Question for gun control advocates: How much is enough?

How much gun control would be enough?  This is a question that I pose to advocates of control, trying to find out where they would draw the line.  What requirement, what level of strictness would reach the point that something more would be unacceptable?

The history of firearms laws in the United States is well known to members of the gun community.  In the twentieth century, the waves of control rise first with the Sullivan Act in New York State in 1911 and ebb and flow over the next hundred years, peaking with the Brady Act and the Assault Weapons Ban in the early 90s.  Since that time, the only major federal changes in gun laws have been the two Supreme Court rulings that affirmed the right to own firearms throughout the country.

The states have led the way in the modern trend of gun laws, generally loosening them with the exception of New York and California, among a few others.  One illustration of this is the progress in the legal carry of handguns, starting with Florida becoming a shall-issue state in 1987.  Since then, some provision for carry has been created in every state, and forty-two either allow residents to be armed without a license or issue a license to anyone who can pass a background check and basic test.

The fluctuations of the homicide numbers over the same period calls the effectiveness of gun laws into question.  Murders occurred a rate of some six per hundred thousand in 1900, rising to bounce between eight and ten in the 20s and 30s and then again from the 60s to early 90s.  In the 40s and 50s, the rate was between four and six, and we’ve dropped back to that low since the mid 90s.

If we’re going to seek answers on the basis of this history, we’ll have to accept that the conclusions will be tentative, thanks to the messy nature of the data.  A first approximation suggests that letting people own and carry what and where they wish, so long as they have passed a check of criminal and mental health records, achieves good results.  This risks charges of confusing correlation with causation, but it’s safe to say that what we’ve done over the last three decades hasn’t made things worse.

So the question remains—what would be enough, from the perspective of gun control advocates?  What would be the last law they’d insist on enacting?

This question stymies advocates of greater control.  I’ve asked it many times, only to get hemming and hawing in response.  And I suspect that what’s going on here is an unwillingness to admit that the desire for gun laws has little if anything to do with saving lives.  The practical reality of law is that there is a maximal level of effect beyond which any new restrictions will achieve no better results.

And then there’s the matter of rights.  If we take rights into account, there are lines that we must not cross.  And the coyness of gun control advocates shows their disdain for the essential liberties of their fellow human beings.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of