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Opening Arguments

Out of control

Sigh. The Indianapolis Star used to have such a nice little editorial page, reliably and clearly conservative. Today, that page is -- well, I don't know what it is; kinda all over the map, the way a good Gannett "on the other hand" editorial page should be, I guess. A recent editorial joined the knee-jerk "we can't quite make the connection between gun control and gun violence, but let's control guns anyway" crowd:

Indiana may not be complicit in the violence that is raking Chicago, but this state’s loose gun laws certainly haven’t helped.

Amid the headlines detailing night after night of multiple shootings and a 28 percent spike in the Windy City’s homicide rate, a report last week painted a disturbing picture as to the source of weapons.

The University of Chicago analyzed federal data since 2008 and found 29 percent of guns used in Chicago crimes were bought (legally or illegally) in Chicago suburbs and 42 percent overall in Illinois. This surprised researchers, who expected more volume from neighboring states given Illinois’ comparatively tough restrictions.

Unfortunately, Indiana held its own. While Wisconsin contributed just 4 percent of the firearms and Ohio two percent, 18 percent came from here.

It’s no coincidence that Indiana is a net exporter of guns used in crimes. In the 2011 scorecard from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the state scored a total of four points out of a possible 100 on firearms restrictions.

Indiana is a handy place to buy multiple guns with minimal scrutiny.

Lord. The very first 12 words of the editorial are, "Indiana may not be complicit in the violence that is raking Chicago . . ." then everything that follows is presented as if Indiana is complicit. What a pretzel.

Don't get me wrong. I think trying to keep guns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have guns is important. In fact, figuring out how to do that without infringing on everybody else's rights is the great unresolved Second Amenment issue we have to confront. But being simpleminded about it by calling for a noble-seeming action you know won't affect anything is not helpful.

See if you can follow the logic.

1. Illinois has tougher restrictions on buying guns than Indiana does.

2. Yet 42 percent of the guns used in Chicago crimes came from Illinois and only 18 percent from Indiana.

3. Therefore Indiana needs tougher restrictions.


It seems from that study that geographic proximity is the major factor --- note that only 2 percent of the guns came from Ohio. If we make our restrictions tougher, that will just make it more likely that criminals will get their guns in Illinois. That may make us feel morally superior, but it won't do diddly for the supply of guns or the number of crimes committed with them.

I  should note, though, that buried in this statistical goop is a nugget of truth that should make gun-rights people squirm just a little. It's often reported by that crowd, sometimes with a little glee, that tough gun control states or cities have some of the highest crime rates. But as long as there are adjacent jurisdictions with varying degrees of gun-control strictness, making gun ownership tough doesn't do much -- those who want them will get them somewhere. The 18 percent Indiana contributed to the supply isn't overwhelming, but it's not insignificant, either.

And note how the editorial kind of sneaks in there the part about the guns being obtained in Illinois "legally or illegally." You mean only law-abiding people will obey laws against guns and that people who want to use them illegally will get them even if it is illegal to do so? Why, that sounds almost like, "If guns are outlawed . . ."

Nah. I know the editors didn't mean that.


Wed, 09/05/2012 - 2:14pm

Generally, we are all U.S. citizens and protected by the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution.  These rights are applied to the states through the 14th Amendment.

"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States"  These privileges and immunities were defined by the author of section one of the 14th Amendment, John Bingham, to be chiefly defined "in the first eight amendments to the Constitution of the United States."  Appendix to the Congressional Globe, March 31, 1871.

Back in May 24, 1866, when the New York Times was a newspaper, these privileges and immunities were front page news.  Including the right to keep and bear arms.

The application of the U.S. Bill of Rights to unwilling states by the 14th Amendment has a bizarre history.  Nothing much until the 1920's and later pushed hard by liberal justices like Hugo Black and Willam O. Douglas.

The Supreme Court recently applied the 2nd Amendment to the states.  

If there is a U.S. protected right to own a gun in Illinois,  how can a gun be illegal?  What does it matter if someone that lives in Illinois purchases a gun from Illinois, Indiana, Montana, or the District of Columbia?