Governor Gun Lock and the Disarmament Agenda

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It
was March 22, 2000. Maryland Governor Paris Glendening stood in
front of more than 100 uniformed police officers during a visit
to the city of Silver Spring. His visit was for the purpose of demonstrating
the effectiveness of new gun safety locks. Picking up a Glock 9mm
pistol, Glendening inserted a Saf T Lok into the pistol’s magazine
well, turned a key, and fixed the lock in place. “This is proof
that it works!” he exclaimed, holding the pistol in the air in front
of the crowd of officers.

The
demonstration seemed to be proceeding without a hitch until Glendening
attempted to remove the lock. On his first attempt, he inserted
the key, turned it, and attempted to pull the lock out of the magazine
well. It wouldn’t budge. He tried again and again and again. Calling
Maryland National Capital Park Police Sergeant Jeff Pauley to his
side for assistance, Glendening continued. After 54 attempts to
remove the lock both Glendening and Pauley gave up.

(It’s
too bad Glendening and Pauley didn’t have the agility of the 12-year-old
Ohio boy who took his classroom hostage with a gun the following
day. The boy’s parents had outfitted their gun with a trigger lock,
but the boy found the key and removed it.)

One
might think that such an embarrassing episode would have inspired
a level of humility in the Maryland governor that would make him
re-think the wisdom of a state bill requiring (in the short) term
external locks to be sold with every handgun and (over the long
term) built-in locking devices on every handgun to be phased in
by January 1, 2003. Unfortunately, humility doesn’t come easy to
creepy tin-pot authoritarians like Glendening.

(Recall
that the summer prior to his gun-lock gaffe, Fuhrer Glendening had
nothing better to do than create his own statewide water crisis.
In Maryland, washing your car and adding water to your pool became
an offense punishable by fines up to $1,000. While Maryland residents–in
scorching late-summer heat–saw their lawns turn brown, their landscapes
shrivel, and water disappear from restaurant tables, even meddlesome
bureaucrats in D.C. and Virginia shook their heads in amazement
at Glendening. “It’s very difficult to understand why anyone who
is elected to serve the interests of a group of people would go
out of their way to make them miserable,” Burton Rubin, a Fairfax
County water commissioner, told the Washington Post (8/5/99).
He added that Glendening’s restrictions were “not necessary and
they don’t help anybody.” Maryland voters apparently have no problem
with their property [and now public safety] threatened for the sake
of their Almighty Governor’s insatiable lust for arbitrary power
and self-promotion. Glendening is still as popular as ever.)

Almost
three weeks after his Saf T Lok stunt, Glendening, with Saint Bill
Clinton standing behind him, signed the Responsible Gun Safety Act
of 2000. The Act, approved by the Maryland General Assembly on April
3 requires not only locks on handguns but attendance at a 2-hour
“safety course” for anyone purchasing a handgun on or after Jan.
1, 2002. The Act also requires handgun manufacturers to supply ballistics
data with each type of handgun sold in Maryland.

Now,
almost one year after the Glendening Gong Show, the wonderful Consumer
Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has come forward to “inform” us
that gun safety locks don’t work after all. The commission is now
in the process of recalling 400,000 gun locks distributed by the
National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) after a study revealed
that they could be opened (sometimes very easily) without a key.
The CPSC’s recall comes in the wake of its broader examination of
32 gun lock models which found that all but two could be opened
with “a paper clip, tweezers, a hammer or wire cutters, or by striking
them against a table” according to the New York Times. However,
admitting that the wonderful CPSC doesn’t have the ability to save
us from all the evils of “capitalism,” only NSSF-distributed locks
are being recalled. According to CPSC spokesman Russ Rader, all
the other locks “don’t have brand names. That’s why we are seeking
a safety standard for all gun locks.”

Hopefully
the effort to codify and implement this “safety standard” will go
down in flames. For decades consumers have been able to adequately
secure their guns in lockable cabinets, drawers, safes, and portable
cases. These readily-available containers and furnishings (the old
notion of adequate gun security) are not hard to find at department,
sporting goods, or gun stores. Why the fixation with a new, superfluous,
and much more intrusive level of security?

For
the gun grabbers it is another crucial step in de-legitimizing private
firearms ownership. Convincing Americans that guns will only be
secure when they are buried under layer after layer of locks effectively
propagates the notion that guns are innately evil and offensively-destructive
devices per se. Once this notion is widely accepted it becomes
relatively easy to create support for and implement further restrictions
and even wholesale bans of entire classes of handguns (“Saturday
Night Specials,” semi-automatics) and rifles. After all, if these
devices are so intrinsically evil, then why should anyone be allowed
to own them in the first place, never mind be trusted to secure
them properly? The arguments for bans and registration thus become
much more compelling, especially given the recent depressing news
that even young Catholic girls are now getting into the school-shooting
act. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/aponline/20010307/aponline143520_000.htm)

As
last year’s events in Canada demonstrate, the lag between registration
and confiscation can be surprisingly short. Canadian politicians
promised their constituents that registration would never lead to
confiscation. Justice Minister Alan Rock contended, “there is no
reason to confiscate legally owned firearms.” But just 10 months
later more than half a million registered handguns were confiscated.
California gun owners have taken note and many have refused to comply
with the new requirement that all “assault weapons” in the state
be registered by January 1, 2001.

If
firearms owners in the U.S. want to prevent any more infringements
on their Second Amendment freedoms they had better fight the new,
intrusive gun locks tooth and nail. What is voluntary today will
be mandatory tomorrow and politicians from Dubya (who gave gun locks
out for “free” in Texas) to Parris Glendening don’t care that these
devices are defective or a hindrance at 3:00 a.m. when you awaken
to a strange noise downstairs (“Honey, get the baseball bat. I can’t
find the trigger-lock key.”). The NRA humiliated Glendening in a
commercial containing footage from his gun lock goof-up. Instead
of hiding his head in shame, Glendening became livid and called
the adoring press to his side saying, “The fact is, the trigger
lock worked.” Really.

Even
more revealing was a story from St. Louis that was published the
day after the Glendening farce. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
reported that although St. Louis Sheriff Jim Murphy accepted a donation
to the city of 5,000 new gun locks to give away to the public, the
city’s mayor Clarence Harmon killed the plan. It turns out that
Harmon feared that the giveaway would hurt the viability of his
city’s pending lawsuit against gun manufacturers.

Mayor
Harmon says to this day that he believes trigger locks will save
thousands of children’s lives. The kicker is, even if he truly believes
this, when it came to his perceived choice between money
and saving the lives of children, he clearly chose money. This is
yet another smoking gun (pardon the pun) demonstrating that the
gun-control crusade at its core is really about nothing more than
redistributing power and wealth to an increasingly-centralized political
elite. By the way, expect to see pathological liar Sarah Brady continue
to see no irony in her complaint that pro-gun Congressmen “endanger
children’s lives for money.” It’s a luxury of thoughtlessness for
the elite who lives behind six-foot fences and security guards in
Georgetown.

March
16, 2001

Dale
Steinreich, Ph.D., is a research associate of the Mises
Institute
who writes frequently for Mises.org
and the investment advisory service AgainstTheCrowd.com.

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