Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A Lesson for Mayor Mike

Mayor Bloomberg isn't simply for "gun control" -- he's against the Second Amendment. Already, getting a permit to own a gun in New York City is practically impossible; that is, unless you're a celebrity. In December, Bloomberg announced that he wants to make the process even more difficult:
The city should slash the number of people who are allowed to carry concealed weapons, Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday.

"We've taken a look at it to see whether we couldn't have fewer," Bloomberg said. "I can tell you one thing: We will keep it to as a minimum as we possibly can."

Bloomberg added that he has asked Police Commissioner Ray Kelly to tackle the issue.

"If you want a gun permit, you should have to really show that your life is in danger, and that having a gun will protect you, will improve the chances of you surviving," the mayor said.

Such an idea is plainly unconstitutional, not that politicians bother much these days heeding such quaint concepts as constitutionality. Also troublesome, though, is the impact such strict gun-licensing laws have on general safety. As Glenn Reynolds writes in today's New York Times:

IT’S a phenomenon that gives the term “gun control” a whole new meaning: community ordinances that encourage citizens to own guns.

Last month, Greenleaf, Idaho, adopted Ordinance 208, calling for its citizens to own guns and keep them ready in their homes in case of emergency. It’s not a response to high crime rates. As The Associated Press reported, “Greenleaf doesn’t really have crime ... the most violent offense reported in the past two years was a fist fight.” Rather, it’s a statement about preparedness in the event of an emergency, and an effort to promote a culture of self-reliance.

And it may not be a bad idea. While pro-gun laws like the one in Greenleaf are mostly symbolic, to the extent that they actually make a difference, it is likely to be a positive one.

Greenleaf is following in the footsteps of Kennesaw, Ga., which in 1982 passed a mandatory gun ownership law in response to a handgun ban passed in Morton Grove, Ill. Kennesaw’s crime dropped sharply, while Morton Grove’s did not.

To some degree, this is rational. Criminals, unsurprisingly, would rather break into a house where they aren’t at risk of being shot. As David Kopel noted in a 2001 article in The Arizona Law Review, burglars report that they try to avoid homes where armed residents are likely to be present. We see this phenomenon internationally, too, with the United States having a lower proportion of “hot” burglaries — break-ins where the burglars know the home to be occupied — than countries with restrictive gun laws.

If Bloomberg's safety messianism was based not on an elitist distaste for personal weaponry but on an actual interest in protecting Gothamites, he'd learn the lesson of Kennesaw, Ga., and remove the barriers to more ubiquitous gun ownership.

UPDATE: The New York Sun's Bradley Hope reports on an Idaho mayor who's dropped out of Mayor Bloomberg's "Mayors Against Illegal Guns" alliance. The mayor said, "I found there's probably a little more of an agenda coming from Mayor Bloomberg's office than I anticipated ... So as I looked into it, I could see there was a conflict with the NRA and some of the beliefs we have here in Idaho."

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