Jewish World Review May 17, 1999 /2 Sivan 5759
Gun control, campaign-finance reform -- two liberal illusions
(JWR) ---- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com)
TWO OF LIBERALISM'S pet panaceas, threats to the First and Second Amendments respectively, are again being pushed at the credulous.
Last week, the Senate approved modified background checks on private sales at gun shows. The Littleton, Colo., shootings were the excuse.
At the same time, House Majority Leader Dick Armey said he favored a vote on campaign-finance reform by the end of July. Democrats, who are devoted to this flimflam, seem to be saying, "Stop us, before we accept another check from a Chinese general."
Gun control and campaign restrictions both demonstrate a blind faith in government. They're also ploys politicians use to keep from confronting real solutions -- cracking down on criminals and career officeholders, who have much in common.
Both target the innocent -- the vast majority of honest gun-owners and those who contribute to candidates and causes. Both ignore past failures, ever hopeful that just one more law will do the trick.
Each has an ever-shifting target. The gun villain is assault weapons one day and gun-show sales the next. Our political system is debauched by (your choice): soft money, PAC money, too much money or advocacy ads.
Yes, more gun-control laws would have prevented the Columbine high school shootings -- the new restraints on campaign finance will bring a return to republican government.
The Columbine killers violated at least 17 federal firearms-explosives laws and any number of state statutes. How would one more would have stopped them?
Mandatory gun locks, another cause celebre, are unnecessary (more children under five drown in water buckets each year than die from gun mishaps) and would impede self-defense.
There are already regulations on gun-show purchases. For licensed dealers, they're the same as sales from a shop. The pair who reportedly bought guns at shows for the Columbine killers would have passed muster under proposed background checks by non-dealers.
There is no relationship between crime rates and gun laws. In 1997, the national homicide rate was 6.8 per 100,000. With some of the strictest firearms laws in the nation, California's rate was 8.0. Washington state has easy gun laws and had a homicide rate of 4.3. Washington, D.C., enacted a handgun ban in 1977. Between 1967 and 1997, its homicide rate tripled.
Campaign-finance laws are equally ineffective. The problem isn't political spending (Americans spend less on campaigns than yogurt) but unlimited service.
Just as gun control favors criminals by disarming their victims, spending restrictions aid incumbents at the expense of challengers.
In 1998, 98 percent of House and Senate members seeking re-election won. Of those who had served three or more terms, 100 percent were re-elected.
The advantages of incumbency are daunting. Incumbents have the name recognition that comes from past campaigns and years in office, media credibility, staffs devoted to their glorification (since 1957, the numbers of congressional staffers has gone from 4,500 to 16,000) and re-election appeals in the guise of constituent mailings. Since 1980, congressmen have sent out over 8 billion pieces.
The foregoing adds up to an estimated tax-subsidy of $1.2 million per two-year election cycle for each incumbent. Of necessity, successful challengers must spend prodigious sums to overcome this.
By and large, proponents of campaign-finance reform loathe term limitation.
Rep. Martin Meehan, D-Mass., co-sponsor of the Shays-Meehan assault on issue ads and soft money, liked term limitations well enough when he was a challenger and even signed a pledge to serve no more than four terms.
Since he's come to see the national interest inextricably bound with his own, Meehan has reneged on his promise. Now he's fighting politics as usual by seeking to keep U.S. Term Limits from running ads against him in the next election..
Generally, gun-control proponents are quite tender-hearted toward killers and career criminals. The American Civil Liberties Union would unplug electric chairs, empty the prisons and fight crime by disarming America.
The media hail both brands of snake oil and so proponents of each will reap plaudits for courageously standing up to the National Rifle Association or political-influence buyers, while opponents are castigated as reactionaries. Ah, reform -- what a
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©1999, Creators Syndicate