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February 18, 2013

There's Real Danger Lurking In David Frum's Ignorance

Ben and you Morons and Moronettes had good fun with this earlier:

But I want to make a bit of a serious point about it.

With about a 10:1 ratio of guns to people in my house when I was growing up, I learned proper gun safety early on. There are a couple of versions of the standard rules ... the NRA has 3 and Jeff Cooper had 4:

1. All guns are always loaded.

2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.

3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.

4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

My dad was always fond of pointing out that a "safety", like you'll find on most guns other than revolvers, is a mechanical device that can fail and is no substitute for these rules, which work in all cases.

Also, these rules are designed to provide layers of safety through redundancy. A gun you didn't think was loaded is less likely to unintentionally discharge and hurt anything other than your pride if it's pointed in a safe direction and less likely still if you keep your finger off the trigger.

And then today, along comes super-genius David Frum, who knows less about guns than the other things he knows nothing about but nevertheless sees fit to lecture on, and advocates for something that is less safe than current best practice engaged in by people who know what they're doing.

Note to Frum: My H&K USP carry gun has a loaded chamber indicator. It's meaningless to me because I always treat the thing like it's loaded anyway.

Frum's charge in the piece he did for CNN that I won't link is, basically, that gun manufacturers are being negligent and this results in needless accidental deaths. So, just at random I went and grabbed a box from a fairly recent gun purchase (a Glock 23 in 2007):

Untitled Untitled Untitled

Untitled Untitled Untitled

The outside of the box, inside of the box and manual are littered with warnings about the risk of death or injury from unsafe handling practices. Also, the gun store where I bought it has safety instructions printed on the receipt and you're required to sign a statement that you've read and understand them in order to take possession of the firearm.

Once someone has waded through all this, is one more form of warning really going to do any good?

The part of Frum's CNN piece spawning this ignorant tweet that deals with gun manufacturers can best be described by analogy: He's asking for a pen that doesn't misspell words.

Of course, this is classic Frum trolling of the right and I wouldn't pay much attention to it but for the fact that there are people who may actually mistake him for a serious commentator on the issue. As Jeff Jacoby points out, there is real danger in letting emotion and ignorance override fact and reason when it comes to gun laws.

In 1998, Massachusetts passed what was hailed as the toughest gun-control legislation in the country. Among other stringencies, it banned semiautomatic "assault" weapons, imposed strict new licensing rules, prohibited anyone convicted of a violent crime or drug trafficking from ever carrying or owning a gun, and enacted severe penalties for storing guns unlocked.

"Today, Massachusetts leads the way in cracking down on gun violence," said Republican Governor Paul Cellucci as he signed the bill into law. "It will save lives and help fight crime in our communities." Scott Harshbarger, the state's Democratic attorney general, agreed: "This vote is a victory for common sense and for the protection of our children and our neighborhoods." One of the state's leading anti-gun activists, John Rosenthal of Stop Handgun Violence, joined the applause. "The new gun law," he predicted, "will certainly prevent future gun violence and countless grief."

It didn't.

The 1998 legislation did cut down, quite sharply, on the legal use of guns in Massachusetts. Within four years, the number of active gun licenses in the state had plummeted. "There were nearly 1.5 million active gun licenses in Massachusetts in 1998," the AP reported. "In June [2002], that number was down to just 200,000." The author of the law, state Senator Cheryl Jacques, was pleased that the Bay State's stiff new restrictions had made it possible to "weed out the clutter."

But the law that was so tough on law-abiding gun owners had quite a different impact on criminals.

Since 1998, gun crime in Massachusetts has gotten worse, not better. Instead of "lead[ing] the way in cracking down on gun violence," the state has seen gun violence shoot up. In 2011, Massachusetts recorded 122 murders committed with firearms, the Boston Globe reported this month – "a striking increase from the 65 in 1998." Other crimes rose too. Between 1998 and 2011, robbery with firearms climbed 20.7 percent. Aggravated assaults jumped 26.7 percent.

Read the whole thing.

I can personally attest to how hard Massachusetts makes lawful purchase and possession of firearms. As a matter of fact, they do virtually all of the things Frum suggested in his column, from requiring locked storage at home to promulgation of "approved firearms rosters" defining what guns can and can't be sold here under the guise of consumer safety.

These laws were made by people who know as little about guns as Frum and ignored all the advice of people who know vastly more. That this has failed to produce the intended results should come as no surprise.

Now people with this same mentality are charging forth to "prevent the next Sandy Hook". How do you think that's going to turn out?

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posted by Andy at 08:00 PM

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