Monday, January 7, 2013

A Letter to My Representatives

Dear Senator/Congressman

I am as upset and outraged as you by events in Aurora Colorado and Newtown Connecticut.  My greatest fear is that these horrific events will spur legislation that is ill considered and too much the product of political opportunists who believe, as Rahm Emanuel does, that: 
You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.
The entities and individuals who would like to disarm Americans or make gun ownership and use onerous to the point that many would give up their interests have been waiting for an event such as occurred in Connecticut to put laws and rules and regulations in place that will create a slippery slope to the elimination of private ownership of firearms.  Why do I say this?  Because the proposals have nothing whatsoever to do with the events that transpired.

- high capacity magazines are irrelevant.  Even a person with moderate practice can reload very quickly
- semi automatic firearms are marginally more destructive than firearms with other methods of loading.  
- restrictions on superficialities (bayonet lugs, flash suppressors and so on) criminalize appearance with no benefit to anyone

Some proposals that I have heard would make collecting of American military weapons impossible.  Others create hurdles to ownership (including excessive costs) that are simply not fair and are redolent of the tactics employed by white supremacists to disenfranchise blacks in the Reconstruction south.  

I think that if we take a step back and consider what makes a good law we will all benefit.

  • There must exist a real problem that law can address
    • Certain behaviors cannot really be controlled by government and in many cases government has no right to interfere in the first place.  This covers a broad range of human behaviors and ignoring this invariably results in yet more laws and rules all of which are equally ineffective.  
  • The law itself must address specific, relevant issues
    • Outlawing bayonet lugs, for example, when assaults by a fixed bayonet are nonexistent is an example of a law that concerns itself with an irrelevant triviality.   Limiting the size of magazines (not "clips", those are different things) is silly since any semi practiced shooter can swap smaller capacity magazines at a rate that obviates the intent of such a law.  This is a perfect example of "feel good" legislation: laws that do nothing but make for good sound bites.
  • The law must be enforceable
    • Demanding that guns be locked up implies that the forces of government can check whenever they choose.  Do you think that that will happen?  Then why say it?  Perhaps providing discounted gun safes would be a better idea.
  • It must be possible to accurately asses the impact of the law
    • Being unable to see an effect because the data is "noisy" or incomplete signals the existence of a bad law implemented for feel-good reasons.  Lack of measurable impact with good data in hand signals a very ill conceived law.  The impact of the assault ban in NJ is unmeasurable yet it goes on.
  • There must be a method in place at the time of creation of a law for it to lapse or otherwise be removed if it does not work
    • Funny how many silly laws still exist.  
We have bad law in place that was implemented too soon after a tragic event whose existence is an embarrassment to those of us who value our Constitution and the processes that it defines.  The Patriot Act, or at least certain aspects of it, comes to mind as an example.

I think that we should all take a step back and consider what happened in Connecticut and Colorado and think about the aftermath.  I, for one, am very concerned with the treatment by the Media of these events.  Sadly, the Media rarely looks inward yet there are experts who suggest that the proximal cause for outrages such as we experienced are contributed to by the glorification of these events.  Glorification means wall to wall coverage in the most vulgar possible way.  Glorification also means the breathless approval of the latest blood soaked work of Tarantino.   There is plenty of blame here to go around and not all of it rests on gun owners.

I hope that this note lends a considered element to the discourse that you are engaged in and that it reflects the complexity of the problem.


Michael James Cobb


  1. Finally, some common sense. I'm not a gun owner but the rhetoric has really gotten out of hand.

  2. +1. Maybe as time goes by some calmer heads will prevail.

  3. Thanks. I have gotten a ton of support for the above post.