One of the most common claims for any proposed legislation or enforcement of law is that it is for public safety. The effectiveness of laws in actually providing that safety determines if the law is worth the inherent restriction of freedom. Thus laws against murder are worth the reduction in the freedom to act because of the deterrence it provides.
Before we go a word further, let’s be clear. Liberty First Foundation, its divisions and staff, denounce racism, sexism, violence against any individual or group based on religious beliefs, and bias. We do not accept any excuse for such dehumanizing and corrupt actions, and support full punishment via force of law and courts.
A thought exercise
Without being an attorney, and given that this is not a court of law, it is still a worthwhile exercise to review some of the laws that are pending the single Party approval in New York State legislature. New York State is a surrogate for the nation in many ways. Especially as multiple presidential candidates for 2020 are from this State.
We can speculate the effectiveness of gun restriction legislation in a real-world example – the attempted bombing of Islamberg, NY. This is not to lessen the planned horrendous crime, but to try to find a benefit to the public in finding ways to prevent such terrorism. While this cannot be definitive, especially as much is not known, we can generalize to an extent. The questions are thus, can any proposed 2019 legislation make the public safer and is it worth the trade-off in freedom?
In reference to the alleged bombing plot, Red Flag legislation would have had no effect. Teachers, nor family members or law enforcement, were not involved in identifying the plot. An issue that if this proposal was passed into law could mean that the Greece Odyssey school would have been legally liable for its failure, as former gubernatorial candidate Libertarian Larry Sharpe noted in a recent interview. Instead, and unlike the Parkland, Florida shooting, the public had a concern, notified law enforcement and law enforcement took action. Existing laws worked when they were applied.
Does this proposal make the public safer? Not in the least. As we have documented, and as studies have thus far shown, the main impact of Red Flag legislation is to remove Due Process, separate families, and beleaguer law abiding citizens. To date, in 7 States and more than a decade of existence across the nation, there is no record of a single Red Flag legislation that prevented any illegal use of firearms that we are aware.
Another Bill we have done a lot of coverage on. The goal of the Bill is to allow Government to inspect (and possibly retain) all social media and search activity, for several prior years, so Government can approve or deny a firearm permit. Polling and virtually all media coverage show intense public aversion to this Bill.
Looking at Islamberg and what we currently know, this Bill provides nothing for the public safety. There was apparently nothing in social media that triggered the concern that a personal conversation created. While it is possible that search engine activity could have identified troubling searches of bomb-making, but by itself that is not illegal. Several firearms seized by the law enforcement were registered to other individuals, thus permits do not apply. Even more importantly, homemade bombs are already illegal and no permit is possible – which did not deter these suspects.
Like the Red Flag proposal, while this legislation might impact lawsuits after the fact, public safety is not increased by its existence. The fractional possibility that a troubling trend of social media and internet searches would highlight enough concern to deny a permit, though not enough for other legal action, does not equate to the Right to privacy of 5 million New York residents – and every single person they have interacted with (publicly and privately) over social media for years. This only burdens law abiding citizens and empowers the Government to a degree that several District Attorneys have publicly stated they will not enforce it.
This is an incentive program suggested to allow the public to turn in their neighbors for a reward. Ideally this will allow illegal firearms to be removed as a threat to the public. How the average New Yorker will know if a firearm is illegal is unclear.
But in regard to the Islamberg case, it appears this would have done nothing. Of the 23 firearms recovered, it appears that all were legally owned. An unknown number were registered to parents and grandparents of the suspects, and how the suspects gained possession – if they in fact had possession – is unclear. Current news reports have not revealed if handguns were in possession of any of the suspects – which would be illegal in New York as all are under 21 years old.
Would this make anyone safer? Potentially. Incentivising the turning in of illegal firearms with no legal consequence for illegal ownership can be a positive. The potential for abuse and miscommunication – as initial reports appear to have occurred in Rochester and to deadly consequence in Maryland – is possible, especially if the motivation is free money.
A Bill proposed to limit who can have ammunition and how much. A repressive Bill by definition.
Would this have affected the attempted bombing? NO. It has no impact on homemade bombs. All the firearms appear to be legally owned (if by uninvolved other parties) as was their ammunition. Non of the suspects were on any terrorist list, nor apparently had they previously broken any laws.
This Bill utterly fails to protect the public in any meaningful way. Criminals that get firearms illegally, also have access to illegal ammunition. All this does is add burdens to lawful gun owners.
Another silly anti-Second Amendment Bill. This Bill serves no purpose, unless there is a sudden spike in minor children travelling on their own. This Bill only affects parents of minors and serves as a deterrent for investigating and exercising 2nd Amendment Rights. It does not stop incidents of any nature.
The biggest problem here is that the definition of mass shooting varies depending on who is counting. Because of that it is difficult to determine the effectiveness of gun free zones in protecting the public – with emphasis from mass shootings and their subset school shootings.
RAND found that there is no conclusive evidence of benefit or hindrance from gun free zones. A 2017 Politifact review emphasized a questionable study claiming that only 13% of shootings with 6 or more victims occurred in gun free zones – a unique criteria to base a study on. In contrast, John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center stated in 2018 based on his research,
“Most gunmen are smart enough to know that they can kill more people if they attack places where victims can’t defend themselves. That’s one reason why 98 percent of mass public shootings since 1950 have occurred in places where citizens are banned from having guns.”
Based on what is known about the Islamberg plot, the existence of gun free zones was meaningless to the suspects. Nor did such existence deter or prevent their actions.
There are many more laws in place an proposed in New York State – as well as across the nation. Each of the gun control proposals add layer upon layer of restriction to the Constitutional Right of the Second Amendment. All in the name of protecting the public. Yet when viewed individually or en masse, most of these regressive acts indicate no positive impact, or at best very little. Instead they act as a panacea to the public, wool to cover the minds stressed by the emotional onslaught timed after each occurrence that fits the anti-Second Amendment narrative.
Should there be legislation that seeks to limit gun violence, especially mass shootings and their subset school shootings? Of course. Protecting the public and definitely minors is a noble cause, and worthwhile pursuit.
Still, the objectives in New York – and thus a model for many States in the nation – appear to be focused on law abiding citizens first, and preventing crime in a distant last. There are plentiful claims of benefits promised. But like past legislation of this ilk, no reasonable expectation of those claims to ever materialize. Critically because these efforts are directed at the least dangerous source.
If the attempted bombing of Islamberg can be used to create a benefit for the public, it is in clarifying that attacking the non-threat of 99.999% of the 5 million firearm owners of New York (and roughly 160 million in the nation) is counter-productive. Once again proof that firearms are not inherently the problem, but damaged people – with and without access to those firearms – are the problem. In addition, we should celebrate 2 things: the laws that already exist and function exactly as hoped when actually used. The other is that the public is the first line of defense, and with quick action can allow law enforcement to act as needed. Without invasion and repression of Rights that are essential for our culture and society.