Brussels Is Wrong on Guns
Instead of passing bans terrorists will ignore, arm off-duty police and soldiers.
Strict new European gun-control regulations will take another step on Thursday when a committee of the European Parliament votes on a set of measures. The Parliament and the European Commission already have agreed to the proposal in principle. Prompted by terrorist attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, these regulations would prohibit the civilian use of most semiautomatic firearms. As is typical of such laws, however, they will do nothing to prevent the kind of attacks being used to justify them. The proposed Firearms Directive would, among other things, ban various semiautomatic guns and magazines greater than 10 or 20 rounds, depending on the length of the gun. The goal appears to be to ban semiautomatic guns that can “easily be converted” to automatic weapons. But the directive completely misunderstands how guns work. Semiautomatic guns can’t be easily converted into machine guns. The firing mechanisms are different. Semiautomatic weapons fire only one bullet with each pull of the trigger and then reload themselves, making them good for self-defense. With a single-shot rifle that requires the user to manually reload, you could be in trouble if you miss your first shot or are faced by multiple attackers. High-capacity magazines, regardless of any ban, can be made with very simple tools or mass-produced with 3-D printers. Another way around the ban would be to use multiple guns, which killers in terror attacks often do. None of these bans would hinder a determined terrorist. The eight who attacked various sites in Paris in November 2015 were armed with automatic AK-47s and explosive suicide belts. The February 2015 Copenhagen attack was carried out with an automatic M95 assault rifle. In the January 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris, the terrorists were armed with automatic Kalashnikov rifles, a loaded M42 rocket launcher, semiautomatic handguns, smoke grenades, Molotov cocktails, a hand grenade and sticks of dynamite. All the weapons used in these attacks were already illegal. The proposed regulation is similar to the U.S. Federal Assault Weapons Ban President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1994. Criminologists and economists have found no evidence that the U.S. ban reduced either ordinary gun crime or mass public shootings. In 1997, criminology professors Christopher Koper and Jeffrey Roth hired by the Clinton administration wrote, “The evidence is not strong enough for us to conclude that there was any meaningful effect (i.e., that the effect was different from zero).”
A better idea would be to allow and hopefully mandate off-duty police and military personnel to carry concealed handguns. Jesse Hughes, the lead singer for the band performing at Paris’s Bataclan Theater that November night in 2015 when 89 people were killed, has said that eight off-duty officers were in attendance that night as part of the audience. Had these officers had their firearms, the outcome might have been very different.
Off-duty officers will almost certainly find themselves at the center of an attack again. It would be foolish to refuse the free protection that so many of them want to provide.
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