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Rejecting gun laws on grounds that criminals won't obey them is not 'anarchy'

In the fevered imaginations of gun ban zealots, though, inanimate objects can BE the crime
In the fevered imaginations of gun ban zealots, though, inanimate objects can BE the crime
Photos © Oleg Volk. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

As gun rights advocates, one argument we frequently make is that "gun control," by attempting to use laws to regulate the behavior of the lawless, fails to accomplish anything beyond restricting the freedom of the law-abiding. With more than a few gun laws, indeed, criminals are specifically protected by the Constitution from enforcement of said laws, as established by the Supreme Court in Haynes v. United States.

This argument is contemptuously dismissed by the anti-gun zealots, who claim that to make such an argument is to advocate "anarchy." The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence is particularly enamored of this rhetorical gambit, using it over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again--and that's just scratching the surface. But CSGV is not alone in disparaging the argument they describe as "dumb," "brain-dead," and "moronic."

So we have a blog, named with refreshing honesty "The Political Garbage Chute," helpfully explaining, "Why Using The 'Criminals Don’t Follow Laws Anyway!' Argument Makes You An Idiot":

Firstly, let’s just establish what an insanely stupid argument that is. The very definition of criminal is someone who breaks the law and commits crime. Criminals break all kinds of laws. They kill, steal, rape, assault, traffic guns or people, drive too fast in the slow lane, drive too slow in the fast lane, don’t register their car on time, under report on their taxes, and the list goes on and on and on. If every time we wanted to write a law to curb and discourage a destructive behavior someone said “But-but, criminals don’t follow laws anyway, so why do we need a law against rape?” you know what we’d have? A society with no laws whatsoever.

Then there's "Kivunature," edifying us with this bit of wisdom:

“Criminals don’t obey the law so there is no point to passing more laws!”

What an asinine comment. What on earth could they be thinking? One becomes a criminal by intentionally breaking the law. Are they suggesting no laws? Are they thinking that if there are no laws there would be no criminals? Do they want a society where anything goes? Are they advocating anarchy in which everyone is on their own? What madness runs through their minds when they suggest we don’t need laws because criminals don’t obey them anyway?

And finally, from the rabidly anti-gun "Armed With Reason" blog:

Not only is this conservative sound-bite irrelevant to gun reform discussion, it’s also socially untenable and dangerously naïve. If we were to accept that a law is justified only if it has a 100% compliance rate (this is, necessarily, the logical extension of any position that renounces legal reform under the pretense that ‘criminals don’t obey laws’), then we could systematically dismantle every existing law until nothing remains but the state of nature. Laws against murder, rape, and theft would be abandoned out of fear that criminals wouldn’t follow them, and that they would thus hurt law-abiding citizens who ostensibly murder, rape, and thieve out of self-defense.

That last sentence is where the entire counterargument falls apart. No one seriously asserts a right to "murder, rape, and thieve out of self-defense." Murder, rape and theft are all intrinsically evil acts, which violate the rights of others, and there is therefore no "right" to commit them--for anyone.

A gun law violation, on the other hand, in and of itself, harms no one, and violates no rights. My possession (or anyone else's, for that matter) of any number of so-called "assault weapons" (or even actual fully-automatic firearms), "high capacity" magazines, suppressors, "armor piercing" ammunition, "undetectable" guns (if they existed), etc.--all without any knowledge on the part of the government--is inherently harmless. Therefore, even without the Second Amendment, the government has no legitimate business regulating that inherently harmless behavior.

Even gun possession by an ex-con with a long history of violent felonies is inherently harmless, which is why the only rational position on "prohibited person" laws is that "anyone who can't be trusted with a gun can't be trusted without a custodian."

Moreover, limiting the power and effectiveness of firearms legally available to private citizens actually bestows a tactical advantage upon criminals, who obviously have no compunction about breaking such laws. Even the federal judge who upheld the vast majority of New York's offensively misnamed "SAFE Act" overturned the requirement to load no more than seven rounds in a gun's magazine, because that provision "presents the possibility of a disturbing perverse effect, pitting the criminal with a fully-loaded magazine against the law-abiding citizen limited to seven rounds."

No combination of laws will ever make the crimes of rape, murder, assault, armed robbery, etc. disappear, but the laws against these evils are necessary, to at the very least provide a mechanism for removing the perpetrators of these crimes from society, before they commit that evil again. Laws against certain kinds of guns or ammunition, or possessing guns in certain places, etc., on the other hand, criminalize behavior that is in no way immoral or harmful to society, and in fact criminalize behavior that might be necessary to preserve one's life and liberty.

The argument that gun laws are wrong because criminals will simply violate them is, therefore, in no way akin to an argument for no laws whatsoever, and it certainly is no argument for "anarchy."

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