Bloomberg journalist hits nail on head: Aggressively enforce existing laws

Author Paul Barrett, acclaimed author of “Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun.”

Author Paul Barrett, acclaimed author of “Glock: The Rise of America’s Gun.”

Perhaps this is one of those stories that is of interest only to myself, considering how closely I follow the players within the media who consistently cover the interminable debate over gun control in this country, but I was interested to learn that UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh gave a strong endorsement of an article written by Bloomberg BusinessWeek journalist Paul Barrett on Georgia’s ‘guns everywhere’ law that recently cleared the state legislature.

After saying that he disagreed with some aspects of Barrett’s article, the pro-gun professor who runs the Volokh Conspiracy Blog for the Washington Post wrote, “On balance, the article struck me as quite sensible and realistic, and worth the attention both of gun control supporters (as the author seems to be) and gun control opponents.”

Indeed, Barrett’s article is sensible and realistic especially for one who is an unapologetic New York liberal and supporter of tougher gun laws.

Having interviewed Barrett several times (I’ve also interviewed Prof. Volokh several times), I can tell you that he always presents a cogent assessment of the facts. Sure, you may not agree with his viewpoint on certain issues, but at least you know his arguments are well-thought out and well researched.

To give you an example, Barrett argues that Georgia’s ‘guns everywhere’ law, which allows concealed carry permit holders to carry firearms into bars, churches and airports, under certain conditions, was a direct reaction to the push by pro-gun control advocates to enact tougher restrictions regulating gun ownership following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

He further asserts that gun rights advocates have a decisive edge over those seeking limits on the Second Amendment not only because crime rates continue to decline as gun rights and concealed carry rights have been expanded, but because at “present (and maybe always), the intensity of pro-gun passion exceeds that of anti-gun passion.”

Consequently, Barrett believes that gun control activists need to avoid deriding gun ownership and the gun community and “respond intelligently.” Specifically, they should “emphasize more aggressive enforcement of existing laws against illegal gun possession, rather than obsess about situations that allow law-abiding citizens to own guns and carry them on their person.”

To put it another way, as Barrett concludes his article, “Rather than argue that guns are evil or that gun enthusiasts are nuts, liberal skeptics should push back with concrete proposals for keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals, the mentally ill, and children.”

All of what Barrett is saying makes sense. Newtown did spawn several new gun control measures, all of which failed at the federal level, some of which passed at the state level, which of course led to a push back from gun owners to keep the government from trampling on their right to keep and bear arms. Hence, the Georgia ‘guns everywhere’ bill and the 21 other states that expanded gun rights following Sandy Hook.

Moreover, the notion that gun control advocates should stop trying to ban certain firearms, limit magazine capacities and restrict concealed carry rights and instead focus on enforcing existing laws that punish criminals for unlawfully possessing firearms also makes sense.

However, the real question is whether gun-control groups will actually heed Barrett’s advice or whether they will continue to double down on the failed tactics and policies that have woke the sleeping giant that is the 5 million NRA members and members of other gun-rights groups that will fight tooth and nail to protect the Second Amendment?

My guess is no. Gun control advocates will not jump ship or change direction. They’ll continue on a path that only leads to a more polarized, more divisive and more contentious atmosphere, where compromise becomes impossible and common sense goes out the window.

That said, it’s folks like Paul Barrett that give me hope that that path is avoidable, that we can find common ground and protect the Second Amendment all while reducing gun-related violence.