EDITOR’S NOTE: This is one of a series of articles on gun rights. Each addresses a common anti-gun trope.


“Enough is enough! Just ban all guns and lock up anyone who has one!”

Believe it or not, I’ve seen people make this argument. What tickles me about it most is the “enough is enough!” exclamation at the front, which I presume is supposed assert that:
– gun violence has been going on for too long,
– no one’s doing anything to stop it,
– tolerance for the first two points has reached a tipping point,
– the speaker is a good and moral person speaking truth to power.

As is typically the case, this anti-gun argument is rooted in emotion and disconnected from fact. It is also the subtext of every “seize the moment” anti-gun screed that is put forth after an incident but before vital facts are known. Consider how quickly Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe trotted out anti-gun rhetoric after the recent shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise and three others by James Hodgkinson at a softball practice in Alexandria, VA. McAuliffe specifically mentioned background checks (they already happen) and shutting down gun show loopholes (they don’t actually exist) prior to having any knowledge of how Hodgkinson acquired his guns.

As it turns out, Hodgkinson purchased his guns (an SKS rifle and a 9MM handgun) from licensed firearms dealers. We can thus presume he went through a NICS background check, meaning that McAuliffe’s comments were non-sequiturs. That, however, is the point. Those who make the “enough is enough” argument do so not from any cause-effect or factual position, but simply because they want the world miracled into some utopian fantasyland. Thus, McAuliffe doesn’t need to know that what he calls for (apart from already being reality) wouldn’t have prevented Hodgkinson from buying his guns. McAuliffe’s ilk simply want more restrictions on gun rights than already exist. Moreso, they’ll continue to want more and more, until an outright ban is put into effect.

With one caveat. They don’t actually want an outright ban on guns. They want law enforcement to have guns. They want their private security details to have guns. They simply don’t want you to have guns. So, no, they don’t even believe their own hype and rhetoric. What they do believe is that any right-thinking person who looks at the nation must be so fed up with all things gun-crime related that he or she obviously, in exasperation, must agree that private ownership of guns has to go. Try pointing out the steady decline in gun crime rates in the three decades since the right-to-carry movement began, or similar logic- and data- based arguments, and you’ll just get an eye roll or an accusation that you’re in the pocket of the NRA. They don’t want to hear serious rebuttals because they’re unserious people making an unserious argument.

But, for the sake of further discussion, lets take this unserious argument seriously.

Lets say that the government manages to repeal the Second Amendment (or redefine it as a right granted only to the military and national guard, as the “ban them all” crowd incorrectly asserts) and institute a complete civilian gun ban. Lets say the government manages to do this despite all the pro-gun trends of the past few decades, despite Right-To-Carry in 41 states, Constitutional Carry in 15 states, with another 24 trying, despite the Heller and McDonald Supreme Court decisions, despite the punishment meted out by voters to anti-gun Congressmen in all but a few concentrated pockets of blue, and despite the nation’s very foundations of individual gun ownership.

What then?

Some, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, admire the Australian confiscation policy/program, where the government banned guns and took them away via a mandatory “buy-back.” That program didn’t work. It didn’t get rid of all the guns. It didn’t get rid of most of the guns. It didn’t even get rid of a lot of the guns. The compliance rate was only about 15%. 650,000 guns were bought back, out of a total of more than 4M.

But, perhaps those ornery Aussies are more into their guns than Americans (I’ll wait for you to stop laughing). Perhaps Americans are more likely to comply with a gun ban. Perhaps we might try some gun restrictions out and see how Americans tend to comply. Oh, wait, we did. New York and Connecticut passed laws requiring the registration of “assault weapons.” Compliance rates? 6% in Connecticut, 15% in New York. These are both “blue” states that are among the few not yet on board with the right-to-carry movement, and their compliance is as bad as or worse than Australia’s.

Since we’re contemplating numbers, lets contemplate number. Americans own about 350 million guns. That’s 100x more than Australians owned. While accurate numbers are difficult (Americans distrust people who ask about their guns), it’s estimated that somewhere between a third and a half of American homes have a gun in them. Another estimate, one of actual ownership, is that 80 million Americans own guns.

