When the state of Maryland quietly killed off its 15-year, $5 million social experiment in gun control — so-called “ballistic fingerprinting” — it served up the latest example of people who know nothing about firearms making technical laws about guns. The news of this latest failure (not a single crime solved in 15 years) followed New York shutting down a similar program, and it generated from gun owners and gun makers a tired “We told you so.”
Doomed from the beginning, Maryland’s expensive bureaucratic fiasco carried the dreams of gun control forces who waved off the warnings of those who actually design and make firearms. The wish-based plan cataloged fired cartridge cases from all handguns sold in the state. The stated hope was that the experts were wrong and that this could be a tool for solving crimes. Instead, it increased the price of firearms, making it more difficult for low-income citizens to protect themselves, did nothing to help law enforcement solve crimes, and created a new multimillion-dollar bureaucratic database.
In another example, on the West Coast: California law requires all new handguns sold there be on an approved list. If any part of a gun is changed by the manufacturer, including improvements for strength or safety, that model must be resubmitted for approval. Recently, the state has begun to require any handgun submitted to incorporate “microstamping,” another form of ballistic fingerprinting. Gun makers have tried in vain to explain to the bureaucrats that this technology, while workable in a lab on a one-by-one basis, cannot be done when making millions of guns. Currently, when a gun falls off the approved roster by virtue of being improved, it cannot be resubmitted. Mike Fifer, CEO of Sturm, Ruger & Co., one of the largest gun makers in the world, said that in a few years, there will be no handguns on the roster, completing a total ban on the sale of new handguns in California. That state’s handgun roster scheme now faces legal challenges.
When technically ignorant politicians and ideologues ignore those with expertise in a subject, one begins to wonder if there’s not an agenda other than safety and crime reduction at work. Proposing gun restrictions, which they don’t understand, or which are technically impossible, also position politicians for well-deserved ridicule.
Such was the case in 2007 when Democratic Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York supported a ban on firearms with features she clearly didn’t understand. The epic interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News exposed her ignorance, when she ducked the question, “What’s a barrel shroud and why should we ban it?” For some reason, the gun ban lobby had decided to ban guns with a protective sleeve around the barrel — a safety device that protects the shooter’s hand from the hot barrel. When pressed for an answer, Ms. McCarthy famously said that she didn’t know what a barrel shroud was, but offered that it was “a shoulder thing that goes up.” Nine years later, that viral video still evokes laughter and head-shaking from those who actually know guns.
Those who seek to ban some, if not all, guns, have always resorted to demonizing or misrepresenting either the guns, themselves or the parts or functionality they don’t understand. Ignorance is the foundation of the gun-ban movement. The Clinton gun ban of 1994 attempted to define a politically created term — “assault weapon” — when no such classification existed. Ignoring the actual function of the rifle, those writing the text of the ban focused on detachable and exchangeable features such as grips, magazines and even small attach points for bayonets. Bayonets? Hunters and competition shooters took the obvious route of complying with the law by simply removing those items or replacing them with non-banned equivalents. The rifles operated the same, only with slightly different cosmetics.
Throughout the past half-century, bans have been proposed, and even enacted, on the basis of guns being too small (“Saturday night specials”), being too cheap (“junk guns”), being too accurate (“sniper rifles”), and looking too mean (“assault weapons”). Each has failed when the reality of what a firearm is, how it’s made and how it functions collides with the fantasy world of the technically ignorant gun control lobby.
• Tom Gresham hosts the nationally-syndicated radio talk show “Tom Gresham’s Gun Talk” (guntalkmedia.com).