The Name Says It All: Gun Control Isn’t About Reducing Firearm Violence; It’s About Control

The Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms is a hot topic these days. President Biden recently announced plans to place additional limits on current Second Amendment rights with the argument that those restrictions can “address the gun violence public health epidemic.” Second Amendment defenders (here’s an example) argue that further restrictions on firearm ownership restrict the rights of law-abiding citizens but would be ineffective in reducing gun violence.

The debate on the effectiveness of gun control measures to reduce firearm violence distracts attention from the real motive behind gun control. Nobody wants more gun violence, so focusing on gun violence shifts the debate in favor of gun control. What the proponents of gun control really want is control, and the gun violence argument is merely a means to the end that they actually seek–a disarmed population. Arguments that look at the facts to see whether gun control achieves those ends are ineffective persuaders, because gun control advocates want regulation, regardless of its effectiveness.

It should be obvious that proposals such as those to tax ammunition sales will be ineffective controls on firearm violence. Can anyone really think that someone intent on illegally using a firearm would be deterred because ammunition is so expensive? For people who know little about firearms, limiting the number of rounds a magazine is capable of holding may sound promising, but magazines can be swapped out in seconds.

Focusing the debate on gun violence rather than on individual rights gives a debating advantage to gun control advocates, because nobody wants more gun violence. The argument shifts to whether regulations are effective rather than on preserving the rights of citizens. Arguing that proposed gun control measures would be ineffective cannot persuade gun control advocates, because that’s not their big concern. Their ultimate objective of gun control advocates is not safety. They want control.

Randall G. Holcombe is a Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute, the DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University, and author of the Independent Institute book Liberty in Peril: Democracy and Power in American History.
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