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Before The Smoke Had Even Cleared


by Dave Kopel

The victims’ funerals hadn’t even begun when New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the rest of the gun prohibition movement wasted no time in exploiting these horrific crimes in order to push their agenda to destroy the Second Amendment.

Shortly after midnight on Monday, July 20, during the premiere of the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises, a man entered the Century Theater in Aurora, Colo., dispersed gas canisters and began shooting. His crime had apparently been planned for months. Twelve people were murdered, and 58 were injured.

The Aurora police arrived within minutes and apprehended the murderer in the parking lot as he was leaving the theater. He surrendered immediately when confronted by armed opposition.  Hours after the Aurora theater murders, the national television networks were airing wall-to-wall coverage. Bloomberg announced that the murders proved the necessity of immediate enactment of his anti-gun agenda.

With saturation coverage of the perpetrator by national and international media, the message was once again broadcast that the quickest way for an evil person to become famous is to kill innocent citizens. On Sunday, Aug. 5, a white supremacist did exactly that, murdering six people at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis.

In the subsequent days and weeks, many in the national media jumped on board, insisting the crimes proved that repressive gun laws must be imposed immediately. Relentlessly—but accurately—the media complained that the most important reason that America does not already have the same sort of near prohibitory laws as England is because of the strength of the National Rifle Association.

Immediately, anti-gun politicians got into the act, trotting out old ideas for gun bans and inventing some brand new ones. These bills have already been introduced in Congress, and you can be certain that some or all of them will be introduced in nearly every state legislature in 2013.

The most recent front for the anti-Second Amendment lobby is ammunition. During the months that the Aurora murderer planned his attack, he purchased 6,000 rounds from companies that sell ammunition via the Internet. During the attack, he fired dozens of rounds, yet almost all of the murderer’s ammunition was later discovered back at his apartment, irrelevant to his crime.

Nevertheless, the idea that a person might own several thousand rounds of ammunition infuriated anti-gun politicians and media. Never mind that competitive shooters can easily use a thousand rounds in a few days of practice. Never mind that American skeet shooter Kim Rhode, who became the first person in history to individually medal at five consecutive Olympics, fires a thousand rounds a day in practice. Never mind that millions of other gun owners purchase ammunition in bulk for the same reason they buy paper towels in bulk: to save money. All Americans who might have several thousand rounds of ammunition on hand at any given time are, in the eyes of the media and many politicians, dangerous and ought to be investigated by police.

Consequently, bills have been introduced to require registration of all ammunition purchases. Any purchases of a “suspicious” quantity of ammunition (such as more than 1,000 rounds in a five-day period) would be reported to the government. Another bill would simply forbid buying more than 500 rounds in a 30-day period. (And if you load your own ammunition, remember that under federal law, every bullet, cartridge case and primer is considered “ammunition” as well.)

All Internet and mail order sales would be outlawed, so if the store in your area doesn’t have the ammunition or components you want, that’s just too bad—look somewhere else.

Another bill would require the same kind of background check for ammunition purchases as is currently required for retail gun purchases, no doubt overwhelming the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

When properly maintained, guns can last for decades. So if you buy a rifle when you are 22 and take good care of it, that rifle should be functioning just fine when you are 82. Over the course of your ownership of that rifle, you might buy ammunition for that rifle many times, perhaps hundreds of times. Sensibly, current laws focus on checking the buyer when he or she purchases the gun, and not on performing a hundred or more repetitive background checks when ammunition is purchased for the gun.

Neither the federal instant check system nor its state counterparts could handle the huge increase in checks if every ammunition purchase required government permission in advance. Already, it is common for “instant” checks to be backed up for hours, just to check gun purchases. Add ammunition checks and you’ll likely go to the store on Monday to buy a box of ammunition, fill out mandatory paperwork and be told to come back in a few weeks when the check is finally completed.

The Sikh temple murderer used a semi-automatic handgun in commission of his heinous crimes. So the Violence Policy Center is now demanding that all semi-automatic handguns be banned. (Of course, the VPC isn’t mentioning that they’ve supported banning all handguns for decades now.)

The Aurora theater murderer put a 100-round drum magazine on his rifle. As is not uncommon with such magazines, it jammed. Predictably, the prohibitionists are intensifying their push to ban so-called “high-capacity” magazines—by which they mean anything over 10 rounds.

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