Thomas Jefferson once said, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." Public blindness can eventually foster a dictatorship. We must be vigilant toward superficially different issues that contradict the same rights via similar means. The apparent difference between two issues can mislead people into supporting one issue and opposing the other, despite both issues being inimical to our Second Amendment rights.
Both the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and the current ballistic fingerprinting scheme violate our Second Amendment through similar approaches. Both plans are potential beginnings of a nationwide gun ban.
The House of Representatives will consider the proposal to revive the '94 ban in September of next year. If renewed, "assault weapons" will remain illegal. However, the situation is much worse since Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) has proposed H.R. 2038, legislation that will not only restore the '94 ban, but will also ban a multitude of other guns that were not originally prohibited by the '94 law.
Nevertheless, there are significant problems with the assault weapons laws. The original rationalization for banning assault weapons was that they were more dangerous than "ordinary" guns. However, congressional criteria as to what constituted an "assault weapon" mainly listed gun accessories--folding stocks, pistol grips, barrel shrouds, etc. Hence accessories-based criteria for assault weapons were irrelevant to what makes a gun deadly. The accessories criteria does not support the assertion about assault weapons being more dangerous than ordinary guns, and statements about the hazardous character of assault weapons are arbitrarily conceived.
Furthermore, that improper criteria exists presupposes that assault weapons are not precisely defined. That gun banners deliberately confuse machine guns and regular semiautomatics under the term "assault weapon" is proof of unclear definition. Considering the unclear definitions and improper criteria, there is no rational foundation for H.R. 2038.
Imprecise definitions for assault weapons and arbitrary claims of their dangerousness enable banners to trick the public into accepting needless firearms restrictions.
In his recent Washington Times article, Jacob Sullum quotes a Violence Policy Center official, Josh Sugarmann, saying in 1988, "...the public's confusion over fully automatic machine guns vs. semiautomatic assault weapons--anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun--can only increase that chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons." Exploiting public confusion via unclear definition is the means by which gun banners promulgate their agenda.
In addition, anti-gunners further report that assault weapons are used very frequently by felons committing crimes. However, in his Washington Times article, "The Gun Control Debate," John Lott writes: "Even a 1995 study by the Clinton Administration showed how rarely these guns were used in crime during the early 1990s... Less than one percent of state and federal inmates carried a military-type semiautomatic gun when they committed a crime. A later 1997 survey showed that this number was the same or slightly higher after the ban."
Unsupported claims and inaccurate definitions also plague the ballistic fingerprinting plan. Ordinarily, ballistic imaging is used to link criminals to pieces of gun-related evidence at a crime scene. However, the anti-gun crowd seeks to apply this investigative method to law-abiding gun owners via ballistic fingerprinting.
When fired, guns mark bullets and cartridge casings. These marks are peculiar to the type of gun fired, giving cops some chance of linking bullets to an illegally used firearm. However, anti-gun proponents argue that citizens with guns can commit crimes. So gun banners suggest police check the markings on bullets or casings with a database-listing of lawfully owned guns and their owners' names. The database requires federal registration of all civilians' guns. Therefore, a nationwide disarmament of the American populace becomes more likely.
The idea that citizens who lawfully own guns are going to commit crimes (apparently because of gun possession) is fallacious. Criminals commit crimes. In More Guns, Less Crime, Lott reveals statistics showing that lawful gun owners committing crimes with a legal gun is a rarity. Take Florida, for example, where people can carry concealed guns with a permit. Lott wrote that of the 0.2 percent of permit holders who had their permits revoked for general reasons (not related to victimizations), only .02 percent had their permits suspended for firearms-related charges that were not injurious to others. Translation: If there were gun owners who harmed others with a legal gun, those instances would have to be less than .02 percent.
Criminals are not going to participate in the legal hassles of getting legal guns, especially those registered in a police-accessible database. Because citizens with legal guns don't victimize people, and because criminals purchase guns illegally, the guns used by criminals are not going to be found on a database of lawfully purchased arms. Therefore, ballistic fingerprinting and its required database is irrelevant to solving crime.
Ballistic fingerprinting's impertinence to solving crimes becomes more obvious when considering that marks on bullets and casings don't always match up with the guns that made them. Regular use or deliberate modification of guns can conceal the gun's original connection to the markings. Nevertheless, anti-gunners use the word "fingerprinting" to imply an exact science despite the inexactness of ballistics investigations.
The reasons given for ballistic fingerprinting are blatantly weak, and the motives of the gun banners are not to solve crime but to register citizens' guns for future confiscation.
It is clear that ballistic-fingerprinting and assault weapon laws employ ambiguous definitions and unfounded claims to support methods of banning guns nationwide. H.R. 2038 bans guns through a succession of further restrictions based on the '94 Assault Weapons Ban, while ballistic fingerprinting does it through the precedent of citizen gun registration.
Vigilance requires politicians to recognize and decline proposals that create a slippery-slope precedent that can escalate into a national negation of our rights. Such vigilance requires that politicians penetrate the superficial differentness between the issues, evaluate the means proponents use in reaching their common aim and hold anti-gun proposals to strict definitions and corroborated claims. Afterward, politicians must sustain a policy of dismissal for fundamentally similar anti-gun measures.
Vigilance also requires gun owners to urge their representatives to oppose antigun legislation.