Guns with legs

One of the favorite arguments among gun control advocates is to claim that gun violence in Latin America is in significant part a fault of America’s gun laws.  Surely, we’re all familiar with the claims that swirled around the Fast and Furious scandal, and the history of our War on Drugs, often imposed on countries to the south, is well-known.  A recent article, “Guns and gangs and the sad role U.S. lax gun laws play,” repeats the assertion that we have a major share of the blame for crimes, including homicide, in Central and South America.

For those who seek to control others, this is the end of the line of reasoning—our guns are killing people in other countries; we must restrict (and eventually ban) our guns.  The problem is that, in fact, their claim here disproves their own case.

Consider the flaw:  The countries in question have strict gun control.  Venezuela bans the purchase of guns and ammunition by private citizens.  Mexico and Columbia have onerous gun control—stricter than what advocates here claim they want.  And yet, those nations have some of the highest homicide rates in the world, despite having far fewer guns per capita than the United States.

We hear control advocates repeatedly complaining about how guns move from states with loose gun laws to places like New York City and Chicago or from nations with loose gun laws to nations with heavy restrictions.  But that’s exactly the problem with their argument.  It’s the law of supply and demand.  Where there is a demand for basic goods or services, there will be a supply.

And because drugs are at the heart of the violence in question, that economic law is instructive.  We have long experience with attempts at banning or restricting access to things.  Consider the failure of one experiment here in the United States.  As Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, discussed with Terry Gross of Fresh Air, our efforts to ban alcohol resulted in years of crime, of racism, and of loopholes exploited by Americans who didn’t wish to comply.

What gun control advocates never seem able to answer is how yet another attempt to shut off the flow would succeed when similar efforts in the past have not.  Their answer is so often to insist that the movement of guns is from the United States to Central and South America.  But this implies that our country is the only source of guns.

That, of course, is nonsense.  The bogeyman of gun control, the AK-47, has been manufactured in quantity for decades.  Estimates put the total number at 100,000,000.  As I’ve discussed before, guns are easy to make.  And for people who want high standards of quality, Glock, FN Herstal, Beretta, Sig Sauer, Heckler & Koch are gun makers that come immediately to mind that are based outside the U.S.

Even if the wildest dreams of control could be realized—thereby removing guns from all private hands in America—we would rearm in short order.  At least people who are used to smuggling in illegal goods would rearm themselves and their customers, and that’s exactly the worst possible result for people who genuinely care about safety and liberty.

The magical thinking that if only we pass enough laws, ban enough things, and impose enough control, we’ll all find ourselves in a utopia of peace has been proved wrong again and again.  But control is a song of the Sirens to some.  This makes it our duty to stand up every single time plus one to defend basic rights.

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

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