FOR years, the NRA and some other pro-rights advocates have argued against the enactment of new gun laws by asserting instead that all that is needed is to “enforce the laws on the books.” NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre has claimed that, “Under the existing federal gun laws, [President Obama] could take every felon with a gun, drug dealer with a gun and criminal gangbanger with a gun off the streets tomorrow and lock them up for five years or more. But he won’t do it, his Justice Department won’t do it, and the media never asks why.”
And sure, I can hear the siren song in the idea of dramatically reduced “gun crime,” without any more gun laws. But that approach has serious problems, one of which is that such arguments so smoothly pave the way for the claim that in order to “enforce the laws on the books,” the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives must be allowed to operate even more heavy-handedly, with even less oversight, than is the case now.
United States Representative Donald S. Beyer, Jr. (D-VA), like other gun-hating Democrats in Congress, knows that very well. This led him to introduce in Congress the “ATF Enforcement Act” in April. Calling it “hypocrisy” on the part of gun-rights advocacy organizations and pro-rights lawmakers to call for “enforcing existing gun laws” while simultaneously (according to Beyer and other gun-ban zealots) hobbling the BATFE’s ability to do so effectively, Beyer wants to “call their bluff,” as he puts it.
His bill would repeal a measure, in place since 2004, blocking frivolous use of gun trace data for such purposes as revoking state licenses for gun dealers (in states that require licensing above and beyond the federal license) and for predatory lawsuits against the gun industry.
This has been a favorite target of the forcible citizen disarmament lobby for a long time, despite the fact that the BATFE itself, along with the Fraternal Order of Police, have advocated keeping that measure in place, because releasing that data to the public could endanger active investigations.
Beyer’s bill would also repeal the requirement for Senate confirmation of the BATFE’s director, thus allowing the executive branch to unilaterally place the enforcement of federal gun law in whomever’s hands it pleases.
And the problems with the “enforce existing gun laws” mantra go deeper than that. For example, what about the “existing gun laws” that are draconian in their restrictiveness, laughably ineffective for their ostensible purpose of reducing “gun violence,” and blatantly unconstitutional (and when the right of the people to keep and bear arms is one that, according to the highest law of the land, shall not be infringed, what gun law is not blatantly unconstitutional)?
Those who advocate “enforcing existing gun laws” are, whether they are willing to admit it or not, actively rejecting the Second Amendment’s “shall not be infringed.” They are tacitly allowing that yes, some infringement is not only acceptable, but also desirable.
They might ask, “Who could object to keeping guns from violent felons?” Well, for starters, anyone who believes that no one deemed so untrustworthy as to be too dangerous to own a gun can responsibly be permitted to run free in society, able to acquire guns illegally or wreak his carnage by some means other than a firearm. As gun-rights advocate David Codrea has long contended, “Anyone who can’t be trusted with a gun can’t be trusted without a custodian.”
But the problem with the “enforce existing gun laws” approach is even deeper and more fundamental than that. Gun-rights advocates own the moral, intellectual, and Constitutional high ground in this debate. We surrender that high ground when we argue that the “existing gun laws” are acceptable, but any new ones are anathema.
How does that even work? Is the test of a gun law’s acceptability based not on how the law interacts with the Constitution and the rights of the people, or even on how effectively it serves the stated purpose of reducing criminal violence, but on when it was enacted? If the law was “on the books” at the time the NRA and others demand that we enforce all such laws, the enactment date would certainly seem to be the determining factor.
So the outright ban on private ownership of fully automatic firearms manufactured or imported after 1986 is acceptable? Must be. It was, after all, “on the books” in American federal law when the NRA demanded the vigorous enforcement of such laws.
How about the draconian regulation of sound suppressors for firearms—safety equipment, to protect the hearing of shooters and others nearby? I guess we’re supposed to believe that’s fine too. Not a bad strategy for those who wish to defend “existing gun laws.” If I were making such arguments, I’d want gun owners to be too hard of hearing to catch it too.
Well, sorry, I’m not getting on board that train.
What is needed is not the enforcement of every infringement of that which shall not be infringed, as long as said infringement is old enough to have been “grandfathered in” by the NRA, but the repeal of these abominations.
We don’t need to empower the BATFE to trample our rights even more roughshod than that agency does already. We need to leave it with no laws to enforce.