Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Charles Krauthammer | Boosting safety will mean restrictions on liberty

Trading the Bill of Rights for some illusory vision of safety is a bad bargain.

Every mass shooting has three elements: the killer, the weapon and the cultural climate. As soon as the shooting stops, partisans immediately pick their preferred root cause with corresponding pet panacea. Names are hurled, scapegoats paraded, prejudices vented. The argument goes nowhere.

Let’s be serious:

The weapons: Within hours of last week’s Newtown, Conn., massacre, the focus was the weapon and the demand was for new gun laws. Several prominent pro-gun Democrats professed new openness to gun control. Sen. Dianne Feinstein is introducing a new assault weapons ban. The president emphasized guns and ammo in announcing the creation of a new task force.

I have no problem in principle with gun control. Congress enacted (and I supported) an assault weapons ban in 1994. The problem was: It didn’t work. (So concluded a University of Pennsylvania study commissioned by the Justice Department.) The reason is simple. Unless you are prepared to confiscate all existing firearms, disarm the citizenry and repeal the Second Amendment, it’s almost impossible to craft a law that will be effective.

Feinstein’s law, for example, would exempt 900 weapons. And that’s the least of the loopholes. Even banned guns can be made legal with simple, minor modifications.

Most fatal, however, is the grandfathering of existing weapons and magazines. That’s a reason the ’94 law failed. At the time, there were 1.5 million assault weapons in circulation and 25 million large-capacity magazines.

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