Commentators suggesting gun bans
VOLOKH at mail.law.ucla.edu
Mon Oct 16 10:55:11 PDT 2000
I echo Randy Barnett's query about why, given Paul's view of the 2nd
Am, he thinks that a total gun ban would indeed be unconstitutional. But I
wanted to respond separately on a factual point: The claim that no
commentators and no organization suggest a total gun ban.
Here are some excerpts from http://www.gunscholar.org/gunban.htm,
where I have gathered such suggestions:
"There is little sense in gun registration. What we need to
significantly enhance public safety is domestic disarmament . . . .
Domestic disarmament entails the removal of arms from private hands . . . .
Given the proper political support by the people who oppose the pro-gun
lobby, legislation to remove the guns from private hands, acts like the
legislation drafted by Senator John Chafee, can be passed in short order."
Communitarian Network, The Case for Domestic Disarmament, signed by 75
people, mostly academics but also including former Secretary of Housing and
Urban Development and San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros and Baltimore Mayor
"In fact, the assault weapons ban will have no significant effect
either on the crime rate or on personal security. Nonetheless, it is a good
idea . . . . Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to
desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their
ultimate confiscation." Charles Krauthammer (columnist), Disarm the
Citizenry. But Not Yet, Washington Post, Apr. 5, 1996.
"[Peter] Jennings: And the effect of the assault rifle ban in
Stockton? The price went up, gun stores sold out and police say that fewer
than 20 were turned in. Still, some people in Stockton argue you cannot
measure the effect that way. They believe there's value in making a
statement that the implements of violence are unacceptable in our culture.
"[Stockton, California] Mayor [Barbara] Fass: I think you have to
do it a step at a time and I think that is what the NRA is most concerned
about, is that it will happen one very small step at a time, so that by the
time people have 'woken up' -- quote -- to what's happened, it's gone
farther than what they feel the consensus of American citizens would be.
But it does have to go one step at a time and the beginning of the banning
of semi-assault military weapons, that are military weapons, not "household"
weapons, is the first step."
ABC News Special, Peter Jennings Reporting: Guns, April 11, 1991,
available on LEXIS, NEWS database, SCRIPT file (boldface added).
"Why should America adopt a policy of near-zero tolerance for
private gun ownership? Because it's the only alternative to the present
insanity. Without both strict limits on access to new weapons and
aggressive efforts to reduce the supply of existing weapons, no one can be
safer." Editorial, Taming The Monster: Get Rid of the Guns, Los Angeles
Times, Dec. 28, 1993, at B6.
"'I would like to dispute that. Truthfully. I know it's an
amendment. I know it's in the Constitution. But you know what? Enough! I
would like to say, I think there should be a law -- and I know this is
extreme -- that no one can have a gun in the U.S. If you have a gun, you go
to jail. Only the police should have guns.'" Shannon Hawkins, Rosie Takes
on the NRA, Ottawa Sun, April 29, 1999, at 55 (quoting talk show hostess
The http://www.gunscholar.org/gunban.htm page also contains many
other examples of calls for handgun bans. I realize that some defend those
proposals today on the grounds that they would still allow ownership of long
guns (though of course the ever-expanding scope of bans on so-called
"assault weapons" is eroding that), and that handguns are singled out for
banning because most gun crime comes from handguns.
But what will happen if handguns are banned and if the ban actually
stops people from being able to get handguns (a big if)? Criminals will
switch to rifles and shotguns, sawing them off if necessary (a simple step,
though an illegal one). Sawed-off shotguns are actually considerably
deadlier than handguns; sawed-off rifles are at least deadly (a handgun is
really just a small rifle). Many handgun murders and other crimes will thus
be displaced by longgun murders and other crimes (there are already
thousands of longgun murders in the U.S. today). Will the gun control
movement stop at handguns, or will it then argue that we should close the
"loophole" by barring other guns that are "easily convertible" into
concealable weapons? It seems to me clear that the movement will do the
latter (as I believe in fact happened in England). I therefore consider
handgun ban proposals as a clear step towards total gun bans, and so do many
others. But even if I'm mistaken on that, the quotes I've given above
should show that even today there are already calls for total bans on
civilian gun ownership.
Paul Finkelman writes:
> As far as I know, no commentators, and no organization, takes the position
> Leslie suggests woudl be problematic. The issues for us as con law
> scholars (and citizens) to discuss involve concealed weapons laws, "cop
> killer" bullets, machine guns, tracers for determining the source of
> explosives, internet sales of guns, background checks, and the like. Just
> because the 2nd Amendment does not protect an individual right to own a
> weapon does not mean that suddendly Congress can ban all weapons and seize
> those out there. Imagine, for example, what would happen to the
> environment if we prevent deer hunting and were suddenly overrun by deer?
. . .
> Leslie Goldstein writes:
> Whatever may have been the late 18th century understanding of the 2d
> Amdmt, are there some of us out there who would not feel like there was
> something that clashed with the amdmt. if the Congress enacted tomorrow a
> bill announcing the total disarmament of US citizens . . . .
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