News and Commentary

CNN Column: Let’s Take All The Guns

The gun-grabbing left is growing louder, with the latest example a CNN column calling for what is essentially gun confiscation.

Elliot Fineman, whose son Michael Fineman died in 2006 in a shooting in a San Diego restaurant, claims that the shooter was able to obtain a gun legally despite being in a mental institute twice, and in response formed the National Gun Victims Action Council to promote gun control. His new column criticizes Obama’s dictatorial executive orders for not going far enough.

Fineman starts by pointing out that the past 15 mass shooters all passed background checks.

“When the initial Brady Background Check Bill (Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act) was enacted in 1993, the drafters agreed to make reporting of prohibited gun purchasers by states optional,” Fineman writes. “It is still not mandatory. As a result, studies show that 90 percent of state mental health records that should be in the database of prohibited purchasers are not.”

Fineman doesn’t provide sourcing for the 90 percent statistic, and there is nothing to confirm that this statistic is accurate. While Fineman is correct that state reporting of mental health records is optional, that’s because the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government requiring them to report mental health records was unconstitutional. Even still, most states do report them voluntarily.

Fineman continues:

The reality is that other developed countries (e.g., England, France, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Canada and Japan) have about the same percentage of people with mental disabilities as the United States. Yet the people with mental disabilities in those countries are not committing gun massacres. Why?

Because those countries have sane gun laws and the people with mental disabilities cannot get their hands on the guns. It’s not mental disability that leads to our gun massacres as the NRA would have us believe — it is the guns.

This is inaccurate. As Crime Research Prevention Center president John Lott writes in Fox News:

Last year, both France and the US had four mass public shootings. France suffered more casualties (murders and injuries) from mass public shootings in 2015 than the US has suffered during Obama’s entire presidency (532 to 396). And this occurred despite the US being five times more populous than France.

But it isn’t just the horrific year that France had last year. Far from being well below the frequency found in US, other European countries actually have a worse problem. From 2009 through December 2015, eleven European countries experienced mass public shootings at a greater frequency than did the US, after adjusting for population. These countries include Switzerland, Norway, Belgium, and the Czech Republic.

It also worth noting that Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, more evidence that the problem is not lax gun laws.

Fineman calls for “conducting real background checks that include interviews with people who know the purchaser (family, neighbors, local police) and with the purchaser himself.”

“Not only are real background checks conducted in other countries, they are also used in the United States for machine gun purchases,” Fineman writes. “This is gun control the United State has practiced for decades — and it works. When was the last time you heard of a machine gun mass murder? Or a mentally disabled person using a machine gun to commit mass atrocities?”

The machine gun analogy is a red herring. As National Review‘s Kevin Williamson writes, machine guns are a “non-issue” because it’s been “nearly impossible” to legally obtain one since the 1930s. Lott said in regards to machine guns in an interview with National Review‘s Kathryn Jean Lopez, “There have been only a couple of national changes in these laws since the beginning of the 1930s. That’s not enough to disentangle all the other factors that were changing at the same time. It might make sense to let some states try out different rules just so we can do research on these types of questions, but absent that there is simply not enough information to do anything more than guess about what effects a policy dealing with machine guns would have.”

In other words, machine guns have never been commonly used by the public, and with little changes in national laws regarding machine guns since the 1930s, it’s difficult to conduct accurate research on the effects of machine gun policies.

Fineman starts to go off the rails towards the end of the column, as he suggests Obama declare a “National State of Emergency” and sign executive orders that involve “universal REAL backgrounds checks, suspending the gun industry’s immunity from lawsuits, monitoring ammunition sales and banning those on the terror watch list from buying guns.” He concludes his column with these two questions:

1) Gun violence is a raging epidemic claiming 30,000 lives per year at a cost of $229 billion per year. Why have you not declared a state of emergency to halt the Gun Violence Epidemic?

2) Since the government is the largest purchaser of firearms, why not force the gun manufacturers to make smart guns (guns that will only fire if the fingerprint of the owner matches the trigger) by requiring that the government only purchase smart guns?

More people die from falling than from guns, so if Obama needs to declare a national emergency on gun violence then he would need to declare a national emergency against ladders. More people also die from car accidents than guns, and car companies are not held responsible for every car accident. In addition, gun homicides have declined since the 1990s, so the notion of a rising gun violence epidemic is a myth.

The Daily Wire has detailed the problems with smart guns, universal background checks and the terror watch list. When taken together, Fineman’s proposals are an indirect, incremental way of banning guns. His heart may be in the right place, but more gun control would not improve crime in this country.

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