defense.

In response to Marcotte’s story, I posed a question of my own on Twitter.

I got a couple of good responses (and would love to see yours as well).

I also reached out to former NYPD officer Rob O’Donnell, who I know through the law enforcement charity Brothers Before Others to get his take on Marcotte’s argument.

For Salon and its writers to utilize the “Blue Lives Matter” slogan to advocate for their anti-gun hit piece under the guise of officer safety in nauseating at best. The choice is never either-or, and anyone who comes to the table with those options is beginning from a place of bad faith. The suspect in Philadelphia was a convicted felon with multiple gun and drug arrests including federal gun possession charges and would never be subject to a background check restriction; Why? Because he’d never pass one. Furthermore, criminals don’t turn in their guns so what applicable use would a gun type ban be for someone who makes a living in criminal activity. The argument that making guns harder to get legally will also make the guns harder to obtain illegally would be comical if the stakes weren’t so dire, all this theory does is make more victims. 

As a matter of fact for someone who did this professionally for many years, there is not a gun law proposed that would have prevented Philadelphia. Criminals don’t obey laws, that’s why they’re criminals. The gun show loophole or universal background checks is a Trojan horse as this applies to only guns randomly used in crimes or gun deaths. Handguns account for 96% of our nation’s gun crimes, and semi-automatic rifles account for less than 1%.

Meaningful gun law reform begins with enforcing the laws we currently have to their fullest extent targeting gun crime recidivists with a zero tolerance mentality. The question that needs to be asked in regards to Philadelphia is not “what additional laws can we create to prevent this”, it should be “ why was Maurice Hill, a repeat violent felon walking the streets to begin with”

As for the study they reference as proof to their argument, “weaker gun laws and higher rates of gun ownership” and police shootings” I’ll add some both personal and professional experience. My home state of Pennsylvania is a right to carry state in everywhere but Philadelphia. If their hypothesis was true, who does Philadelphia have more gun crime and police shootings then the entire state combined? Maybe because their common sense retrograde is not so sensible?

I appreciate Rob’s thoughtful response, and I hope that it will help answer Amanda Marcotte’s dumb and dishonestly-framed question for her.