ENFORCING THE GUN LAWS….Families of

ENFORCING THE GUN LAWS….Families of the D.C. sniper victims are suing the gun manufacturer and the gun seller. The merits of the case are unclear (it’s apparently based on the fact that Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply “lost” hundreds of guns over the past three years), but aside from this Rachel Lucas has this to say:

While it may be true that Muhammad and Malvo would not have obtained the particular rifle they used to shoot people if Bull’s Eye hadn’t been in business, it’s beyond naive to think for that they wouldn’t have been able to acquire another one. Which is so obvious, it feels surreal to even type it. But obvious to me is obviously not obvious to them.

This is a common argument among gun enthusiasts, but I’m afraid I don’t quite understand it since it seems to imply that there’s really no point in enforcing gun laws ? or punishing the people who break them ? because criminals will always manage to get hold of guns somehow. But by the same token:

  • There’s no point in arresting that pusher who hangs out in the schoolyard. The kids will just get their drugs somewhere else.

  • There’s no point in taking out Saddam. Al-Qaeda will just get their nukes from someone else.

  • There’s no point in vaccinating for smallpox. The terrorists can always use some other virus instead.

No law can be 100% effective in preventing criminal behavior, but we enforce them anyway in order to make criminal behavior harder. And if you break a law and it results in harm to others, you can be held accountable for that.

Bartenders who sell liquor to drunks can be held partially responsible if the drunk goes out and kills someone. Likewise, a gun shop that sells a gun illegally ? as Bull’s Eye is accused of doing ? can be held partially responsible if their customer goes out and kills someone with it. In this case, a judge and jury will decide whether Bull’s Eye or Bushmaster acted negligently, and that’s as it should be. Laws are meant to be enforced, and gun laws are no exception.

UPDATE: Rachel Lucas writes to say that she agrees that gun laws should be enforced. Her objection was primarily to the sentence in the court filings that said, “If Bull’s Eye and Bushmaster and the other gun industry defendants had acted responsibly in the sale of their guns, Muhammad and Malvo would not have been able to obtain the assault rifle they needed to carry out their shootings.” My guess is that this is just legal hyperbole, but even so, point taken. Overall, I think the suit would have considerably less merit if more gun enthusiasts agreed with Rachel that existing gun laws should be vigorously enforced.

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation