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First Shots in the New War on Guns

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Gun-control advocates commonly say they just want “sensible gun laws” that will “keep guns out of the wrong hands.” Yet none of their ideas ever work. That’s not just hyperbole: an intensive study of U.S. gun-control laws by the Centers for Disease Control found that they had done nothing — zip, zero, nada — to reduce crime.

That doesn’t stop the gun-control crowd from pushing for more gun laws — usually right after some tragic and highly publicized event involving a deranged shooter. They will walk over dead bodies to push their agenda.

But apparently they’re not above also engaging in reckless conduct that could reasonably be expected to create dead bodies. Take President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder’s “Fast and Furious” project, through which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives intentionally encouraged gun sales to illegal arms traffickers in southern border states. Ostensibly this was so the guns could be tracked to Mexican drug cartels, but some in the ATF also hoped these sales could be used to push for further restrictions on firearms ownership. Caught red-handed, the president parried by blaming George W. Bush (naturally) and invoking executive privilege to keep records on the operation hidden from the public.

Another dream of the gun-control crowd is to enlist the support of the United Nations, doing an end run around the Constitution by embracing international treaties that require nations to tighten their gun laws. Less than a day after its November 6 reelection, the Obama administration renewed its support for the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, the same treaty blasted by gun-rights groups last summer as backdoor gun control. Inundated with phone calls, postcards, and emails critical of the treaty, the president and his anti-gun allies in Congress quickly slithered away from the issue last year, worried it might hurt them on the campaign trail. But now, emboldened by the president’s reelection, they’re slithering back.

Anti-gun activists are busy at the local level as well. A recent measure passed in Illinois’s Cook County (which includes Chicago) imposes a $25 tax on every gun purchase — every legal gun purchase. The County Board of Commissioners originally wanted to impose a 5-cent tax on every bullet sold, but jettisoned that part of the ordinance to ensure its passage. Toni Preckwinkle, president of the board, said the tax will be used to pay for costs arising from crimes committed with firearms. “Gun violence is a real problem for us,” she said. “It’s a problem for us in our criminal justice system and it’s a problem for us in our healthcare system, and I make no apologies for the proposal.”

Speaking to the Washington Free Beacon, NRA public-affairs director Andrew Arulanandam said, the ordinance “will not decrease crime because the only people this tax will impact are the law-abiding.” Jake McGuigan of the National Sports Shooting Foundation saw the precise intention: “It has nothing to do with raising revenue,” he said, “they just want to go after law-abiding gun owners.”

It’s an oft-used expression, but it bears repeating: criminals don’t obey the law. That’s the definition of a criminal. Chicagoans should know this better than anyone: 435 city residents have been murdered so far this year, more than in 2011. By the time this commentary is posted, the number will be even higher.

But the message from Cook County is loud and clear: criminals are not the problem; gun owners are the problem. Never mind that a legally obtained firearm is extremely unlikely to be used in a crime. Never mind that the individual right to keep and bear arms is explicitly protected by our state and federal constitutions and has been upheld by our nation’s Supreme Court. Never mind that hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of times each year, private citizens use firearms to protect themselves, their families and their property against actual criminals.

While a $25 tax isn’t much of a burden (though as a barrier to entry, by definition it will prevent some people from purchasing guns), this measure is nothing less than massive in its symbolism: the government is knowingly, overtly, and unapologetically punishing those who are absolutely not breaking the law.

Many Americans breathed a sigh of relief when the Heller and McDonald decisions, both of which broadly protected private gun ownership, came through. Facing such defeat in the courts, anti-gun zealots appear ready to stoop to any level, however low, to continue in their efforts to disarm the American people.

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    Scott McPherson is policy adviser at The Future of Freedom Foundation. An advocate of the Free State Project, he lives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.