California became the first state on Sept. 14 to officially call for a constitutional convention to allow states to approve an amendment to raise the age of gun ownership to 21, impose background checks on private transfers of guns, require waiting periods for buying guns, and enact an assault weapon ban. This proposed 28th Amendment to the Constitution is California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s idea.
Democrats may not realize they are conceding that they must amend the U.S. Constitution before passing their gun control wish list. But they don’t have the votes. Democrats control the governorship and state legislature in only 17 states — far short of the 38 states needed to ratify a constitutional amendment. Nor do they have the votes in Congress.
Gun control groups claim California has the country’s strictest gun control laws, but it shouldn’t hold itself out as a model for the rest of the country to follow. California’s per capita rate of mass public shootings has consistently exceeded that of the rest of the country. The rate is much lower in Texas, but gun control groups give Texas an “F” grade.
Since 2010, California’s mass public shooting rate per capita has been 43 percent higher than Texas’ and 29 percent higher than the rest of the United States. From 2020 on, it has been even worse. California’s rate was 276 percent higher than Texas’ and 100 percent higher than the rest of the country.
Democrats’ primary argument for raising the gun ownership age is that 18, 19, and 20-year-olds commit firearm-related crimes at relatively high rates. That is true, but the issue is whether those who can legally buy guns commit crimes.
About 90 percent of murderers already have a violent criminal history and are banned from buying guns. Data show that young people who can pass background checks tend to be at least as law-abiding as older people. A ban only affects those who could otherwise pass a background check and legally buy a gun.
Gun control advocates say they push federal background checks on the private transfer of guns to stop mass public shootings, but those measures wouldn’t have stopped even one mass public shooting this century. They also claim they have stopped 4 million dangerous people from buying guns. But they should say that there were 4 million “initial denials.”
A system that looks for roughly phonetically similar names (e.g., “Smith” and “Smythe”) and ignores middle names doesn’t allow for much accuracy. It is one thing to stop a felon from buying a gun. It is quite another to stop a law-abiding citizen from buying a gun because his name looks like a felon’s name.
There is no reason for these mistakes. Private companies could never do employee background checks this way, because the errors overwhelmingly discriminate against black and Hispanic males.
Measuring Public Support For Gun Control
Gun control advocates keep telling us there is 90-plus percent support in polls for expanded background checks, but the support is much less solid than the media and gun control advocates would have you believe.
The Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), which I head, hired McLaughlin and Associates to survey 1,000 likely voters about their support for background checks on all gun sales or transfers. Likely voters expressed support for such a law by a whopping 86 to 11 percent margin, with strong support outweighing strong opposition by 70 percent to 5 percent. All incomes, education levels, and demographics supported such a law.
Two follow-up questions were asked.
First: “These laws are called universal background checks. Let’s say a stalker is threatening a female friend of yours late on a Saturday night. She asks you if she can borrow your handgun until she has a chance to buy one. She is trained and has no criminal record. If you loaned her the gun, this law would make you a felon. Would you support or oppose this law?”
Respondents now opposed these background checks by a 44 to 42 percent margin. Democrats, liberals, singles, those living in urban areas, and blacks still strongly supported these laws, but Republicans, moderates, married people, people in non-urban areas, and whites opposed them.
Second: “A Boy Scout troop is going for their skeet shooting badges. If you lend the scoutmaster your shotguns, you would commit a felony. Would you support or oppose this law?”
Voters now opposed the policy by a 45 to 42 percent margin, with a similar demographic breakdown.
It’s important to let people know the implications of policies that may sound reasonable. Waiting periods may seem helpful because they provide a “cooling off period” in which people can think twice about their decision to buy a gun. But waiting periods also prevent people who need protection from obtaining it.
Even short waiting periods of a few days are associated with higher rape rates. If women are being stalked or threatened, they may not be able to wait to protect themselves.
Assault rifle bans may sound reasonable, but they are ineffective at best. You would not know it from following the news, but only 2 percent of murders involve any type of rifle. Less than 15 percent of mass public shootings are committed solely with any kind of rifle. The federal assault weapon ban that was in effect from 1994 to 2004 produced no beneficial effect. The share of mass public shootings that used assault weapons increased while the federal ban lasted from 1994 to 2004.
While Democrats’ constitutional amendment isn’t going anywhere, it still serves a useful purpose. It shows everyone that Democrats don’t believe in the right to self-defense, and that they have lost the constitutional argument.