Seven-point plan to reduce gun crime

Seven is a number that has felt right to humanity for a lot of things.  We have the seven days of the week, the seven deadly sins, the seven liberal arts, and the seven rounds that the New York legislature figured were enough.  Now Martin O’Malley, former governor of Maryland and candidate in the Democratic primaries of 2016 has come up with a seven-point plan to reduce gun violence.  His proposals were listed in a tweet he sent out on Thursday.  He says these would be a start toward cutting deaths by gunfire in half over the next ten years.  How these not-so-magnificent seven would accomplish that isn’t so clear when we consider the details, which he gives on his campaign website:

1.  Use procurement contracts to advance gun safety

O’Malley calls for requiring gun manufacturers who sell to the federal government to introduce design changes to make guns safer and more easily traced, including “hidden serial numbers that cannot be defaced, microstamping, magazine disconnect mechanisms, and other safety improvements.”  Apparently, he’s unaware that removing serial numbers is already a silly thing to do, since forensic science knows how to read those numbers anyway.  By contrast, microstamping can be defeated with a metal file or a simple switching of the firing pin, and as for magazine disconnect safeties, ask shooters what that does to the trigger.  And let’s not forget what happened to Smith & Wesson when the company made a deal with President Clinton.

2.  Stop defending gun dealer immunity

This is the curious belief in distributed responsibility, the idea that a company is to blame for how customers use their products.  If your gun has a mechanical defect caused by its maker, you can sue, as the recent experience with the Remington 700 rifle shows.  But O’Malley is calling for the equivalent of suing Ford for selling automobiles in a city that has bars.

3.  Disarm and prosecute domestic abusers who break the law

As I’ve said before, I have no sympathy for domestic abusers.  Take these crimes seriously, prosecute them, and lock up the convicts longer.  But as always, I don’t know how we will keep criminals who are walking the streets from getting things they’re not supposed to have.

4.  Ban “cop-killer” ammunition

It’s good that he put “cop-killer” in quotation marks, since body armor is designed at most levels to stop handgun rounds, not bullets fired from rifles.  Stopping a centerfire rifle shot takes Level III or IV armor.  The slipperiness of “cop-killer” sounds to me like an attempt to ban anything going more than 1,500 feet per second.

5.  Alert law enforcement of failed gun sales

This apparently means going after people who attempted to buy a gun at a licensed dealer and were denied after a background check.  President Obama is known for having said that background checks stopped 1.5 million Americans from buying guns over a fourteen year period, though he left out the fact that few of them were prosecuted and even fewer convicted.  This sounds appealing to those who promote law-and-order solutions, but consider how many federal prosecutions are filed in a given year.  The numbers vary year to year, but run around 100,000.  Perhaps O’Malley doesn’t want to go after every person who’s denied a gun, but taking his words at face value, he seems to be calling for a doubling of the work done by U.S. attorneys.

6.  Require the responsible storage of guns at home

Here we have the old idea of mandating locks being sold with guns and telling owners to keep weapons in safes.  It’s a feel-good measure—something that sounds good and in fact is a good idea, but is not so effective in practical terms.  While police officers can see drivers who aren’t wearing seatbelts, they have no way to determine what’s going on inside our homes without using devices that can look through walls or by actually coming in.  Grow lights generate heat and use electricity, but guns just sit there at room temperature.  Unless O’Malley also wishes to repeal the Fourth Amendment, this proposal will only be useful after someone is shot—at which point a prosecution would already have been possible without this additional set of laws.

7.  Strengthen enforcement and audits of licensed dealers

O’Malley wants to “dedicate the necessary resources to monitoring dealers to ensure that they comply with the law.”  This must be his idea of a jobs program.  There are almost 130,000 licensed firearms dealers in this country, while the total number of employees of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives is fewer than 5,000.

These proposals are yet another example of wishful thinking that sound pleasing, but show no promise of achieving the stated goal.  O’Malley refers to what he did during his time in office as the governor of Maryland, but that illustrates exactly what I’m saying.  Over that period—2007 to 2015—the homicide rate in his state was consistently 50% higher than neighboring Virginia, a state with much better gun laws.  If his efforts at gun control didn’t work for him while he was governor, what makes him believe that Picky, Lashy, Bashy, Pokey, Busy, Sneaky, and Slappy will be anything but a joke on the national stage?

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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