Why Gun Control is Like the Death Penalty

“For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.”

L. Mencken


Gun control reminds me a lot of the death penalty. Like the death penalty, gun control promises a simple and emotionally satisfying solution to the complex problem of violent crime. Yet like the death penalty, gun control will do little or nothing to reduce crime, and it creates more problems than it actually solves.

Every day, it seems another death sentence gets overturned because of new evidence, rights violations, shoddy police work, prosecutor misconduct and worse. The Death Penalty Info website lists 144 examples of death row inmates who were proved innocent and freed since 1973. Instead of providing quick justice and deterrence, the death penalty seems to have led to gross injustice.

In a similar matter gun, control promises safety and security, but actually delivers the potential for violations of constitutional and basic human rights on a massive scale. Just like the death penalty, gun control will lead not to safety, but to massive legal battles that will drag on for years and clog the courts with needless litigation.

Some examples of how dumb a lot of gun control legislation is:

  • A New York City ordinance that ordered residents to dispose of any rifle or shotgun that can hold more than five rounds. That makes virtually every rifle, and a large percentage of the shotguns manufactured for the last 125 years, illegal. Under the law, almost every hunting rifle would be illegal. Around 500 New Yorkers actually received a letter ordering them to take weapons out of the city, turn them into the police, or disable them for the NYPD.


  • Assembly Bill 2006, a proposed law in New Jersey that would make possession of any rifle that could fire more than 10 rounds a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Weapons banned would include common hunting weapons, such as the 22 Marlin 60. To make matters wrose, there is no grandfather provision in the law, so somebody could conceivably face a felony conviction if police found grandfather’s old hunting rifle that hasn’t been fired in 30 years in a trunk in the attic. Fortunately, this law hasn’t passed yet.

  • Two measures to restrict semiautomatic rifles in California that were too extreme for liberal Democratic governor Jerry Brown. Brown vetoed Senate Bill 374, which would have banned all semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines, no matter what their capacity, and labeled even low capacity rifles as assault weapons. Brown also killed Senate Bill 567, which would have redefined even more shotguns and rifles as assault weapons.


  • New York’s so-called SAFE Act, which has garnered widespread political opposition in rural areas. County sheriffs, and even some members of the state police, have refused to enforce the law. Around 52% of upstate New York residents oppose the measure, which will make for an incredible level of polarization.

  •  Dozens of Connecticut residents who tried to comply with a new state law mandating the registration of assault rifles. Instead of receiving permits to keep the legal weapons, the residents received letters stating they had to dispose of the weapons. The reason their applications were postmarked after Jan. 1, 2014? Note: Jan. 1 is New Year’s Day – a holiday – when the post office is closed. State officials later denied sending out the questionable letter. Governor Daniel P. Malloy, a gun control advocate, was forced to back down and move the deadline back to Jan. 4.


  • A program in Buffalo, N.Y. in which police visit the heirs of handgun permit owners and attempt to confiscate legally owned weapons. This is gun control because it is an attempt to enforce a state law that requires a permit to own a handgun. Gun control opponents correctly noted that police were not giving heirs the opportunity to get permits for the weapons and legally keep them or sell them as the law allows.


  • California’s Assembly Bill 1014, perhaps the most draconian gun control measure yet, which would allow judges to order the confiscation of guns from anybody suspected of being mentally ill. The law would allow judges with no mental health or medical training to issue “gun restraining” orders without a hearing. The orders would give police the power to confiscate legally purchased guns from persons not convicted of any crime and to prohibit such people from purchasing legal guns from legal gun shops. Sadly enough, Brown signed that measure into law.


  • Massachusetts General Law 141 131J, which makes it illegal for private citizens to own stun guns in the state. Under that law, homeless domestic violence victim Jaime Caetano could face up to 2½ years in prison for carrying a stun gun in her purse. Caetano was carrying the nonlethal weapon to protect herself from an abusive ex-boyfriend. Ironically enough, Massachusetts state law allows residents to carry handguns for self-defense with a permit, but bars them from carrying non-lethal alternatives.


Note: I haven’t even mentioned New York’s notorious Stop and Frisk program, in which police essentially stopped every black and Hispanic man on the streets and searched him for a gun without a warrant. Not surprisingly, the law was labeled racist in court challenges. The media did a good job of reporting on Stop and Frisk, but neglected to note that it was an attempt to enforce a gun control law, the Sullivan Act, which bans the possession of a handgun without a permit in the Empire State.

Judging by these laws, the current wave of gun control legislation will lead to massive rights violations. Guns won’t be kept out of the hands of violent lunatics or gang members, but grandpa will end up in jail because his hunting rifle is now an assault weapon.

As with the death penalty, the poor and minorities will be disproportionately targeted. Rich white people will be able to keep massive arsenals in their homes because they can hire lawyers. Poor black men will end up spending several years in jail for owning one pump shotgun or a small revolver.


It must also be noted here that some of these “gun control” laws are essentially unenforceable. Is the NYPD supposed to stop all of its operations and search every building in the city’s five boroughs for illegal assault rifles? How are judges supposed to know if a person is actually mentally ill? Are police supposed to examine every rifle in the average state to see how many rounds it could fire? Does any government have the resources to enforce any of these laws?

Gun control and the death penalty show us why we shouldn’t let emotion drive legislation. It leads not to safety, but to stupid attacks upon our rights and injustices that make a mockery of our country’s basic values.