The truth is that we are in the midst of a conscious effort to chill the atmosphere for legitimate gun owners in Delaware until we reach the point where there will be no legitimate gun ownership in the state.
Consider the following three exhibits from this week's news:
Exhibit 1: Wal-Mart stops selling firearms in Delaware. Why? Because SB 35 would have required the Sporting Goods departments of Wal-Mart to conduct third-party background checks even for people not purchasing a gun from the store, and the ambiguity of the law led Wal-Mart's liability attorneys to conclude that people wanting to trade or sell guns privately might well reach the conclusion that they had to bring the gun in question in with them. Wal-Mart therefore decided, thanks to the liability issues inherent in SB 35, to get out of the firearms business.
So, congratulations, "common sense gun law" advocate: today there are about seven fewer retailers in the State from which people can buy guns. I have spoken to several people who own gun shops--they were pretty sure this would happen. In the short run they are happy about it because it narrows the competitive field in their favor. In the long run, however, they are worried that future limitations will threaten their own businesses.
Exhibit 2: The case of Jeremy Preston, who was stopped for speeding and nailed with a felony arrest warrant because his TN Concealed Carry License expired (unknown to him) when he received his Delaware driver's license. This is a wonderful case in which a technical violation (had Mr. Preston been carrying his loaded Glock on the seat beside him, instead of inside the glove compartment, he would never have been asked about his CCL) led (the next day) to a felony arrest warrant with the potential to ruin his entire career:
“It’s devastating for me,” Preston said in the article published Monday. “This is my career. I’ve spent a long time establishing a reputation as a hardworking engineer and now I get falsely arrested with these bogus charges, and it’s pretty serious.”
“Some of the damage has been done,” Preston said, adding that his employers “are looking at me funny. They don’t have time for this. They don’t want the hassle. I can’t work at a nuclear plant with a felony.”As Preston's attorney notes, the Attorney General's office doesn't really care about that:
It’s ‘roll first and deal with it later,’ ” Hurley said of the law enforcement approach in Delaware. “If somebody loses their job, that’s too bad. That’s the way the system works.”There is a strong temptation to see this as Delaware authorities floating some sort of zero tolerance response to any gun violation, no matter how trivial. You can hear that in Jeremy Preston's last statement:
Denney said prosecutors will propose that Preston not try to get the .40-caliber Glock pistol taken from him back from police until he gets a Delaware concealed-carry permit. Preston countered that he won’t get such a permit because he won’t ever “drive in Delaware again with a gun in my car.”Exhibit 3: Crime down in Wilmington, but shootings up--which means that the "spin" in future is going to be, "We've done what we could with the existing laws, we need stronger gun control to put a dent in gun violence." Let's be honest: Delaware doesn't have a gun violence problem, Delaware has a Wilmington gun violence problem.
There are two takeaways for Libertarians here:
1. The legislative initiatives of 2013 are not the end, but the beginning. Under the slogan of stopping the "mentally ill gun nuts" who managed to prevent HB 88 from becoming law, we can expect to see an even larger slew of restrictive legislative initiative in the 148th Session of the General Assembly. This is part of the old "throw enough shit at the barn and some of it will stick" strategy.
Because after a few rounds of shit-throwing, even if your aim is off most of the time, the entire barn will eventually be brown.
2. "Gun grabber" rhetoric will serve us less well in the future. The advocates of universal registration have managed to frame even radical proposals (like the portion of HB 35 that doesn't require any law enforcement member to have a warrant to examine background check applications, or doesn't require retired law enforcement agents to pass a background check at all) as "common sense" gun control measures that do not affect "sane gun owners."
These are powerful frames and memes, and they resonate with low-information voters. Beau Biden in a suit pleading for the lives of school children is going to trump a sign that labels him a neo-Nazi in the long run.
It is an unfortunate truth, as Democratic strategist George Lakoff has expounded quite eloquently, that successful memes and frames must be refuted by other memes and frames; facts alone will not do that job. In the upcoming months we will be discussing how that has to be done in 2014 in the increasinlyg anti-gun-rights climate being generated in Delaware.