Gun Restrictions Have Always Bred Defiance, Black Markets

03 Jan

an excellent read, well researched and well documented. here are some excerpts of the 7 pages many well referenced parts on europe and australia

Gun Restrictions Have Always Bred Defiance, Black Markets

“I doubt I ever would have gone to the black market to purchase an illegal assault weapon if it wasn’t for New York’s annoyingly restrictive gun control laws”

The police officers at New York City’s One Police Plaza, once I actually got into the place, were flat-out rude. They weren’t abusive as much as surly in a special bureaucratic way, backed up by the implied threat that they could punish back-talk with a simple nudge of your papers into the trash can. I bit my tongue, but everybody has their own limit. A “customer” at an adjoining desk in the cramped warren stood up, announced loudly that rather than put up with this treatment he’d buy his gun on the street, then stalked from the room.

Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. I’ll never know if that guy went to the black market. But plenty of New Yorkers have chosen to own guns outside the official system. In a city that, as I write, has roughly 37,000 licensed handgun owners and about 21,000 rifle and shotgun licenses, the running guesstimate of illegal firearms stands at two million, give or take a bit. That’s the number the U.S. Department of Justice has used in its official publications in recent years.

The high water mark of American compliance with gun control laws may have come with Illinois’s handgun registration law in the 1970s. About 25 percent of handgun owners actually complied, according to Don B. Kates, a criminologist and civil liberties attorney, writing in the December 1977 issue of Inquiry. After that, about 10 percent of “assault weapon” owners obeyed California’s registration law, says David B. Kopel, research director for Colorado’s Independence Institute, a free-market think-tank, and author of The Samurai, The Mountie, and The Cowboy, a book-length comparison of international firearms policies.

That one-in-10 estimate may have been generous. As the registration period came to a close in 1990, The New York Times reported “only about 7,000 weapons of an estimated 300,000 in private hands in the state have been registered.”

Maybe gun owners are getting more ornery as time goes on. Or perhaps they’re just getting more distrustful of the authorities. In fact, American gun owners may have good reason to be skeptical of common assurances that registration records won’t ever be used for anything more than tracking lost and stolen weapons. In New York City, the center of agitation for tighter U.S. gun laws, the registration system for long guns such as rifles and shotguns, established in 1967, was used in the 1990s to confiscate previously lawful semiautomatic rifles.

California state officials pulled a similar stunt, though with a shorter grace period. After the registration of so-called “assault weapons” subsequent to the passage of the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989, Attorney General Dan Lungren reversed official position in 1997 to declare one of the rifles considered legal and subject to registration just a few years earlier—the SKS Sporter—to be illegal. Owners who had complied with the law were forced to surrender their weapons or transfer them out of state.

Whatever the motivation, Kopel found no more than one percent compliance with Denver’s law requiring registration of semi-automatic weapons, as well as Boston’s and Cleveland’s bans on such guns.

Likewise, in New Jersey, said The New York Times in 1991, after the legislature passed a law banning “assault weapons,” 947 people registered their rifles as sporting guns for target shooting, 888 rendered them inoperable, and four surrendered them to the police. That’s out of an estimated 100,000 to 300,000 firearms affected by the law. The Times concluded, a bit drily, “More than a year after New Jersey imposed the toughest assault-weapons law in the country, the law is proving difficult if not impossible to enforce.”

Well … yes. As it turns out, no matter where you are in the world, when governments impose gun laws that are widely disliked by the people to whom they apply, people disobey those laws. And disobedience isn’t just the stubborn reaction of a few holdouts or a sizeable minority—it seems, invariably—to be the policy favored by most of the people subject to the objectionable statute.

As with so many other areas of human life, gun ownership is effectively regulated only to the extent that gun owners and would-be owners are willing to comply with the proposed regulations. Try to stuff unwelcome restrictions down a target population’s throat and … well …

Perhaps the best assessment comes from Professor James B. Jacobs, Director of the Center for Research in Crime and Justice at New York University. Summing up the prospects for banning handguns in his book, Can Gun Control Work?, he wrote:

Prohibiting possession would require disarming the citizenry; whether done quickly or over a long period, it would be a monumental challenge, fraught with danger. Millions of citizens would not surrender their handguns. If black market activity in connection with the drug laws is any indication, a decades-long “war on handguns” might resemble a low-grade civil war more than a law-enforcement initiative.

Low-grade civil war?

That said, the underlying point of all of this evidence of extremely well-armed scofflaws around the world is this: the scofflaws’ motivations don’t matter; agreement with their reasoning doesn’t matter; sharing or even respecting their values is entirely irrelevant. All that matters is that, from one country to the next, across barriers of language and culture, government officials in even the most benign, stable democracies that have attempted to disarm their subjects, or to limit the weapons available for legal ownership, or even to do no more than track gun owners and register guns, have run into overwhelming resistance. Mass defiance has crippled registration programs, hobbled confiscations schemes and made a mockery of licensing programs.

Given a choice between complying with restrictions on firearms ownership and defying the law, a clear majority of people in most jurisdictions have chosen rebellion. The tighter the law, the more obvious the rebellion, to the point that the vast majority of firearms in civilian hands in Europe are owned outside the law.

If history is any judge, that’s probably a good thing. But even if you don’t agree, this is a world in which civilians are well-armed, and intent on staying that way.


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Posted by on January 3, 2013 in Uncategorized


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