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There Is No Middle Ground

by Larry Pratt
Executive Director, Gun Owners of America

February 6, 2002

A new book makes it clear that understanding the gun control debate is hardly likely to end the debate.

The book is entitled Armed: New Perspectives on Gun Control, and it is written by two well known authorities in the field, criminologist Gary Kleck and attorney Don Kates.

Those who claim to be for "reasonable, common sense gun control" deny their intentions of banning guns, but their own statements and their own logic belie their denials.

Kleck is willing to support certain limited gun control measures but believes that the absolutist logic and statements of the leading pro-control advocates has polarized the debate. Those in the Handgun Control, Inc. camp (now known as the Brady Center to Stop Gun Violence) have made the middle ground untenable according to Kleck.

He quotes Rep. William Clay of Saint Louis saying:

"We need much stricter gun control, and eventually we should bar the ownership of handguns except in a few cases."

Likewise, Kleck quotes Rep. Bobby Rush of Chicago saying that:

"ultimately, I would like to see the manufacture and possession of handguns banned except for military and police use. But that's the endgame. And in the meantime, there are some specific things that we can do with legislation."

Just as blatant is this citation from syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer:

"In fact, the assault weapons ban will have no significant effect either on the crime rate or on personal security. Nonetheless, it is a good idea....Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation."

And of course, the Sarah Brady file is full of statements about how each new gun control conquest is a good first step. In fact, Kates mentions that HCI went to court to keep the DC gun ban from being repealed.

HCI donated to the unsuccessful handgun ban referendum in Massachusetts in 1976, and at one time belonged to the National Coalition to Ban Handguns. Nowhere on the HCI website does one find a condemnation of a domestic or foreign gun ban.

For these and many other similar reasons, Kleck lays the blame on the door of the leading pro-control spokesmen for the refusal of even moderate pro-gun freedom supporters to accept any controls whatsoever.

Moreover, the nature of the gun controls put forth is to impact mostly the non-criminals. This further convinces the middle-of-the-road gun owner that gun regulations are unlikely to have much impact on anyone but them. They get the point. Gun controls are aimed at the law-abiding, not the criminals.

In other words, the best arguments against gun control compromises have come, ironically, from the "we want it all" statements and policies of the Sarah Brady fraternity.

This helps explain why, according to Kleck, the non-compliance with the California semi-auto ban has been around 90 percent.

Kleck provides a substantial collection of quotes from prominent Americans who favor banning guns, topped off by former President Bill Clinton. Regarding a ban, Clinton said:

"I don't think the American people are there right now....But there are certain kinds of guns that can be banned and a lot of other reasonable regulations that can be imposed."

An example of constantly raising the bar for gun owners to jump over is the HCI law suit against Beretta. HCI said that it was negligence for gun companies to make guns without a "gun loaded" indicator. Beretta makes handguns with such devices, but HCI sued them anyway the indicator was not good enough for them.

Of the half-dozen states that have registration laws, Kleck finds that

"state registration laws have no measurable effect on rates of crime or violence....HCI places highest priority on giving the government a resource that would indisputably facilitate mass confiscation of guns, but that has no documented value for reducing crime or violence."

Kleck submitted his chapter on the absolutist goals of Handgun Control to HCI, but they refused to comment.

At the end of the day, my reading of Armed makes crystal clear to me that giving in to the slightest of the demands of the pro-control leaders (in and out of Congress) is to set foot on the slippery slope that plummets toward victim disarmament.