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Wishful Thinking on Guns

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Rosie O’Donnell, mistress of ceremonies of the Million Mom March, couldn’t have been clearer about what she wants for the American people. On ABC’s This Week program, Cokie Roberts asked O’Donnell what she thought of concealed-weapons laws. Said Roberts: “There is some evidence that those laws do reduce crime. But you would be against them?”

O’Donnell replied: “Of course I’m against them.… This is not the wild west. I do not want to man [sic] all of the people in America. I want to remove the guns from the people who are bad and who should not have access to them. That’s what I want to do.… I want to take the gun away from the bad guy.”

So as O’Donnell banishes evil from the world, we must wait-defenseless.

That was the quality of what passed for argument from the people who spoke at the rally Sunday. Emotion, hopes, and dreams void of reason, logic, and facts. “I care,” chanted Marion Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund. These truly are people who cannot tell the difference between thinking and wishful thinking.

O’Donnell would be surprised to learn that the “wild west” was a lot less violent than some of America’s cities are today, mainly because law-abiding people had guns and knew how to use them safely.

But more important is O’Donnell’s approach to public policy. She is no serious thinker, but her statements reflect the thought process of many who would violate the right to keep and bear arms. An impressive volume of scholarship-not to mention logic-supports the idea that criminals are deterred from attacking people whom they suspect are armed. O’Donnell did not deny that. She merely emoted, “I want to remove the guns from the people who are bad.”

Okay. How?

We know how: by mandating trigger locks, licensing gun owners, and registering guns. (That’s what she and her colleagues own up to. It’s hard to believe that’s all they want.) It is incumbent on anyone who proposes a solution to a problem to show the connection between the proposal and the problem it is meant to solve.

It is less than obvious how trigger locks, licensing, and registration would “remove the guns from the people who are bad.” Would O’Donnell please explain why someone who intends to violate people’s rights through the use of violence (which is against the law already) will be deterred by gun laws? If that worked, the Million Mom March would not have been held. The 20,000 gun laws on the books would have long ago eradicated crime.

Will she further explain how the use of trigger locks will be enforced? Unannounced police inspections of homes, perhaps?

If there is no obvious connection between solution and problem and if the advocates of the solution refuse to draw the connection for the rest of us, we are entitled to assume that it is not a serious proposal at all. It is mere feel-good ritual. To use a subtitle from one of Thomas Sowell’s books, it is “self-congratulation as a basis for social policy.”

But it’s more than that. If the Second Amendment trashers get their way, the new laws will have no effect on crime, except to exacerbate it by harassing law-abiding citizens who want to protect themselves and their families. The controllers will then go before the American people and say, “We tried modest measures, but they did not curb the crazy gun culture. It is time to ban guns altogether.” The disarming of the peaceful citizen will be in full swing. Registration historically has been the prelude to confiscation.

It is instructive to realize who was not asked to speak at the big rally in Washington, D.C. Among all those victims of gun violence, wasn’t there room for one speaker whose life was saved by a gun? (Guns are used to thwart crime at least a million times a year.) Could the organizers not find one person whose loved one might have been saved by a gun? People like that, the Second Amendment Sisters, were across the mall holding their own modest rally in support of the right to own guns.

But they were scoffed at by the wishful thinkers who were too busy patting themselves on the back.

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    Sheldon Richman is vice president of The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF's monthly journal, Future of Freedom. For 15 years he was editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York. He is the author of FFF's award-winning book Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families; Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax; and Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State. Calling for the abolition, not the reform, of public schooling. Separating School & State has become a landmark book in both libertarian and educational circles. In his column in the Financial Times, Michael Prowse wrote: "I recommend a subversive tract, Separating School & State by Sheldon Richman of the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank... . I also think that Mr. Richman is right to fear that state education undermines personal responsibility..." Sheldon's articles on economic policy, education, civil liberties, American history, foreign policy, and the Middle East have appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, American Scholar, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Washington Times, The American Conservative, Insight, Cato Policy Report, Journal of Economic Development, The Freeman, The World & I, Reason, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Middle East Policy, Liberty magazine, and other publications. He is a contributor to the The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. A former newspaper reporter and senior editor at the Cato Institute and the Institute for Humane Studies, Sheldon is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia. He blogs at Free Association. Send him e-mail.