Gun Control for Real

Al Jacobs

I received another unsolicited email today on the subject of gun control, this one titled “Gun Control Arguments For and Against.” Hoping to get an unbiased review of the pros and cons I started reading, but by the time I got about a third of the way through I realized it to be all pro and no con. The information presented included the following: “Guns didn’t used to be considered patriotic or a ‘right.’ They used to be considered a fringe hobby by an unstable minority.” Another: “We must never directly advocate gun control because doing so hurts our credibility. Instead, we advocate reasonableness. It’s a moral high ground above the debate.” And still, another: “Repeal of the Second Amendment should not be our sole goal. Our end role is to stop gun proliferation. Repeal won’t be a genuine solution to gun violence until a meaningful change in the gun narrative occurs.” My apologies to those of you who anticipated a financial article this week; I cannot resist the urge to offer my views on weapons.

Although I’m no gun enthusiast, I’ve acquired a little background on the subject. During my 15 years in the navy I managed to score pretty well on the rifle range and during tours of foreign duty aboard various ships I carried a loaded .45 caliber sidearm when serving as in-port OOD. Fortunately I never exchanged hostile gunfire with another person, though I’d have done so if ever required of me. If nothing else, this gives me the right to express my views on this most contentious subject.

As for my personal preference, although I respect the Second Amendment and understand its original intent, I’m neither pro nor anti gun control. Without a doubt the American Revolution could never have been successful in overthrowing the despotism of George III if the colonists didn’t possess the arms they did. Despite this reality, it cannot be suggested the circumstances existing two and one-half centuries later, with respect to government versus citizen, bear any resemblance to the late Eighteenth Century. It’s no longer a matter of comparing musket to musket; today – thanks to the continuing refinement of technology – the contest will be between the citizen’s AK-47 assault rifle and the U.S. Army’s 30-ton M3 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicle. Despite an occasional utterance from a true believer that “the right to bear arms” will assist the citizen in resisting government tyranny, such a claim is pure nonsense. The unhappy fact is systematic suppression and control of its citizens in a thousand devious ways is what officialdom is all about.

There is, of course, a valid reason for citizens to possess firearms. They’re to be used as protection against persons who mean them harm. As we know, in a dire emergency, simply dialing 911 does nothing more than alert the authorities. If you’re being assaulted, you need immediate assistance; the presence of the police 30 minutes later can’t do much more than affirm what happened to you. Although this seems to be a valid argument in opposing gun control, actual experience records reveal prior possession of a handgun does not normally provide the sort of protection needed. Whether it’s because most persons are not particularly proficient in defending themselves, or that the perpetrator normally gets the drop on an intended victim, is somewhat beside the point. Simply having access to a weapon does not assure safety. Unfortunately, it often results in greater harm to its possessor.

The arguments both for and against gun control appear to be never ending, with the most frequently used in its opposition being the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution’s protection of individual gun ownership. It reads: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” And without a doubt, gun ownership is certainly an American tradition older than the country itself. But in response, there’s clear evidence the Second Amendment is not an unlimited right to own guns. In the June 26, 2008 District of Columbia et al. v. Heller US Supreme Court majority opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia, LLB, wrote, “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited … nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.” And as recently as June 9, 2016 the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, 7 to 4, that “the right of the general public to carry a concealed firearm in public is not, and never has been, protected by the Second Amendment.”

As another justification, advocates for more gun control restriction claim countries with restrictive gun control laws sustain lower gun homicide and suicide rates than the United States. They point out both Switzerland and Finland require gun owners to acquire licenses and pass background checks which include mental and criminal records, among other restrictions and requirements. Conversely, the United States, categorized as having “permissive” firearm regulation by, suffers far higher homicide and suicide rates. Opponents, however, point out that in other countries strict gun control laws don’t work. In Mexico, as an example, every gun store is on a secure military base and customers must present a valid ID, go through a metal detector, and turn over cell phones and cameras to guards. To actually buy a gun, customers are mandated to show proof of honest income, provide references, pass a criminal background check, prove any military duties were completed with honor, be fingerprinted and photographed and if allowed to purchase a gun, the customer may buy only one gun. Nonetheless, as the statistics reveal, Mexico’s frequency of crime incidents is abysmal, with their murder rate far higher than in most other nations.

Rather than go through a succession of arguments for and against, I prefer to hone in on a single factor: whether or not gun control, as it may be enacted into law, will actually take weapons out of the hands of those persons who will abuse them. Proponents maintain 97percent of Americans support universal background checks, 67percent support a nationwide ban on assault weapons, and 83percent support mandatory waiting periods for gun purchases, believing these practices will prevent gun proliferation. They further contend as much as 40percent of all gun sales are undocumented private party gun sales not requiring a background check, and declare background checks will prevent criminals and other dangerous people from getting guns.

Whether regulatory restrictions will prevent unstable persons from acquiring legally manufactured firearms is debatable, but recent disclosures by the Los Angeles Field Division of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) put an entirely different light on the matter. The L.A. Police Department (LAPD) recently seized a small arsenal of AK15-style semiautomatic rifles and pistols from gang members during a six-month undercover operation. However these proved to be homemade untraceable “ghost guns.” According to ATF special agent Bill McMullan, “Criminals are making their own weapons because they cannot buy them legally … or are paying other people to make those guns for them.” According to LAPD Cmdr. Blake Chow, “They [ghost guns] are ending up in the hands of the most violent gang members.” He added many of the weapons recovered are not assembled in random warehouses, but “are manufactured all over Hollywood in the hotels in the community. It was like driving up to a fast food restaurant, ordering whatever you wanted, somebody manufacturing it, that person comes to Hollywood, pays the money and they were on their way.” In addition, according to Detective Ben Meda of the LAPD gun unit, “Authorities are now recovering more and more homemade versions of a 9-millimeter handgun which is the weapon of choice in shootings across L.A.”

A final thought: Regardless of the final version of gun control legislation and governmental enforcement, reality seems – as usual – to be getting in the way. All the rules and regulations eventually to be decreed from on high will be of little consequence if any deranged lunatic who wants a weapon can easily acquire it from a “ghost gun” dealer, with no questions asked. This is, of course, the way illegal drugs are distributed, and we know how successful we are at preventing this. Why, then, expect anything different in our efforts to restrict proliferation of illegal guns?

Al Jacobs, a professional investor for nearly a half-century, issues weekly financial articles in which he shares his financial knowledge and experience. You may view it on


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