Fayetteville, AR – -(AmmoLand.com)- One of the primary claims made by gun control advocates is that guns are bought by criminals in states with “lax” gun laws and are then transported to states with strict laws, thereby undermining the effectiveness of such measures. In their view, we must impose the most stringent laws nationwide to overcome this traffic of firearms. This approach, of course, runs afoul of the Constitution, but it also fails on pragmatic grounds, particularly the economic reality that where demand exists for a readily available product—or a product that can be smuggled easily or can be made in machine shops—there will always be a supply.
There is a parallel case, one that involves efforts to curtail a legally protected right: abortion.
This will not be either a defense or an attack on abortion. My point here is to observe similarities between two aspects of contemporary political and social culture. The impetus for this article was a report that I saw recently about a trend among residents of states surrounding Illinois to travel to Chicago to seek abortions. This is a three-year trend, going from prior numbers around 3,000 per annum before 2015 to 3,210 in that year, 4,543 in 2016, and 5,528 in 2017. This matches a recent increase in restrictions on abortion in neighboring states.
Sound familiar? I am frequently told that guns flow from those same states into Illinois. The direction of flow is the reverse, from states that respect rights to one that has imposed a lot of violations, but both of these situations illustrate what happens when an artificial restriction on the supply is written into the law—and yes, I realize that the source of the guns used in crimes in states like Illinois is debated. For the sake of argument let us assume the claim of gun control advocates, as a given, since their claim undermines the usefulness of their proposed solutions.
At this point, I’m told that if we apply the laws of the most restrictive states across the nation, that will stop the flow. Australia tried that answer, and the result was the equivalent of back-alley abortions—as illustrated by the example of a jeweler near Sydney who supplied that city’s gangs some one hundred copies of the MAC 10. He was by no means alone in supplying firearms to criminals in that country.
I’d like to think that we’d all like to see many fewer abortions and many fewer gun crimes. Whatever view we take on the questions of gun and abortion rights, reducing the number of people who are killed or injured in crimes and the number of times that they need medical procedures of any kind is an improvement.
Attempts to control supply have a long history of failure. Prohibition was a failure, except for rum runners, our War on Drugs has put many Americans in prison for possession of a small amount of marijuana and made buying sinus medicine tedious. Telling people to “just say no,” whether we’re talking about drugs or sex, doesn’t work. One thing that does succeed, in those areas and in reducing violence is education. This sounds like a cliché, but along with access to jobs and a government that works for all the people, rather than only a few, still works.
Which is to say, dealing with what creates demand, rather than sniping at the supply, is the sensible approach—if sensible means based on evidence and sound reasoning. To a gun control advocate, sensible is another word for less freedom.
To quote Paul Harrell, you decide.
About Greg Camp
Greg Camp has taught English composition and literature since 1998 and is the author of six books, including a western, The Willing Spirit, and Each One, Teach One, with Ranjit Singh on gun politics in America. His books can be found on Amazon. He tweets @gregcampnc.