By John Seiler | Special to Watchdog.org
He waited most of a week, but on Wednesday evening President Obama started exploiting the Aurora, Colo., shooting for political gain.
His earlier words only had consoled the families of the 12 people killed and the 58 people wounded, allegedly by James Holmes. Then came what had seemed inevitable: the counter-attack.
Taking up the gun-control theme in a speech before the National Urban League in New Orleans, he insisted, “But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals — (applause) — that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities. I believe the majority of gun owners would agree that we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons; that we should check someone’s criminal record before they can check out a gun seller; that a mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily. (Applause.) These steps shouldn’t be controversial. They should be common sense.”
Later, the president mentioned street crime: “For every Columbine or Virginia Tech, there are dozens gunned down on the streets of Chicago and Atlanta, and here in New Orleans. For every Tucson or Aurora there is daily heartbreak over young Americans shot in Milwaukee or Cleveland. Violence plagues the biggest cities, but it also plagues the smallest towns.”
The Tucson reference was to U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in Tucson in a 2011 assassination attempt in which six other people were killed. He said he couldn’t get gun control measures before Congress.
On Thursday, press secretary Jay Carney said the president actually isn’t pushing any new laws.
The president hasn’t been alone in calling for more gun control. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, now an independent by political affiliation, said police should go on strike until gun control is enacted. He later backtracked — but only because he wanted to point out that it’s illegal for Big Apple police to go on strike.
California’s two liberal Democratic U.S. senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, both called for bringing back a ban on assault weapons that Feinstein sponsored in 1994, but which expired in 2004. Michael Moore, the liberal documentary filmmaker behind “Bowling for Columbine,” told CNN on Wednesday, “If you reduce the guns and the ammo, you’ll reduce the murders.”
Liberal movie critic Roger Ebert scoffed that Colorado’s conceal-carry laws clearly failed in Aurora: no one in the audience shot back.
Even some conservatives have called for more government involvement.
“I’m a squish on gun control,” William Kristol said on Fox News Sunday. “I don’t think people have a right to semi-automatic quasi-machine guns that can shoot 100 bullets at a time. And I actually think the Democrats are being foolish as they’re being cowardly” by not supporting at least some gun control. Holmes, the Aurora suspect, allegedly used a magazine that could hold 100 rounds of ammunition.
Even media magnate Rupert Murdoch tweeted, “We have to do something about gun controls. Police license okay for hunting rifle or pistol for anyone without crim or pscho (sic) record. No more.”
Fortunately, in the past two decades a great deal of research has been done on guns and crime. The findings are summarized in the title of one of the best books on the subject, “More Guns, Less Crime,” by gun scholar John Lott, chief economist at the U.S. Sentencing Commission.
I talked to Lott first about the president’s comments about AK-47s and soldiers.
“These types of comments by the president are just irresponsible,” Lott said. “He knows these aren’t military guns,” referring to the AR-15 Holmes allegedly used. “An AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle. He knows it’s not a military gun. These are not machine guns,” which were banned by the National Firearms Act of 1934.
Kristol also showed his ignorance on that matter, Lott said.
“It looks the same on the outside as a military rifle but isn’t the same,” Lott said. “Instead, on the inside it’s the same as a hunting rifle. It can only shoot one round at a time.
Lott compared the AR-15 to its military equivalent, M-16, which looks the same. The difference is that the M-16 also can use “fully automatic fire,” shooting many bullets with a single pull of the trigger, potentially at up to 950 rounds a minute.
Lott said that, if the president were serious about a ban on “military” rifles, he should favor banning all rifles, not just those that look mean.
As to the large, 100-round magazine brought up by Kristol and others, Lott said, “If anything, I would argue that using a 100-round magazine caused the gun to jam,” ending the shooting spree. “First, any semi-automatic gun can take a magazine of any size. Magazines are easy to make. A magazine is a rectangular metal box with a spring in it. The notion that you could ban them is not serious.”
