Less beer, more "illegal guns"?

Local gun control. Coming soon to a city near you?

Yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer featured the following front-page headline about illegal guns -- Mayoral Mayday on violence - Keeping illegal guns off the street and other remedies for crime topped the agenda as 17 city leaders from three states met here. The article discusses the mayors' plans:

For any anticrime prescription to work in Philadelphia, the attendees agreed, it must take aim at illegal guns: Of the 96 people slain through March 27, police department figures released yesterday show, 88 percent were cut down by gunfire.

"Major cities all over America and small towns as well are dealing with the problem of too many guns," Street said in opening the session at the National Constitution Center.


Several of the summit's attendees, including Street, are members of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition spurred by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino.

Their group's goal is to share best practices for dealing with a law-enforcement problem that is almost always compounded by economic, educational and socio-cultural factors.

I've often remarked that the mindsets of the pro-gun and anti-gun people are so far apart that there's no way of even having a rational discussion, but I'm going to try once more, because there's a term that needs defining.

Illegal Guns.

It's not only in the headline, it's in the name of the mayors' coalition -- the very existence of which is said to be against it. It seems that both sides ought to be able to agree that in order to be against something -- of for it -- the thing itself should be defined.

What are illegal guns? No seriously, I want to know. People have become so used to this term that it just rolls of the tongue in conversation (a bit like it's frequent rhetorical companion, "gun violence"). Clearly, all guns which are illegal to possess can be said to be illegal guns. This can vary widely; a stolen gun is by definition an illegal gun, as is a gun which has been modified in such a way that its possession violates one of the numerous regulatory statutes. Examples would be sawn off shotguns, illegal conversions from semi to full automatic, guns with serial numbers filed off, etc. Likewise, any gun which is stolen becomes an illegal gun while in the possession of the thief. Until that point, however, it was not illegal in and of itself, and if recovered and returned to the proper owner, it can no longer be said to be an illegal gun.

It strikes me that the largest category of "illegal guns" which are said to be causing a problem are guns which are illegal because they are in the possession of people who are not allowed to have them. Primarily, in any large area this group consists of convicted felons and minors -- although there are other categories including certain violent misdemeanors, mental patients, drug addicts, and people subject to restraining orders. If any gun owner is convicted of a felony, all of his guns would, under this definition, become illegal guns unless they are surrendered according to the proper procedure. Any gun which is stolen by a felon or a minor would of course be doubly illegal, both for having been stolen, and for being in the possession of the felon or minor.

A frequent target for the complaint about illegal guns consists of guns purchased by "straw purchasers" -- people who do not appear to fall into the prohibited categories but who buy guns while committing what amounts to perjury. They claim -- falsely, on an official form -- that they are buying the weapons for themselves, but in reality they are buying them on behalf of (or with the intent of handing them over to) a prohibited purchaser. Thus, they are analogous to an adult who buys alcohol or cigarettes for a minor, although they have committed the additional crime of lying on an official form. I suppose there is an additional (no doubt smaller) category of legal purchasers who had no intention at the time of original pupose to buy a gun for a criminal or a minor, but who later gave the gun to a criminal or minor. These people would not have been straw purchasers, but simply illegal transferors. Either way, they commit a crime (and the gun becomes "illegal" and thereby contraband) upon its transfer to the prohibited person.

If I had to generalize, I'd say that in common parlance "illegal guns" boils down, simply, to guns in the possession of prohibited persons. This includes not only felons and minors, but all who purchase for felons and minors.

Obviously, a city the size of Philadelphia contains innumerable criminals and minors who want guns. The more criminals there are who obtain guns, the more illegal guns there will be. It would seem obvious that the most important goal ought to be to deter criminals from obtaining guns, and taking as many guns away from criminals as possible.

The problem is, this is not an easy task, because criminals are not law abiding. Thus, the gun control debate inevitably shifts from something most people on both sides can agree on (stop criminals from having guns) to prohibiting law-abiding people from having guns.

