Politics

Gun laws didn’t stop the Tsarnaev brothers

Gun laws didn't stop the Tsarnaev brothers

According to Reuters, the heavily-armed Boston terrorists cheerfully ignored the strict gun laws of Massachusetts, just as they ignored the “COEXIST” bumper sticker on the car they hijacked:

In the confrontation with police on the streets of a Boston suburb, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were armed with handguns, at least one rifle and several explosive devices, authorities say.

But neither brother appears to have been legally entitled to own or carry firearms where they lived, a fact that may add to the national debate over current gun laws. Last week, the U.S. Senate rejected a bill to expand background checks on gun purchases, legislation that opponents argued would do nothing to stop criminals from buying guns illegally.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, who was killed in the shootout with police, would have been required to apply for a gun license with the local police department where he lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

But there is no record of him having done so, according to Cambridge Police Department spokesman Dan Riviello.

Even if he had earlier received a gun license from somewhere outside Cambridge, that license would have to be registered with Cambridge police upon becoming a resident of the city, Riviello said. In Massachusetts, gun licenses are issued by municipal police departments.

The surviving terrorist, Dzhokar Tsarnaev, is too young to have applied for a gun license, although he could have gone for a “firearms identification card” that would have entitled him to handle shotguns and rifles that carry 10 rounds or less.  It doesn’t look as if he bothered to obtain such a card.

Two months ago, columnist Jeff Jacoby wrote in the Boston Globe that Massachusetts passed “what was hailed as the toughest gun control legislation in the country” back in 1998… and gun crime got worse.

The 1998 legislation did cut down, quite sharply, on the legal use of guns in Massachusetts. Within four years, the number of active gun licenses in the state had plummeted. “There were nearly 1.5 million active gun licenses in Massachusetts in 1998,”the AP reported. “In June [2002], that number was down to just 200,000.” The author of the law, state Senator Cheryl Jacques, was pleased that the Bay State’s stiff new restrictions had made it possible to “weed out the clutter.”

But the law that was so tough on law-abiding gun owners had quite a different impact on criminals.

Since 1998, gun crime in Massachusetts has gotten worse, not better. In 2011, Massachusetts recorded 122 murders committed with firearms, the Globe reported this month — “a striking increase from the 65 in 1998.” Other crimes rose too. Between 1998 and 2011, robbery with firearms climbed 20.7 percent. Aggravated assaults jumped 26.7 percent.

Of course, gun control zealots respond to this by trotting out one of the silliest arguments they’ve ever presented: rising crime in the wake of tougher gun laws is a result of neighboring states failing to pass equally tough gun laws.  The same malarkey is ladled out whenever the vicious crime rates of a gun-control utopia like Chicago are discussed.  But Jacoby notes that in Massachusetts, as in Chicago, the surrounding areas have substantially lower crime rates.  If there’s any significant migration of armed criminals across state lines, it’s happening because said criminals are eager to ply their trade in “gun-free zones,” where they know tough gun laws have disarmed their prey.

There are calls to avoid politicizing the Boston Marathon atrocity – many of them emanating from people who have every intention of politicizing the hell out of it, but want to keep things quiet until the emotional reaction of the public subsides, in a perfect inversion of the strategy they employed to piggyback unconnected gun-control laws on the Newtown massacre.  The situation in Boston is so obvious that it crosses over the line into simple common sense, rather than politics.  Gun control laws didn’t slow down this pair of terrorist killers.  Their presence in various databases of interest to law enforcement didn’t prompt anyone to keep a close eye on them.  The government isn’t processing the information it already has very well; another gun database, another set of hoops for law-abiding citizens to jump through, will only increase the ratio of determined armed criminals to good citizens who conclude that exercising their Second Amendment rights isn’t worth the hassle.  And of course, the Boston bombers demonstrated that horrifying amounts of carnage can be inflicted without using guns.

On Friday, the frantic hunt for an armed and dangerous terrorist shut down the city of Boston for an entire day.  The advice given to citizens was “stay inside and lock your doors.”  If Dzhokar Tsarnaev had been in better shape, that advice wouldn’t have offered much protection to the unfortunate residents of any home he decided to barge into.  An encounter with armed citizens capable of defending themselves would have been among his worst nightmares.  No one seemed eager to fill their windows with signs proudly declaring their homes to be “gun-free zones” while Dzhokar was on the loose… but then, they never seem eager to do that.

The police can’t be everywhere – even on a day when all of them are on the street, pushing themselves to the brink of exhaustion, searching every square inch of the city for a dangerous fugitive.  Every gun-control activist in America would have found themselves fervently wishing for a firearm if they had been in the Boston area that day, and found the fugitive terrorist coming their way.  Are we going to let them pretend otherwise, now that he’s in custody?

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