April 12, 2013
Gun Control: Major Effects of Minor Inconveniences
By David E. Petzal
Two preliminary notes: First, I don’t like writing about gun control. I’d rather write about group sizes and feet per second. But these are extraordinary times, so a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.
Second, I was remiss in not thanking Frank Bruni for the best laugh I’ve had since the food-poisoning scene in Bridesmaids. His humor may have been unintentional, but it brought a smile to my careworn face.
And now to cases. On my post of April 9th, one reader commented that because a Congressperson supports extended background checks does not mean he/she favors the elimination of guns.
Yes and no. Most Congresspersons are indifferent to gun control. It’s an occasional annoyance that they wish would go away so they could get on with their real business of raising campaign money and lining up jobs as lobbyists when they are no longer sucking on the public teat. To them it doesn’t mean elimination of guns.
On the other hand, we have a dedicated group of gun haters to whom any kind of regulation or control is a step toward their ultimate goal of no more guns. To see how this works, let us return to New York City in the year 1963, when I graduated college. In the Borough of Manhattan alone, there were five gun stores: Stoeger’s, Continental Arms, Abercrombie & Fitch, Harry L. Moss and Sons, and John Jovino Gun Shop. Of these, only Jovino survives. Today the rest are all gone; the only gun stores in Manhattan are Holland & Holland and the Beretta Gallery, whose prices place them far beyond the reach of all but a few shooters.
Some, like Abercrombie & Fitch, were doomed by poor management. But for the others, the cause of death was a long-gun-permit bill that was the 1967 brainchild of New York’s lovely, but untalented, Mayor John V. Lindsay. I lived with this law for 11 years. It was enforced by the New York City Firearms Control Board (The NYPD enforces it now.) A long gun permit didn’t cost much, and getting the thing was easy, and I never had a bit of trouble with the Board. But it did make the process of buying, or selling, or repairing a rifle or shotgun more cumbersome and time consuming. It also required FFL licensees to do a ton of paperwork.
Because it made buying or owning a long gun more difficult, the Lindsay Law first drove out the casual shooters. Serious gun owners refused to put up with it and moved their long guns out of the city where it didn’t apply. Business at the five gun stores dried up, except for Jovino, which sells guns to cops mostly, and is thereby assured of an income stream. And before you know it, New York City became a long-gun wasteland. This is what happened; it is not a matter of speculation.
No one made long guns illegal. No one made them impossible to get, as handguns were. But it made things more difficult, and that was enough. The same thing may now happen in New York State where, if you have paid $1,760 for a Walther GSP bull’s-eye pistol, you will be interested to learn that you have an assault weapon because the GSP’s magazine well is ahead of the trigger guard. This is courtesy of Governor Cuomo’s SAFE Act, which was drafted by legislators who knew nothing about guns.
You can still buy firearms in New York State. But potential new gun owners and casual gun owners will say, “Who needs this s**t?" and take up another sport. Some dedicated shooters will move to gun-friendly states. Other dedicated shooters will stay and tough it out, but their kids will not put up with that s**t and when Dad passes on, they will turn Dad’s ARs and magazines (which he did not register) over to the police. Ditto the State of Connecticut.
Making It More Difficult is the same principle used by constricting serpents. If you have the bad luck to be grabbed by an anaconda, you’ll find that it doesn’t simply squash you. It waits until you exhale, and then it tightens a little bit, making it that much harder to inhale. With every little squeeze you get to breathe less, until finally you can’t breathe at all. Then you’re dinner.
So when you hear legislators talk about “common-sense” gun control, and “respecting gun owners’ rights,” and “supporting the Second Amendment while ensuring the public’s right to safety,” bear in mind that some of them may be sincere, but remember that others know perfectly well that with every little squeeze they are closer to what they want. They don’t need bans, or prohibitions, although they would like them very much.
They will take what they can get, and eventually that will be enough.