Posted on March 12, 2000


Disarming the Poor

Self-defense may soon be a luxury


Daniel Clark


During any discussion about reforming welfare, cutting taxes, or devolving federal programs to the states, liberals can be counted on to accuse conservatives of waging a "war on the poor." It is those on the political left, however, who want to means-test the Second Amendment, leaving people on the low end of the economic scale helpless against life-threatening physical violence. Consider, for a moment, the ramifications of each of these currently fashionable gun-control measures:

* Banning "Saturday Night Specials" -- This proposal, which targets certain guns specifically because they are inexpensive, threatens to price guns out of the range of law-abiding low-income citizens, who tend to be the most needy of protection.

* Waiting periods -- In high-crime areas, the need of an honest citizen to defend himself is often immediate. The same is not true of prospective criminals, who can easily figure a waiting period into the planning of their crimes, so that they are sure to be armed when they want to be. The three days during which the intended victim could not obtain a gun could be deadly to someone protecting his home from a serial armed robber, or to a woman who has just discovered that she is being stalked.

* Mandatory trigger locks -- The accompanying increase in cost is the least of the problems with this, a favorite initiative of President Clinton's. Trigger locks are already available for anybody who wants them. Requiring their sale with the purchase of any gun would reflect a judgment by the government that not enough citizens are using them. From there, mandatory use is an easily foreseeable step. After all, the recent first-grade school shooting in Michigan would not have been prevented if the shooter's uncle had bought a gun with a trigger lock, only to leave the lock stashed away in a drawer somewhere. Remember that Clinton praised the gun sweeps which were conducted in public housing projects in Chicago in the early nineties. He even justified them to an MTV audience by arguing that the government needs to limit the freedoms its citizens are given by "a fairly radical Constitution with a radical Bill of rights." Although the sweeps were ruled unconstitutional in 1994, the passage of a "safe storage" law could give the government a legal justification to enter homes in order to monitor compliance. Enforced mandatory use of trigger locks would overrule the judgment of people who face immediate threats, and would prefer to have their firearms immediately accessible. In some neighborhoods, the time it takes to unlock and load a gun could make the difference between life and death.

* "Smart gun" technology -- Although their existence is as yet hypothetical, "smart guns," which would only function in the hands of their owners, have become a favorite cause of gun-control advocates. This is due in part, no doubt, to the fact that it would cause the cost of guns to skyrocket. Because of the cost of the smart guns, accompanied by a general lack of confidence in their technology, it is unlikely that enough of them would be sold to recover the cost of their production. As a result, the manufacturers would have to spread the expense around to their other merchandise. If smart gun technology is eventually incorporated into all new guns, as is hoped, then a large percentage of law-abiding people will be priced out of the market, just as if the only cars on the market were BMW's. This is especially true if the technology only allows a single gun to recognize a single owner, so that a married couple would have to buy two guns.

If all these policies were adopted into law, firearms would become a luxury item. Of course, if anyone proposed to remedy that disparity, the Democrats would abandon their redistributionist proclivities in a snap.

The systematic disarming of the poor which would result from the implementation of these measures would not be coincidental; rather, it would be a natural manifestation of the contempt and distrust that liberal elitists have for the public at large. They seek to make society foolproof because they think we are fools, whose day to day survival is dependent on dumb luck, and on the thoughtfulness of a benevolent government. The poor, being generally the least educated among us, are even more helpless, and therefore require special attention.

Worse yet, many liberal activists agree with former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders' attitude toward crime, which assumes that people are morally vacant creatures, whose behavior is dictated by their environment. The Elders philosophy blames crime on poverty, without considering free will to be a significant factor. It is as if crime were an involuntary reaction to poverty, much like vomiting is to the consumption of ipecac.

If we accept the premise that people in poverty are naturally predisposed to commit crimes, then allowing them to buy guns seems like throwing gasoline on a fire. The statistical fact that higher crime rates exist among lower income groups gives this line of reasoning a facade of logic. However, it doesn't take a lot of troublemakers to cause a lot of trouble, and violent criminals remain a tiny segment of the population, even in high crime areas. The rest of the people who live in those areas are potential victims, who are made more vulnerable when any means of protecting themselves is taken away. Somehow, politicians who claim to defend the poor fail to understand this.


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