Comment: Ooh! Ooh! When Two factions of Kochtopus argue! Reason vs. CATO!

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Ooh! Ooh! When Two factions of Kochtopus argue! Reason vs. CATO!

Great job, Reason Mag/Fdn.! There's hope for you, yet!

A Libertarian Case for Expanding Gun Background Checks? I Am Still Waiting to Hear One.

Jacob Sullum|Apr. 30, 2013 5:55 pm

Writing in The New York Times, Cato Institute Chairman Robert Levy—who spearheaded the litigation that led to D.C. v. Heller, the landmark 2008 decision in which the Supreme Court recognized that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right to arms—makes "A Libertarian Case for Expanding Gun Background Checks." Oddly, the essay, on which Levy expands a bit here, neither explains why expanding gun background checks is a good policy nor justifies it based on libertarian principle. Instead Levy offers two tactical reasons to support the bill backed by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) that would have required background checks for all sales at gun shows (not just those by federally licensed dealers) and all sales initiated through online listings or ads in periodicals.

"Following a series of tragic mass shootings," Levy says, "public opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of reasonable legislation restricting the ownership of guns by people who shouldn't have them." If Levy means that public opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of the Manchin-Toomey measure, I'm not sure that's true. A Pew Research Center poll conducted after the Senate rejected the bill found that only 47 percent of Americans reacted negatively to the vote. Levy nevertheless warns that if gun-rights advocates refuse to support the bill ("with a few modest changes"), "they will be opening themselves to accusations from President Obama and others that they are merely obstructionists, zealots who will not agree to common-sense gun legislation."

Strikingly absent from Levy's op-ed piece and blog post: any attempt to show that an expanded background-check requirement counts as "common-sense gun legislation," either because it would prevent "tragic mass shootings" or because it would reduce more common forms of gun violence. For reasons having to do with criminals' ability to pass or evade background checks, both of those propositions are doubtful. Since Levy does not even try to defend them, I take him to be arguing that gun control skeptics should support Manchin-Toomey, even if it has no logical connection to the horrifying events that supposedly justify it, because otherwise Obama will try to make them look bad.

Comment section's a riot: count me in; on & off Trek fan (not quite as hard core as a "trekkie" seeing as how I never saw the Orig.Series, TNG and on? Plenty) But Ferengi jokes? Never get old!

Warrren| 4.30.13 @ 6:01PM |#

I refuse to listen to a decrepit Ferengi lecture to me about gun rights.

Hugh Akston| 4.30.13 @ 6:05PM |#

Rule of Acquisition #34: War is good for business.

A Serious Man| 4.30.13 @ 6:16PM |#

Rule of Acquisition #35: Peace is good for business.

Generic Stranger| 4.30.13 @ 6:27PM |#

Heh. I was not surprised to see the guy's an old coot. Gun control was much more acceptable to older generations than it is to newer ones. It's fast becoming the sole province of old liberals.

Fist of Etiquette| 4.30.13 @ 6:39PM |#

He doesn't have the lobes for libertarianism.

Predictions in due Time...

"Let it not be said that no one cared, that no one objected once it's realized that our liberties and wealth are in jeopardy." - Dr. Ronald Ernest Paul