As with other recent crises, the Boston Marathon bombings have prompted calls for radical reductions in Americans’ liberties. Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York — he of the super-sized soda ban — told reporters that in the interest of public safety “our laws and our interpretation of the Constitution … have to change” to allow for greater government intrusions than “in the olden days,” happy golden days of yore. Bloomberg got his wish as the “Cradle of Liberty” became a virtual police state in the days following the attacks.
Others, disappointed that the national outrage over the mass shootings in Colorado and Connecticut failed to persuade Congress to pass even relatively mild gun-control legislation, have tried to use the Boston bombings to drum up renewed interest in firearms bans.
Actress Olivia Wilde, for instance, tweeted that while the manhunt for the bombers was going on, “38 more Americans died from gun violence.”
Comedian Jay Mohr was even more direct, telling his followers that the bombing in Beantown meant that the “2nd amendment has to go” because it “lends itself to the CULTURE of violence we are living in.”
“Stop blowing up my timeline [with] your gun/porn fetishes,” he added.
Of course, anyone who has been paying attention to the news out of Boston knows that a gun played a very minor role in the whole saga. The attacks were carried out with homemade bombs, not firearms. The Tsarnaev brothers, suspected of committing the crime, are alleged to have used a gun in a later confrontation with police, but it is not the weapon that killed three and injured dozens of others.
What’s more, Reuters reports that “neither brother appears to have been legally entitled to own or carry firearms where they lived.” Twenty-six-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed in a confrontation with cops, never applied for a gun license from his local police department, as required by law. His 19-year-old brother, Dzhokhar, was not yet of age to own a handgun at all under Bay State statutes.
“The news that the suspects were not authorized to own firearms will likely add fuel to calls for tougher gun laws,” wrote Mike Lillis of The Hill, a Washington, D.C., newspaper.
Lillis is correct, as we have seen, but the news actually militates against gun control as a means of preventing atrocities for two reasons.
First, even a total ban on firearms ownership in the United States would not have stopped the Tsarnaevs from perpetrating their crime. Their bombs, after all, were made from pressure cookers, nails, and explosives; they didn’t even need a pop gun to kill and maim scores of people. Indeed, one gun-control advocate actually lamented the fact that the brothers’ weapon of choice was not a gun. “Had the attack been carried out with assault rifles rather than explosives and nails,” the New Yorker’s John Cassidy argued, “the gun-control bills that perished on Capitol Hill just two days after the Boston bombings may have met a different fate.”
Second, as gun-rights supporters have been arguing for decades, criminals, by definition, are not deterred by laws. The Tsarnaevs were already prohibited from owning guns under Massachusetts law; yet that did not stop them from not only possessing a gun but also firing it at police, which is also illegal. How on earth, then, would additional laws mandating background checks or otherwise restricting or outright banning gun ownership have stopped them? Considering that they were willing to flout existing laws against firearms possession — not to mention those prohibiting murder, assault, and property crimes — it is simply ludicrous to believe that more laws would have deterred them from obtaining a gun or planting their bombs.
Logic, however, has never been one of the gun-grabbers’ strong suits. Never letting a crisis go to waste (as Rahm Emanuel put it), on the other hand, has been their forte. The Boston Marathon massacre may be the weakest of reeds on which to hang a case for gun control; but if it can be used to inch even one tiny step closer to complete civilian disarmament, don’t think for a moment that these folks won’t exploit it.