The first part of this article will discuss another great myth of the progun lobbyists. This presupposes a condition that could never exist in reality in the US of today, that of all private gun ownership being illegal. As hilarious as this statement sounds, it is believed and repeated by tens of millions of Americans as one of their fundamental reasons why gun control laws are bad. They equate any gun control law with this cliché as if no other type of gun safety provisions could ever exist.
Let's review this absurd abomination and its roots. One of the earliest known references to such an illogical and impossible situation appears to come from a somewhat obscure American essayist from the latter half of the 20th Century. According to Wikipedia, Edward Abbey was an American author and essayist noted for his advocacy of environmental issues and criticism of public land policies. His best-known works include the novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, which has been cited as an inspiration by radical environmental groups, and the non-fiction work Desert Solitaire. Writer Larry McMurtry referred to Abbey as the "Thoreau of the American West".
But his progun quote of fame comes from another, less well known essay called "Abbey's Road." In 1979, Edward Abbey wrote, "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws." He is also quoted in "The Right to Bear Arms," from the same year as saying, "The tank, the B-52, the fighter-bomber, the state-controlled police and military are the weapons of dictatorship. The rifle is the weapon of democracy. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military. The hired servants of our rulers. Only the government - and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws."
It is easy to make the not-so-mental leap to the quote we see slapped on bumper stickers all over America and especially on the bumpers of pickups carrying gun racks, far too many guns, and signs of the Confederate States of America in obvious places, though the latter is not an obligation, but a birthright. Even though the statement is absurd and describes a situation that could never occur in the US while the second amendment remains in effect, the main concept that progun proponents are trying to convey is that the outlawing of ALL guns would create a situation where the only people who would have access to guns of any kind are the criminal elements of society and that the good, law-abiding citizenry would be basically defenseless against their aggression. Of course, we must first discard the obvious fact that law enforcement agencies around the country would probably still maintain their weaponry. It is then true that a situation where the citizenry has absolutely no access to guns, yet guns remain accessible to those who want to obtain them illegally, would necessitate the result that the criminals would have a great advantage over the average citizen.
However, by breaking down the various elements within the quote itself, this straw man is shown to be baseless. We are all very aware what an outlaw is. The name became synonymous with criminals living in the Old West who would ride in on their trusty deeds and terrorize the locals. Let's now look at the second key element of this straw man, outlawed guns. Any gun used in the commitment of an illegal act by someone other than its owner can be designated an "outlawed gun," or "illegal gun." Thus, many progun lobbyists maintain that most of the guns used in criminal acts around the US are actually illegal guns and they are stolen from their rightful owners and then sold to the highest bidder on the gun black market.
Several years ago, PBS aired a special on illegal guns. One of their findings was that the myth about guns getting into criminal hands via theft is wrong. While the local policeman might agree with the progun lobbyists, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) do not. According to agent Jay Wachtel, most guns used in crimes are not stolen out of private gun owners' homes and cars. "Stolen guns account for only about 10% to 15% of guns used in crimes."
If that's the case, where are these illegal guns coming from? They aren't manufactured illegally. If there are thousands of illegal manufacturers of guns in America, why isn't our law enforcement agencies closing them and putting their illegal manufacturers behind bars? Where is our law enforcement if we have tons of illegal arms being manufactured on a daily basis and being sold to criminals? The answer is simple. Guns ARE NOT manufactured illegally. Guns almost never start off as illegal. Guns are made legally.
Then how do they attain their illegal status? According to the Violence Policy Center, VPC, one of the principle answers is the holiest of holies, the gun show. Their report, Illegal Trafficking at Gun Shows, demonstrates how illegal firearm transactions at gun shows produce an abundance of guns ripe for the gun black market. These trades usually occur in one of three ways:
Straw man purchases
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