Gun-control proposals wouldn't curb violence where it's worst

Posted Wednesday, Apr. 17, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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I was considering giving up my gun a while back. Hadn't been to the shooting range in months. Target shooting, not self-defense, was why I bought the thing. But it was serving no purpose locked in a case, unloaded and hidden away.

Then President Barack Obama began coming up with the oddest ideas about keeping guns from "falling into the wrong hands."

Dangerous hands, irresponsible hands, he says. If Obama had his way, my doctor would be asking about my guns while checking my blood pressure. How many firearms do I own? What kind? Where do I keep them? Then, he gets to grill me about mental health. Do I get manic or depressed? Now bend over.

And if the answers don't satisfy, Obama wants him to rat me out to the police.

I don't believe that Obama is out to take my gun -- as some on the far right believe. But he sure seems bent on harassing me into giving it up.

If you don't own a gun, you probably don't care. You probably think it makes sense to ban "high-capacity" magazines and those mean-looking "military-style" rifles.

Doing something is better than doing nothing, we are told, as if doing what works is not even a consideration.

But here's the thing: what will fool naive citizens about gun control will not fool criminal gunslingers. They know when a politician is firing blanks. They've heard them shoot off at the mouth too many times before.

"When law enforcement recovers a gun during a criminal investigation, they can trace that gun's path from its manufacturer to the dealer who sold it to its first purchaser," Obama says in one of his pitches for gun control. "This gun tracing process helps law enforcement to solve violent crime by generating leads in specific cases and can reveal gun trafficking patterns when large amounts of tracing data are combined."

Obama says he will issue a presidential memorandum requiring federal law enforcement agencies to trace all such firearms. Sounds good. Until you realize that every time Obama opens his mouth on gun control, gun sales skyrocket. For him, saying nothing would probably be better than saying something.

Last year, there were 340,000 requests for gun traces from about 19,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States -- and only 6,000 guns were actually traced, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The manpower to run down 340,000 guns just isn't there. Why pretend that it is?

Be honest. There are roughly 300 million guns in the United States. But the people doing the vast majority of the killings are young men in low-income urban areas -- as are their victims.

Obama wants to give $10 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study "the causes and prevention of gun violence." Better to spend that money paying hooligans to give up their illegal guns and start picking up trash in their neighborhoods.

Politicians would do well to learn how the real war on gun violence is being fought. For example:

In federal court last week, 23-year-old Ezra Griffith was convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. Homicide detectives in the District of Columbia had confiscated a 9 mm Glock with an extended 30-round magazine during a search of Griffith's apartment in southeast Washington. The U.S. attorney's office successfully prosecuted the case.

Another gunman off to jail. Another gun off the streets. That's how it's done. Go after the criminal. Take his illegal gun. Leave everybody else alone.

Gun-control legislation would do nothing to curb gun violence where the problem is at its worst -- in poor neighborhoods. Nor would it do much to stop the kind of carnage that occurred in Newtown, Conn.

Still, you have to admit, legislation is at least something, even if filled with false hope and folly. I'm just not falling for it.

Courtland Milloy is a columnist for The Washington Post.

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