The gun control debate is breaking out again across the country. In diners and around dinner tables, at the water cooler at work, on Facebook pages and Twitter feeds we’re seeing advocates of gun control square off against the defenders of the right to keep and bear arms and the human right of self-defense. Even college campuses are getting into the mix. At Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, for example, College Republicans and College Democrats recently debated amending or scrapping the Second Amendment, though as you might imagine, the side that wants to scrap the Second Amendment isn’t too clear on how that would work, exactly.
The president of the campus’s College Democrats, Phil Abegg, brought up England and Australia to bolster his claim that restrictive gun control laws reduce violent crime to almost nothing. He didn’t, however, try to explain how it is that Mexico’s restrictive gun control laws haven’t reduced violent crime. Nor did he explain why the United States has one of the lowest homicide rates in the Americas, while being home to tens of millions of gun owners.
College Republican Brady Moore countered Abegg’s argument by pointing out that banning things doesn’t prevent the illegal use of whatever’s been banned. “When our government banned alcohol, people found a way,” he said. “When our government cracked down on illegal gun use, people found a way. By banning guns, you do not stop individuals who are intending to cause harm to law-abiding individuals.” He’s right. And gun bans don’t stop individuals who are intent on causing harm to other law breakers, either.
“By banning guns, you do not stop individuals who are intending to cause harm to law-abiding individuals.” — Slippery Rock University college Republican Brady MooreAccording to a recently released Quinnipiac poll, young Americans like the college students at Slippery Rock University are the least likely to support a ban on semi-automatic firearms, even when they are described as “assault weapons.” It may be that, because these millennials have grown up in an era where modern sporting rifles are the most common rifle sold, they don’t find the guns to be scary and unusual. It may also be that these millennials are increasingly skeptical of the idea that bans really work. As they’ve gotten older, they’ve seen states across the country buck federal law to decriminalize or legalize cannabis. At the same time, they've seen the cost of illegal drugs like methamphetamine, heroin and fentanyl drop dramatically, and drug overdoses skyrocket to more than 60,000 per year. The widespread availability of these illicit drugs may also be fueling the skepticism surrounding calls to ban firearms or to eradicate the Second Amendment. If we made guns as illegal as heroin tomorrow, and somehow managed to eradicate the hundreds of millions of firearms that are legally owned in the United States, what would stop the cartels from supplying criminals across the country with black market firearms imported from overseas or even manufactured south of our border?
China, for example, has long cracked down on its domestic black market for firearms, but the nation is also one of the largest exporters of small arms and light weapons, and one of the least transparent. How easy would it be for the criminal actors in that nation to divert small arms to the Mexican cartels? According to our government, right now China is supplying about 80 percent of the precursor chemicals that the cartels are using to make methamphetamine, and the cartels are supplying about 90 percent of the meth used in the U.S. today. China has also been a major supplier of fentanyl to the U.S. and Canadian black market, though there are indications that the cartels are starting to manufacture the illicit drug without the help of Chinese pharmaceutical firms. In fact, earlier this year China banned the manufacture of several synthetic opioids, but it hasn’t made a difference in our skyrocketing overdose death rate. In 2016, there were more fentanyl-related overdose deaths than homicides in the United States, and 2017 will likely be no different.
When it comes to the illicit market for firearms, criminals will find increasingly creative ways to supply that market. Whether it’s smuggling in firearms from outside our borders, theft from government or military sources, or even making guns themselves, we can be assured of a steady supply to the underground and illegal trade.
The key component to reducing violence isn’t reducing the supply of firearms for legal gun owners, it’s about reducing the demand for firearms among violent actors. Between 1991 and 2014, the homicide rate in the United States plummeted by more than 50 percent, all while the number of legally owned firearms soared and millions of Americans became concealed-carry permit holders. Our greatest public safety success story had nothing to do with banning guns. It had much more to do with programs targeting violent offenders like Operation Exile and Project Safe Neighborhoods, along with outreach programs designed to get young individuals away from criminal gangs before their lives were destroyed. We can see that same sort of success again, but it won’t happen if lawmakers and law enforcers are focused on the tens of millions of Americans lawfully exercising their right to keep and bear arms.
Cam Edwards is the host of “Cam & Co.,” which airs live 2-5 p.m. EST on NRATV and midnight EST on SiriusXM Patriot 125. He lives with his family on a small farm near Farmville, Va. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @camedwards.