Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Case of Mistaken Identity

One must approach an article published by the New York Times boasting a libertarian position with extreme skepticism. A recent piece by Robert A. Levy of the Cato Institute proves this rule. Levy claims to have a "Libertarian case for expanding gun background checks," specifically supporting the defeated Manchin-Toomey proposal. Well now....

Gun-rights advocates should use this interval to refine their priorities and support this measure, with a few modest changes. If they don’t, 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.
The focus on background checks should not distract gun owners from the positive provisions in the Manchin-Toomey proposal.

It would allow Americans to buy handguns from out-of-state sellers, which is not allowed currently.

It would explicitly prohibit the creation of a national gun registry, and make it a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, to misuse records from the national database used for background checks.

It would affirm that unloaded guns with a lock mechanism in place can be transported across state lines.

It would immunize private gun sellers from lawsuits if a gun they have sold is used unlawfully, unless the seller knows or should have known that the buyer provided false information or was otherwise ineligible to buy a gun. Extending background checks to unlicensed sellers shouldn’t be cause for alarm. Background checks are already required for purchases from federally licensed dealers, whether at stores or gun shows, over the Internet or by mail. Moreover, gun buyers would be exempt from background checks if they had a carry permit issued within the last five years.

To my mind, the Manchin-Toomey proposal needs additional improvements to satisfy the demands of certain gun rights advocates. These changes might have helped save the proposal, which was supported by 54 senators — six votes short of the supermajority needed to overcome a filibuster.

The proposal prohibits the attorney general (as head of the Justice Department) from creating a firearms registry, but this prohibition should be broadened to cover all government agencies.

The proposal should also exempt certain rural residents who live too far from a licensed gun dealer for a background check to be practicable.

What we have here is a case of mistaken identity since Levy's position on the Manchin-Toomey proposal is clearly not a libertarian one. Levy is basically arguing for the passage of a terrible bill because of its silver lining and because Obama will smear libertarians otherwise. This is not even a logical argument, let alone a libertarian one.

Levy's argument, specifically concerning the merits of the Manchin-Toomey proposal, is fundamentally flawed. First of all, Levy seems ignorant of A) the fact that the 2nd Amendment protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms without giving the government any authority over the matter and B) how requiring background checks for gun purchases will create a de facto registry (and the government always gets caught or punished when disobeying the law, right?). The fact is that the very existence of a background check requirement when attempting to purchase a firearm breaks the inflexible 2nd Amendment which gives government no say on how the people keep and bear arms.

The Manchin-Toomey proposal would not even achieve its goal to prevent future gun violence. It is clear that the Manchin-Toomey proposal is an attempt by the political establishment to appear to be doing something proactive in response to the number of deadly shootings that have occurred in the United States. President Obama surrounding himself with former House Rep. Gabby Giffords and families of victims from the Newtown, CT shooting as he lamented the proposal's defeat two weeks ago is evidence of this. However, background checks will do nothing to stop future gun-related violence. A required background check would have done nothing to stop the Tsarnaev brothers from getting their illegally-owned guns and would have done nothing to stop Adam Lanza from taking his mother's legally-owned guns. The proposal would simply not accomplish anything it set out to achieve.

But watch out! This so-called "libertarian" position warns of "accusations from President Obama and others" in response to resisting this establishment gun control proposal. Are we supposed to be concerned about this? What exactly has stopped Obama or his leftist legions from smearing those who refuse to comply with the regime in the past and since when have those smears stopped libertarians from advocating the message of freedom? Leftists either accept the submission of their political enemies with contempt or they engage in outright smear attacks with no regard for the truth when faced with resistance. So what if leftists call libertarians who believe that human beings have a natural, inalienable right to self-defense names? We are right! Running away from our position out of fear of unpleasant and untrue monikers will not advance the issue and, in fact, does the cause a great disservice. 

With all of this in mind, Levy's greater logic in supporting the Manchin-Toomey proposal makes absolutely no sense. Certainly some of what Levy lists as "the positive provisions" of the Manchin-Toomey proposal would be positive and should be pursued outside of the context of the proposal (UPDATE: Brian Wilson shows that some of what Levy says here is not accurate). They make for a shiny silver lining but are hardly sufficient in the end when weighed up against the final outcome of the proposal which is more Federal control over the rights of the American people to keep and bear arms. Who argues in support of something because of the few positives that come along with a monstrous negative? Levy even goes as far as saying "the taxpayers — and not just law-abiding gun owners — should foot some of the bill" for the background checks and "more F.B.I. staff members to manage the database would also help expedite the process." That's right: Levy's "libertarian position" includes an expansion of the police state and more taxes! What will he think of next?

So in summing up this supposed "libertarian position": The Manchin-Toomey proposal is completely unconstitutional, will not solve any problems regarding violent crime and will act as an unofficial gun registry but Levy supports it because of its silver lining, because taxpayers supposedly do not already pay their fair share, because the FBI is not already big enough and because he wishes to avoid liberal criticisms. Sound libertarian?

The Cato Institute is often a source for excellent information but its significant level of inconsistency and shaky ideological foundations separate it from other reliable libertarian outlets. There is no questioning why Judge Andrew Napolitano resigned his board position over there not long ago.

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