Back to the Inquirer:

Street's strategy of reaching out to elected officials throughout the region is an attempt to boost the city's clout - in Harrisburg and Washington - by joining with other mayors in seeking grants and fighting for legislation that includes stronger restrictions on "stop-and-go" beer outlets in residential neighborhoods and provisions for large cities like Philadelphia to enact tougher gun laws than the rest of the state.
Wait just a second! I'm trying to analyze illegal guns and suddenly the debate shifts to beer? What's up with that? There are countless "stop-and-go" beer outlets near me, and I've never been aware of a shooting in any way connected to one. Next they'll attempt to take it out on Chinese restaurants (as they did last year). The anti-gun mentality is one thing, but you'd almost think there's some problem with blaming criminals for crime.

I'm trying to be serious here, and I don't see the relevance of beer. If there's a statistical tie-in somewhere, perhaps it has to do with the fact that there are too many criminals in Philadelphia, that too many criminals own illegal guns, that too many criminals also buy beer, and that therefore beer is "correlated" with illegal guns. (Ditto, Chinese restaurants, and probably Kentucky Fried Chicken if the truth be told.)

I want to focus on the idea that Philadelphia should "enact tougher gun laws than the rest of the state." What sort of laws? A prohibition on handguns, perhaps?

Common sense suggests to me that if the goal is to stop illegal guns in Philadelphia, and if that is defined as too many guns in the hands of people who are prohibited to have them, more gun laws would do the following:

  • 1. make large numbers of existing legal guns illegal; and
  • 2. enlarge the category of prohibited persons.
  • By definition this would simply mean that there would be more illegal guns. Dramatically more. How many more, I don't know. There are 32,000 concealed carry permit holders in Philadelphia. As Police Chief Johnson has likened them to an enemy that needs to be fought, I don't think it's a stretch to consider criminalizing them as a likely possibility if local legislation is allowed.

    Why would anyone want to make criminals out of law abiding people and increase the number of illegal guns -- all in the name of fighting illegal guns?

    The Inquirer highlights New York as a model for success:

    New York, which sent a representative of Bloomberg's, is the shining example of a city in control, posting its lowest murder rate since the 1960s. And the picture just keeps getting rosier: New York slayings are down 30 percent compared with the first quarter of last year.

    Philadelphia is the polar opposite. Its murder rate is outpacing last year's by 18 percent. The stinging reality is that more people have been killed in Philadelphia this year than in New York City, which had 84 murders as of Sunday among a population six times greater than Philadelphia's.

    There's no question that Philadelphia's homicide rate is a lot higher than New York, but as I've pointed out, it is misleading to pretend that a city's homicide rate is the most important crime issue for most citizens. It is often forgotten that many of these shootings involve criminals shooting other criminals. While any shooting is lamentable, it is misleading to imagine that the crime rate (much less the quality of overall life) is measured simply by tallying up the number of homicides.

    I would also argue that New York's lower homicide rate is affected not only by different demographics, but by an overall law enforcement strategy which (beginning with and continuing after the transformational leadership of Rudy Giuliani), intelligently targeted and apprehended the very criminals most frequently associated with illegal guns:

    When Rudy Giuliani was elected mayor in 1993, he named William Bratton as police commissioner. Bratton had success with zero-tolerance policing as head of the Transit Police, which cracked down on fare-dodging, speeded up arrest procedures and in a key move, did background checks on everyone who was arrested. This would turn up outstanding warrants and other reasons to hold the perpetrator and not merely send him back out onto the street where he often would ended up getting back into trouble.

    While Bratton put the zero-tolerance concept into play in the 35,000-officer NYPD, the city hired 5,000 new and better-educated police officers, the second major increase in the size of the force in five years. (Taxes also were increased.)

    Meanwhile, there was a citywide crackdown on public drinking and urinating and other so-called nuisance crimes. Bratton pushed decision-making down to the precinct level where local commanders who knew their neighborhoods could better react to and deal with crime trends, which were noted with relentless efficiency by CompStat, a real-time police intelligence computer system. CompStat was integrated into the department and the statistics it endlessly cranks out were are public. (Go here and have a look for yourself.)

    Instead of targeting criminals, or even illegal guns, Philadelphia proposes creating more criminals, and more illegal guns.

    posted by Eric on 04.01.07 at 10:11 AM


    Mullah Cimoc say ameriki lose all rights. this punish ameriki for losing the soul, become killing and torture and hate him god.

    ameriki slave of them master in tel aviv. not free media in usa.

    google: mighty wurlitzer +cia

    learn why ameriki peope not know anyting.

    Mullah Cimoc   ·  April 1, 2007 10:34 PM

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