No matter how draconian, gun control laws are weakly enforced (at least in the United States) and seldom of any significant effect in reducing crime. The kind of citizen who will comply with a gun law is the opposite of the person who will use a gun to facilitate his or her crimes. The problem of weak enforcement is highlighted by a candid interview with the author of the District of Columbia’s 1968 gun registration scheme while the District’s 1975-76 gun ban was under consideration: The problem, [Hechinger] said, is the failure of the mayor and police department to enforce the [current] regulations. “Not only didn’t they enforce them; the[y] didn’t even publicize them,” he said. If the city’s executives were lax on gun laws, its judiciary was hardly better. Of 184 persons prosecuted and convicted for first-time gun possession in the first six months of last year, only 14 received jail sentences. One judge, according to a report to the House District Committee last week, awarded a jail sentence to only one of 73 gun offenders convicted in his court. This led a prominent newspaper commentator to remark that “[i]t might be a good idea to try enforcing the old gun law before rushing to enact new ones.” Even as they were voting for the new gun ban, D.C. politicians were admitting that it was a mere placebo. City Councilman Marion Berry (later to become Mayor) admitted: “Massachusetts has stringent gun control and armed robbery has not decreased but increased. The TV creates far more violence than any gun lobbyist. I, too, am going to vote for this bill [sic] that I want it understood that I realize it’s not adequate . . . .” Councilman Jerry Moore made the same point saying that he had “no illusions about this law—it won’t take guns off the streets.” So the question becomes, “Why enact them?” Is there a hidden political dynamic? But “hidden” means hard to find. So maybe we should look for the answer in a related jurisdiction that keeps more extensive records of its government’s deliberations.

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