Feel-Good Bills That Turn Into Do-Nothing Laws


Readers share their ideas. Since the massacre in December in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 children and six elementary-school staff members dead, readers have passed on a host of so-called remedies. Let’s make gun owners be licensed and pass a test, some have suggested. So the problem is, I ask them, that these mass killers aren’t good shots?

A tax on ammunition, others chime in. So, I counter, you don’t want gun owners practicing at shooting ranges?

Basically, the gun haters are angry about Newtown. They blame lawful gun owners for the behavior of criminals, so they support nuisance laws that restrict the behavior of people who are not like them. Their instinct is not to identify a problem and then figure out how best to solve it, if possible, but to punish and marginalize people who want to take control of their own self-defense.

They forget that these gun owners have rights.

The Daily Caller reported Thursday that the American Civil Liberties Union has “serious concerns” about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s proposed gun legislation. The ACLU’s Chris Calabrese is concerned that background check language doesn’t explicitly prevent the feds from creating a national gun registry.

“In the universe of how you handle a background check, the gun database background check is fairer and does a better job of protecting privacy than many other background checks,” Calabrese told me. But he worries about language in the Reid bill that could change the status quo, noting, “We have often seen that records kept can get turned into databases of records.”

Calabrese also has issues with school “tip lines” proposed in the Reid bill, an idea that originated with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. “First of all, there’s a perfectly good method for reporting when you think a dangerous situation is going on — 911.” Starting a less official tip line, he warned, could create “witch hunts” in which “the weird kid gets picked on.”

The ACLU isn’t exactly setting up house with the National Rifle Association. After the NRA unveiled its proposal, the ACLU’s Laura W. Murphy objected to its “potentially radical elements, including getting the federal government in the business of supplying arms to teachers, without any evidence that doing so would make children safer.”

I think the American public understands how feckless blowback laws can be — that good intentions do not necessarily make children safer. After Newtown, a CBS News poll found that 57 percent of Americans supported stricter gun control laws. Last month, support fell to 47 percent.

The factor that truly saved lives at Sandy Hook School was a fast local police response. Officers made it to the school within three minutes of their being alerted to the shooting. They could hear gunfire when they pulled in to the parking lot. It was their presence that saved children’s lives by prompting the gunman to take his own life.

Do I think Washington should not pass any more gun laws? Not necessarily. But before doing so, D.C. pols should ask themselves two questions: Will these proposed laws work? Or will they make work?

Email Debra J. Saunders at: [email protected].

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