So, guns banned, what happens next? Those who don’t turn their guns in to the authorities are instant felons? Are the anti-gunners cool with that? Given some of the vileness that has issued forth from leftists on social media in the wake of the Scalise shooting, some of them probably are.

But… Tens of millions of instant felons? What would the government do? Go door-to-door, ask people if they have guns, and may we have them please? Or, would the government data-mine all that stuff the NSA’s been hoovering up for years and compile a more targeted list? Would the courts issue search warrants for tens of millions of American homes? How’s that going to work out, in a nation whose first shots of independence were fired when the government tried a gun grab? How many violent confrontations would take place? Would all those not in compliance be arrested and locked up? Where would you put all those people? Where, for that matter, would you find enough people willing to go door-to-door to find and confiscate 350 million guns, from people who have done nothing illegal prior to being made instant felons by a gun ban?

What then? Now you have a nation without guns, right? Well, the government has banned narcotics, and we’re a nation without narcotics, right?

Right. Yeah. Sure. Prior to the recent legalization movement, when pot was illegal everywhere, literal tons of the stuff were being smuggled into the country every day. Tons of a consumable good. Guns are a durable good, and a gun smuggled in is a gun that doesn’t go away unless and until government takes it away. As the old adage goes, if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns, and the lessons of alcohol prohibition and the War on Drugs is that bans don’t work.

Then there’s another reality. During Prohibition, some enterprising folks decided to make their own booze. Moonshine, white lightning, whatever you want to call it, people simply made what they were not allowed to buy. The same has been true of pot ever since it was banned, and, more recently, other drugs such as methamphetamine are cooked up in home-made labs. While making guns is more complicated than distilling alcohol or growing pot (although perhaps not more so than cooking meth), it remains that the equipment found in any automotive shop can manufacture simple guns. In fact, the famed AK-47 was designed so that it could be mass produced in crude conditions. And, modern 3D printing technology is taking things even further. Already, anyone who wants to invest a couple grand can make a working firearm. Sure, it’s nothing fancy, and has a very limited life, but if all it takes is some plastic and a bit of time to make more, that limited life is no big deal. Furthermore, the technology of 3D printers is rapidly advancing, and higher quality metal gun parts are more “makeable” than ever.

Contemplate the black market opportunities. Contemplate, if smuggling proves insufficient to meet demand, how enterprising criminals could simply set up a shop someplace and make either cheap plastic or somewhat more expensive steel guns to sell on the black market. Think this won’t happen? Of course it will. Alcohol prohibition created a black market. Drug prohibition created a black market. Prohibitive cigarette taxes created a black market. Whenever supply is artificially restricted by government, a black market arises. Heck, there’s a black market for drugs in prison!

As I noted, this “ban them all” is an unserious argument made by unserious people who’ve given little or no thought to all these realities. When pressed, a common response is “I don’t know the answer, but there’s got to be a way.” Why might they insist on clinging to their delusion? It’s because they know better, because their vision of how the world should be is superior to yours or mine, and they want to make sure you understand that. Because a civilized world doesn’t need guns, and guns make a world uncivilized. Nothing to do with people, human nature, or the cold truths and lessons taught by the entirety of human history.

Of course, this stands reality on its head. America’s gun inventory has grown by 100 million in the past decade, and crime has gone down in parallel. Certainly, correlation is not causation, but if guns were the problem, things would be very, very bad in America. There are millions of good, honest, highly moral and highly law-abiding people in America who own guns, who use and handle them respectfully and responsibly, and who defend themselves, their families and their communities with them. Only a grotesquely arrogant and petulantly self-centered jackass would have the temerity to turn all these people into felons, just because “enough is enough.”

So,

_**Gun rights lesson #766: Outrage and exasperation do not confer moral superiority, nor do they validate a false or baseless argument. You’re not going to get rid of guns by banning them. All you’re going to do is make millions of your fellow Americans into felons, just because you petulantly want your way. **_

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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