Second Amendment Debate: How About Enforcing Existing Gun Laws?

One of the Constitutional responsibilities of the President of the United States is to enforce laws passed by Congress.  To assist in carrying out this responsibility, the president has an Attorney General, a Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Marshals, the FBI, ATF, DEA, and more than 20 other units within the federal bureaucracy with enforcement powers, including of course the enforcement division of the EPA.  If a president wants to enforce laws that are on the books, he certainly has the ability to do so.  But therein is the rub: A president must want to enforce the law.

Unfortunately, a president who does not choose to enforce the law can get away with this dubious decision.  Although refusing to enforce the law is an impeachable offense for an American president, impeachment proceedings require a Congress with the will to carry them out.  When it comes to impeaching President Obama, neither side of the aisle has the gumption required.  Knowing this, when it comes to gun-related laws, President Obama is all for passing new ones, but adamantly opposed to enforcing those that are already on the books.  Apparently passing new laws makes for good political theater but enforcing existing laws doesn’t.  In other words, the gun-control debate is about politics not reducing gun violence in America.

When it comes to the gun-control debate, some on the anti-gun side have a problem with cause and effect.  They continue to blame gun violence on inanimate objects—guns—rather than the people who consciously choose to use these inanimate objects in malicious, violent, and destructive ways.  It is interesting that when drunk drivers kill innocent victims, nobody blames cars.  Yet every time a mentally disturbed person uses a gun to express his anger and frustration with the world, gun-control advocates ramp up a renewed campaign for more restrictive gun laws.

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To even suggest that the perpetrator’s mental condition might be the cause of the violence in question brings howls of protest from gun-control advocates who foolishly believe that laws actually prevent crimes.  To gun-control advocates, criminals who use guns are somehow different.  They will, according to the illogic of these advocates, suddenly become law-abiding citizens who will never again pick up a gun if legislators will just pass the right laws.  What gun-control advocates choose to ignore is the fact that wherever they have been passed gun-control laws have done little or nothing to reduce gun violence.  In fact, reducing gun laws has proven to have a more positive effect on reducing gun violence than increasing them.

But there is a problem with constantly advocating for new and more restrictive gun laws: there are already so many gun laws on the books that existing laws are not being enforced.  Why enact new gun-control laws when those on the books are not being enforced?  Why not simply enforce the laws that currently exist?  These two questions are not popular in gun-control circles.  In fact, gun-control advocates carefully avoid discussions in which these questions come up.  Writing in American  Rifleman (May 2013), Wayne LaPierre—Executive Vice-President of the National Rifle Association—had this to say about the lack of enforcement of existing gun laws: “Everything real violent criminals do to acquire a firearm is already a serious federal felony.  Under federal law, lying to a licensed dealer, lying on the form 4473, and straw sales are all federal felonies that are almost never prosecuted.”  Yet these crimes are used by gun-control advocates to justify their demand for a national registration system for gun purchases.  Again, why not enforce the laws that already exist?

LaPierre also cites several additional federal statutes that are already on the books, but are only sporadically enforced.  Here is a summary of those statutes, what they proscribe, and the prison sentences associated with them:

  • 18 U.S.C. 922(g): A felon, fugitive, or drug user may be sentenced to 10 years in prison for being in possession of a firearm or ammunition. In other words, the firearms that gun-control liberals want to ban are already banned for criminals, fugitives, and drug users.  What is needed is better enforcement of this existing law—not new laws that will not be enforced.  This reinforces a point often made by those of us who support the Second Amendment: gun laws will take guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens but will do nothing to prevent criminals from getting guns.
  • 18 U.S.C. 922(j): An individual may be sentenced to 10 years in prison for possessing a stolen firearm. Since criminals often use stolen firearms in committing the violent crimes gun-control liberals are constantly wringing their hands about, simply enforcing this law would cut down substantially on gun violence.  This being the case, one can only wonder who gun-control liberals are really aiming at with their campaign for new gun-control laws.  The answer should be obvious: law-abiding citizens.
  • 18 U.S.C. 924(b): An individual may be sentenced to 10 years in prison for shipping, transporting, or receipt of a firearm across state lines with intent to commit a felony.
  • 18 U.S.C. 924(a): An individual may be sentenced to 5 to 30 years in prison for carrying, using, or possessing a firearm in connection with a violent federal crime or in the act of drug trafficking.
  • 18 U.S.C. 924(j): An individual may be sentenced to death for committing murder while possessing a firearm in connection with a violent crime or in the act of drug trafficking.
  • 18 U.S.C. 924(g): An individual may be sentenced to 10 years in prison for interstate travel to acquire or effect the transfer of a firearm for the purpose of committing a crime.

Those summarized above are just a sampling of the gun-control laws that are already on the books and crying out for effective enforcement.  These laws cover every aspect of acquiring, possessing, transporting, and illegally using firearms.  It is hard to see how new laws will do anything to curb gun violence that enforcing these existing laws will not do.

Yes, there is a problem with gun violence in the United States.  But problems are solved by identifying the root cause and dealing with it.  Guns are not the root cause of gun violence.  Guns are just inanimate objects; as such they do nothing of their own accord.  Violent acts using guns are perpetrated by people, most of whom are hardened criminals or mentally disturbed individuals.  Lock up the criminals and provide for the proper treatment and confinement of the mentally disturbed and gun violence will no longer be a problem in the United States.  Accept the illogic and hypocrisy of liberal gun-control advocates and gun violence will just continue.

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