I’m not going to link to them, but a Google search quickly turned up sites on the Internet on how to make your own magazines.
“For a large magazine, you need a very strong spring,” Lott continued. “Over a long time, the spring gets metal fatigue. To lose much at all of the strength of the spring, it won’t properly push the bullets into the chamber. The gun will jam. That’s what happened in this case” in the Aurora shooting, saving many lives.
As to Obama’s concerns about shootings in cities, a key factor has been the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court Decision, District of Columbia vs. Heller. It affirmed a personal right to keep and bear arms. When the decision was handed down, Democratic Mayor Adrian Fenty warned, “I am disappointed in the court’s ruling and believe that more handguns in the District of Columbia will only lead to more handgun violence.”
At the national level, the adoption of conceal-carry laws, allowing most law-abiding citizens to pack heat, is a major reason for reductions in crime in every area over the past two decades. Human Events summarized the findings in Lott’s book: “‘There are large drops in overall violent crime, murder, rape, and aggravated assault that begin right after the right-to-carry laws have gone into effect,’ Lott writes. ‘In all those crime categories, the crime rates consistently stay much lower than they were before the law.’
“From the time states passed right-to-carry concealed handgun laws, the average murder rate dropped from 6.3 per 100,000 to 5.2 per 100,000 nine-to-ten years later — ‘about a 1.7 percent drop in the murder rate per year for ten years.’
“Overall violent crime rates similarly dropped from 475 crimes per 100,000 people to a range of 415-440 after the second full year that concealed-carry laws were passed. Rapes dropped from 40.2 per 100,000 people to 35.7 per 100,000 nine to 10 years later (a 12 percent drop).”
In the immediate crime in Aurora, the movie theater actually banned conceal-carry weapons by patrons, so disarmed moviegoers were unable to shoot back, something ignored by critic Ebert. Reporting on Breitbart.com, Warner Todd Huston wrote, “As it happens, the Century 16 theaters at 14300 E. Alameda Ave. in Aurora, Colorado are owned by Cinemark Century Theaters, headquartered in Plano, Texas, and for several years this chain movie theater has told customers they are not welcome to bring their firearms into theaters.
“Back in 2009, an Alaska-based member of a gun owner’s message board going by the handle SubNine reported that he tried to enter a Cinemark owned theater with his open carry weapon but was told he was not allowed to enter the premises armed because the chain had a no-weapons policy. It was a ‘gun-free zone,’ he was told by the manager.’”
Instead of having “gun-free zones,” we would be better off if establishments requested that law-abiding citizens voluntarily carry concealed weapons to help protect their fellow citizens. Lott wrote Wednesday in the New York Daily News, “With a single exception, every multiple-victim public shooting in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed since at least 1950 has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry their own firearms. … In other words, despite more than 4 percent of the adult population of Colorado having concealed handgun permits, a gunman intent on killing a lot of people could be confident that law-abiding citizens there would be sitting ducks.”
As to the mentally ill, who were mentioned by the president and Murdoch, federal law already requires states “to share the names of mentally ill people with the national background-check system to prevent them from buying guns,” reported the Huffington Post. States only partially follow the law.
Aside from the constitutionality of such a law, which is doubtful, do we really want constitutional rights dependent on government declarations of sanity? Will we end up with Soviet psychiatry, where political opponents were declared insane? And the federal government considered that James Holmes was “sane” enough to have been given a $26,000 stipend by the National Institutes of Health, some of which might have been used to amass his $15,000 arsenal of murder.
In conclusion, the evidence is in: To further reduce crime, we need more guns to be carried by honest, law-abiding citizens. Criminals don’t care about laws. As is shown by last year’s killing of 69 people by Anders Breivik in Norway, a country with strict gun-control laws, determined killers will be able to get guns no matter what the law says. The question is: Will we allow the innocent to arm themselves to shoot back?