Guns of New York: A Modest Proposal

It appears that Michael Daly, a writer at the New York Daily News, has a problem with guns.

He writes articles decrying the “500,000 illegal handguns” that apparently flood this city. He writes with approval of Mayor Bloomberg’s recent lawsuit against out-of-state gun dealers, whose legally purchased products end up involved in violent crimes in New York. In his thinking, it’s clearly the gun’s fault these heinous crimes were committed, not the gun user’s.

Now Daly wants to emblazon Times Square with a gargantuan map of the US, and, using data from the BATF, mark the places where the most guns are sold and distributed in this country. Presumably, the result of this would be a giant public outcry, democracy would somehow happen, and the scourge of guns would be magically and forever erased from the body politic — we would then all love each other and sing kumbaya.

No one likes to see anyone — children and elderly in particular — tragically caught in the crossfire of urban violence. But banning guns and going after out of state dealers is only a lame attempt to place blame for New York’s urban problems elsewhere. It’s a shallow and self-serving political move that will achieve nothing of substance.

The world in which we find ourselves is a direct result of policy decisions made decades ago, with those presently in charge unable or unwilling to risk major reform. Because we have created a massive bureaucratic welfare state, where drugs are illegal, and entire population groups — mostly people of color — see little hope for a better economic future, we have urban social decay, a degraded education system, and local drug gangs fighting over turf and cash. We need to strike to the root of the problems, not just keep on applying layer upon layer of band-aids, in vain hopes of keeping the lid on.

If we declared the Drug War a failure, legalized them, and then when the dust settled, found creative ways to give every American a real stake in his/her own futures (perhaps by deregulating the economy, for starters), such violence and decay would dramatically diminish. A simple solution — implementation, however, is the hard part. It would require massive public will and a major turnaround in attitude of the entrenched political class, with a reborn desire to show real leadership.

Guns are a tool of violence — just one of many — and admittedly one of the most effective. But they are not the cause of violence in and of themselves. I can’t bring myself to believe the liberal-statist illusion that if we just eliminated guns, somehow, we’d see no more dead children. Well, last I checked, handguns were, in effect, “banned” in New York City. Do you know any New Yorkers with a legal conceal-carry permit? Thus is the source of that massive gun influx — as repressive laws against guns and (some) drugs have taught us, people will obtain whatever it is they need to obtain, for whatever reasons.

So I will offer here a modest solution to the problem of a half-million illegal handguns in New York. And I stole it right out of George W. Bush’s playbook. We’ll offer a “path to legalization” for these weapons. (Please don’t call it “amnesty.”) Those who own these guns will be asked to simply register them. After standing in line, filling out forms, paying some fines, and solemnly agreeing to attend gun-safety classes, these gun-owners will be henceforth “legalized,” with full conceal-carry permits, and all the rights, privileges and responsibilities accorded thereto. These new legal gun-owners will now become proud responsible citizens, give up their old ways, pay their taxes, and even assist the police in defending the innocent and apprehending real criminals — those who aggress against persons and property.

Of course they will. And New York cops will let them.

I would suggest to people like Mr. Daly and Senator Charles Schumer, who recently described those defending our fundamental right to self-defense as having a “misguided, ideological fetish,” that the true “sickness” in this culture today isn’t the desire to own a gun, but rather to render every law-abiding hard-working citizen in our society a potentially helpless crime victim. Scratch the surface of a gun-grabber, and underneath you will find a fear-mongering control freak.

May 19, 2006