The common theme that ran through the testimony of the 30 people who spoke in favor of Boulder’s proposed assault rifle ban last week was fear.
Nearly all of them told the Council how afraid they and their kids were after the school shooting in Florida and how banning assault rifles in Boulder would make them feel safer.
Well, a city ordinance banning assault rifles might make them feel safer, but it won’t actually make them safer.
Passage will make them less safe — in at least three ways.
First, Boulder’s proposed assault rifle ban, and the broader movement for a national ban, is just another expression of prohibition, the poisonous and self-destructive impulse to ban some type of conduct or ban some thing in the name of protecting the health, safety, welfare and, above all, the morals of the community.
Prohibitionist solutions have been tried in the U.S. for as long as the country has existed — and they have always ended badly.
If you want to know what the City Council is about to sign Boulder up for, consider some of the “accomplishments” that more than 50 years of drug prohibition has produced:
1) Tens of millions of otherwise law-abiding Americans turned into criminals, 2) More than 50 million arrests since 1965, most for non-violent offenses, 3) The highest incarceration rate and largest prison population in the world, 4) More than $1 trillion poured down the drug war rat hole, 5) An eruption of gang violence fueled by the drug trade that has turned black and Hispanic communities in cities like Chicago, St. Louis and Baltimore into North American Mogadishus, 6) The use of informants, surveillance, mandatory drug testing, no-knock searches, stop-and-frisk, drug offender re-education camps, and other tools and practices of the totalitarian state as normal parts of American life, and 7) Despite it all, a surge in drug over-dose deaths to more than 60,000 a year.
Drug prohibition made Americans less free and less safe. Gun prohibition will produce the same sort of defiance, violence, corruption and oppression, only worse.
Second, Boulder will be less safe if it passes the assault rifle ban for the same reason the Council gave for declaring Boulder a sanctuary city for illegal aliens. The Council argued that if the city had a policy of reporting illegal aliens to the feds, those people wouldn’t report crimes to the police out of fear of being exposed and deported.
During his testimony before the Council on Thursday, David Kopel, one of the country’s leading authorities on firearms law and the behavior of gun owners, made the point that gun owners, most of whom reject the idea of registering or giving up their guns out-of-hand, would respond similarly if the ban is passed. That’s just common sense.
Third, the gun ban will make Boulder less safe because, as mentioned previously, it will turn several thousand otherwise honest citizens into criminals. And while this always happens with prohibitionist schemes, it’s a particularly dangerous thing to do with gun owners, and not just because they’re armed.
Victims of sin-directed prohibition schemes — like drinkers, stoners, philanderers, etc. — generally don’t feel they have a constitutional right to wine, weed, sex and song, etc. Sometimes they even tacitly agree that the prohibitionists hold the moral high ground.
With gun owners, it’s different.
Most gun owners believe they have both a constitutional and natural right to keep and bear arms — and that those who are attempting to stamp it out are directly attacking their fundamental rights, liberty and values. They don’t think of gun-grabbers as well-intentioned do-gooders, but as personal enemies and as traitors to the Constitution.
That means that when faced with a demand to hand in their guns, defiance and civil disobedience become patriotic acts.
Boulder’s rationale for passing the ordinance reinforces this view.
The guarantees of the right to keep and bear arms in both the U.S. and Colorado constitutions are explicit and emphatic (Colorado’s says the right “shall not be called in question”). Several Colorado statutes also explicitly prohibit local governments from enacting gun bans.
Yet Boulder’s hearing on the assault rifle ban was kicked off by City Attorney Tom Carr arguing that neither the federal nor state constitutional rights, nor state laws, applied to Boulder, because Boulder is a home rule city — essentially asserting that the city’s home rule city status nullifies both the U.S. and Colorado constitutions in Boulder.
Carr then went on to demonstrate that his knowledge of firearms was, to put it kindly, imperfect.
Or to put it more plainly, he came across like a weasel with a law degree who was trying to twist the law and the common meaning of words to extinguish the rights of gun owners — and one who didn’t know shit from second base about guns at that.
And the nine members of the Boulder City Council were cool with that.
It was the sort of performance that gives lawyers and politicians a bad name and destroys the confidence of ordinary Americans in the rule of law.
It’s hard to think of anything that could make the city less safe.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.