June 09, 2008

Buy a Gun

Oddly enough, white males will be the swing voters this election. And if there’s one thing rural and working-class white voters care about a lot, it is their guns.

Any gun enthusiast older than 21 remembers the 1994-2004 assault weapon ban vividly. It was a dark time. Its many loopholes insulted everyone’s intelligence. Purely cosmetic features were banned on otherwise fully-functional AR-15s.  Assault weapons was not a bona fide category; for starters, military assault rifles are select-fire.  So various arbitrary criteria like collapsing stocks and bayonet lugs were defining features of banned weapons.  Civilian “asault weapons” merely look scary.  They’re no different than your grandfather’s M1 Garand. 

The law also had another major component:  it banned large capacity magazines and the transfer of new assault weapons, while allowing existing ones to be owned and transferred. This was a particular grievance of working-class gun owners. Because of the freeze on new magazines and new assault weapons, prices rose dramatically. Formerly $10 Glock magazines cost $100 or more by 2000. No-name “pre ban” AR15 lower receivers cost $1,500 or more. The wealthy, as always, could find a way to get whatever they wanted. But working-class collectors who care about various nonletha features for aesthetic reasons were left to scrape together cash or forego their preferred purchases altogether.

During the Clinton years, Barack Obama became a gun-control fanatic, known for demagoging gun control to keep his South Side constituency happy and to defeat the typical perception of liberals as soft on crime. Obama supported Mayor Daley’s ridiculous lawsuit against suburban gun dealers for “negligently oversupplying” firearms that were resold to criminal inside the city. Even now, Obama continues to blame gun manufacturers and dealers for the criminal acts of urban gang members.

For over 20 years, Chicago has banned handguns and assault weapons, while also requiring the registration of all non-banned long-arms. Needless to say, I felt much safer in Texas and Florida, where I and other law-abiding people could defend ourselves, than I ever did under that regime. Like all gun control laws, Chicago’s approach consists of sentimental feel-good measures that only impact the most scrupulously law-abiding citizens.

Urban dwellers generally support gun control because, even though there are far fewer guns per capita in a city like Chicago, a much higher percentage of guns are in the hands of criminals. The perception of guns is negative, and this perception is aided by the media. Lawful uses of guns in recreation and self-defense are unknown and under-reported. Under these circumstances, it’s politically easier to cast aspersions on the “devil object” than it is to call for serious punishment of the mostly young black and Hispanic gang members who make a hobby of shooting one another and innocent bystanders.

Obama’s gun control position proves to me how utterly bereft he is of moral courage and intellectual seriousness. While at the University of Chicago law school, Obama had easy access to the real facts on this issue because John Lott was there at the time and had just published More Guns, Less Crime. This publication and the various seminars about it had no impact on Obama’s views; Obama remained a run-of-the-mill liberal. Overall, Obama rarely would be seen engaging the rigorous “law and economics” researchers, who made mincemeat of his conventional liberal views on gun control and much else.

Obama appears at first glance to be a reasonable technocrat. Historically, however, he has shown no willingness to challenge the popular will of his constituency, even though various new research shows the falsity of various liberal policy chestnuts, in particular as they relates to guns and crime. The only hope of gun owners is that Obama is selfish and power-hungry.  His number one core value appears to be himself. He’s distanced himself from his old South Side positions, and generally has not taken major risks in his career, as evidenced most dramatically by his various “present” votes on controversial issues during his career.  Gun control is widely seen as a factor in the Democratic defeat in 2000.  His naked ambition is the only hope of gun owners from legal harassment. 

Far from being a courageous messiah, a racial healer or a book-smart technocart, Obama’s just another politician, flattering his constituency and looking out for number one.  What a sign of the times that someone as ordinary as this generates such enthusiasm! 

Between skyrocketing oil, our degraded citizenry, and the likely riots if Obama doesn’t pull off a victory, it’s definitely time to keep your powder dry.

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