Beto O’Rourke, in a desperate bid to salvage a campaign in free fall, has trotted out a new campaign slogan – “Hell, yes, we’re gonna take your AR-15.” (There are also t-shirts for sale with the slogan emblazoned on them, should you want to memorialize this particular political last gasp.)
Leaving aside for a moment the obvious problem – that such a move would be a direct violation of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – the one that reads in part, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Let’s take a moment and look at some of the other issues with Beto’s policy proposal.
Erroneous Predicates For Gun Control
Mr. O’Rourke, like every other Democratic candidate in the nation apparently, predicates his position on gun control on two premises. First, “assault rifles” are the weapons of choice for criminals committing homicides across the country. Second, the presence of firearms is the root cause of gun violence: “People don’t kill people, guns do.”
Let’s do something outrageous. Let’s look at some facts.
First, leaving aside the fact that the term “assault rifle” is a nonsensical term, long guns of all kinds play almost no role in homicides in the United States. A massive Justice Department study in 2016 found, in fact, that of all the inmates surveyed in federal and state prisons across the county only 1.5 percent of them had been in possession of a rifle when committing a crime of any kind.
The reasons are, of course, not hard to understand. Rifles are hard to conceal. Rifles are expensive. The same Justice Department study cited above established conclusively what everyone with any common sense already knew. Criminals use cheap handguns, procured through illegal means, when breaking the law.
Now let’s take a look at the second pillar of Mr. O’Rourke’s proposal – the one that asserts that firearms are, in and of themselves, responsible for an “epidemic” of gun violence across this country. As with the factually unsustainable position that “assault weapons” are the problem in America, this one has a similar problem. Put simply, the facts do not support it. There is no wave of gun violence sweeping the nation.
Over Half The Murders In U.S. Occur In Just 2% Of Counties
In fact, in 2017, 54% of counties in America reported no murders at all. Sixty-eight percent of all murders in the United States that year occurred in just five counties, and most of those murders occurred in specific areas within those counties. Tighten the focus a bit, and the picture is even more stark . Over half the murders in the country occur in just 2% of counties.
Take a look at those counties – and the pockets where murders occur in significant numbers – and the root causes are clear. These are urban areas where unemployment is catastrophically high, the educational systems have collapsed and where the drug trade is rampant. Americans are not killing each other at random. They are killing each other in desperation in areas where economic hope has vanished, and the only way ahead is through involvement in criminal activity.
What Might Help?
A focus on economic revitalization would be a good place to start. Bring industry and commerce back to the blighted areas of cities like Baltimore and Chicago. Give young men an alternative to dealing poison to their fellow citizens.
Seal the border. The press talks about our porous southern border as if the only thing crossing it are mothers, fathers and children. In fact, tons of deadly drugs flood across that border every year, and a huge proportion end up fueling violence in our inner cities.
Stop using our school systems as social engineering labs – allow our teachers to focus on education and stop directing them to do the jobs that parents should do. Graduate students who can compete for jobs in a modern economy.
But, maybe this is the first crucial step. Stop telling lies. Stop peddling the nonsensical notion that America is awash in gun violence perpetrated by “assault weapons” toting maniacs.
Tell the truth. Guns don’t kill people. People do.