By Ian Underwood

Whenever anything bad happens that involves a gun, we can safely predict that two other things are going to happen shortly thereafter. The first is that some kind of gun control laws will be proposed.  The second is that these proposals will be met with claims that ‘gun control laws don’t work’.

But the thing is, they DO work.

The reasoning behind the claim that ‘gun control laws don’t work’ seems to be:

  1. Criminals won’t obey gun control laws.
  2. Therefore, we may as well not have them.

But there are a couple of problems with this reasoning.

The first problem is: Suppose they did work, whatever that might mean. For example, suppose increases in gun control would lead to decreases in violent crime. Would the people raising this challenge then say, Oh, okay, I guess maybe we should have more gun control? I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t. So it’s not really the argument they want to be making, is it?

The second problem is: To say that a law ‘doesn’t work’ because criminals ignore it is to say that no laws work. By that reasoning, we should get rid of laws against murder, bank robbery, and other crimes that are committed every day, because clearly they don’t work either. But no one is proposing that. So again, not really the argument they want to be making.

Note that gun control laws do have some effect. I know this from experience, and I’ll bet a lot of you do, too.  For example, I don’t do private sales across state lines. You know why? Because there’s a law against it, and the cost of getting caught breaking it is too high to justify the risk. Until recently, I didn’t carry a gun unless I also had my PRL (‘concealed carry permit’) with me.  And so on.

But right now, I want to consider a different way of thinking about whether a law ‘works’. That is, when I say that ‘gun control laws work’, I don’t mean that they achieve their stated goals of reducing violent crime, keeping guns away from criminals, and so on. They don’t. I mean they achieve other, unstated goals.  For example:

  1. They promote the idea that owning firearms is a privilege rather than a right.
  2. They undermine the idea that people are capable of defending themselves — whether from criminals, or from their own government.
  3. They reinforce the idea that prior restraint is a legitimate use of government.
  4. They create and nurture a culture of fear, and a longing for false security.

And so on, and so on.

Judged against these goals, gun control laws have been remarkably successful.

In that sense, gun control laws are comparable to government schools, which have failed miserably at their stated purpose of educating children, but which have been wildly successful at their unstated purpose of domesticating the citizens of tomorrow while they’re still young and impressionable.

So really, it’s precisely because gun control laws (and government schools) do work that we need to get rid of the ones we have, and avoid creating any new ones.

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