In reaction to this Missouri law, a friend of mine asked me "why police are not standing up to the gun lobby more vociferously and effectively? It seems to me that their jobs are made immeasurably harder and more dangerous by rollbacks in gun laws such as this." You'd think, she said, police would want fewer guns out there that could kill them. But generally that's not the case. My reply:
Partly because there really isn't any real national police organization to do the standing. And I wouldn’t want a representative national police organization talking about politics, because if such an organization existed, we wouldn't like what they have to say. [And as if on cue, the FOP came out endorsing Trump. I was hoping they'd keep their mouth shut on that one.]
There's the IACP (Int’l Association of chiefs of police). But it's not like they have a lot of Clout. And this law was opposed by Missouri’s Police Chiefs Association, says the story. I suspect they carry about 20 votes. And organizations of “chiefs” are more Left than their rank-and-file, because a lot of chiefs are appointed by politicians, and have to represent their beliefs.
Then you've got the police unions (the PBA and FOP). They're technically apolitical, though very much politically conservative. Like any union, there's a question over how much they should venture beyond working conditions and pay and the like and speak on national issues. Far be it for me to speak for a million cops, but I think most cops do support some gun regulation -- and thus oppose what Missouri did -- but given the either/or choice between “all guns banned” and “no gun restrictions,” most cops would go with the latter.
So then we just delve into the gun control debate with all the usual and predictable sides and lack of progress. Cops see danger coming from a small subset of criminals with guns, and not guns in general. Remember: police officers and all their friends are (for the most part) legal responsible gun owners. Cops want laws to focus on criminals and crimes, rather than guns. Collectively, most cops are incredibly pro-gun and equate the 2nd Amendment with freedom (just as you and I might do with the 1st Amendment). Inasmuch as gun laws are seen to infringe their rights while doing nothing to prevent criminals from shooting each other and shooting cops, cops aren’t going to support it.
Consider this: there are (almost) no shootings in Chicago or New York or Baltimore that involves a legally possessed handgun. We’ve already “controlled” these guns and made them illegal. So what would passing *more* restrictive gun laws do to stop this violence? Are we going to double-dog-dare make them illegal? They’re already illegal. We don’t prioritize the laws we do have.
How can we take guns out of the hands of criminals? (Or get criminals to use them less?) That’s the $64,000 question. Most gun-control laws are close to irrelevant here. Perhaps the only way to get guns out of the hands of criminals is to confiscate guns with strong gun control, Australian style. Many people, myself included, like this idea. But the majority of Americans and the current Supreme Court would not agree.
The basic ideological divide is that liberals see guns as the problem and conservatives see criminals as the problem. And nobody on either side has a good plan to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.
There are three-hundred million guns in America; ten-million guns are manufactured every year! And yet only about 10,000 of these gun are used to murder somebody (plus suicides, of course). How many millions of guns would we have to confiscate before we prevented a single gun homicide? And how would we go about doing this?
Most proposed gun-control is pretty useless in actually preventing crime (as opposed to preventing a small number of gun sales.) And gun people see this as an ideological battle on gun-owners, so they won’t give in (even on so-called “common-sense” issues). The political reality is that there’s no way right now we could enact gun control so restrictive it would actually do any substantial good.
Common ground? Maybe actual jail time for people who carry illegal guns? Would liberals support more mandatory sentences for those caught with illegal guns? Without exception? I suspect such a practice did actually contribute to the crime decline in NYC. But you try throwing the words “mandatory minimum” into a room of urban Progressives and see the response you'd get! (The key here is mandatory; the minimum doesn’t have to be long.)
If gun-control advocates maybe first agreed that criminals with illegal guns are a bigger problem than guns, maybe some political compromise could be reached. I’m afraid gun-control has become a harmful distraction to real issues that can save lives now.
This past Monday in Baltimore, a 64-year-old man was robbed and attacked while reading a book in a park. A group of young people placed a gun to his head, stabbed him, sprayed him with mace, took his stuff, and then, just for kicks, stabbed him again. That’s just a normal crime, right? But what makes this shocking is less the crime than the girl that was there to film the crime and post it on facebook (which she did)! And this wasn't their only recent crime.
I have no clue what gun-control law is going to stop this from happening. Or what law would keep the 13-year-old armed robber with a gun in Ohio (who was just killed by police) from getting his hands on the BB-gun replica he had? And yet there’s more outrage from the Left about police killing this kid armed-robber who had a gun (albeit one that turned out to be non-lethal) than about actual armed robbers.
Here’s what scares me right now more than guns: the potential right-wing law-and-order backlash. The official 2015 crime data comes out, get this, the day of the next presidential debate. Homicides are way up in America. We know this. Black homicides in particular. It will be the largest increase in decades. And yet the Left has been in denial about this (and/or discounts its significance). By talking about guns rather than crime, we’re virtually conceding law-and-order issues to Trump and the fascist Right. Politically and morally, this is bonkers.
[Unrelated, I suspect the phrase "It's the ______, stupid" is long dated and most people don't understand it or know its Clinton-Era origin.]