Gun Control: The Bureaucratic Method

Attorney Alan Gura is dragging the District of Columbia into the United States -- and my, what a lot of work it is!

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down D.C.'s handgun ban in D.C. v. Heller (2008). There was nothing ambiguous or uncertain about the result: D.C. could not prohibit law-abiding citizens from having a handgun at home for self-defense. Predictably, D.C. government has come up with one bureaucratic obstacle after another to discourage residents from actually doing so.

The latest obstacle was requiring that residents only buy guns that appear on the California Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale. Isn't California rather far removed from D.C.? D.C., you see, wanted to find a way to limit the number of handguns available to its serfs. The only plausible argument for restrictions would be based on safety -- so they adopted an existing state definition of "safe handguns." There were actually several state standards available to them -- and guess what? They picked the state whose list had the fewest models on it. (Yes, California's Roster has 1,329 different models -- but depending on the color of the gun, and the barrel length, you can have a dozen different "models" that are really one gun with either a 5" barrel or a 4.25" barrel, in blue, stainless steel, nickel, blue receiver and nickel slide. There aren't even close to 1,329 different types of handgun offered in California.)

Now, I don't want anyone buying an unsafe handgun. But the days when handguns were so poorly made that they went off by accident are long past -- the result of the Gun Control Act of 1968 and lawyers filing suits against makers of crummy little guns in the 1960s and 1970s. (Hold your breath: I'm admitting that lawyers are sometimes useful.) For example, there are industry standards for dropping a loaded firearm and verifying that it doesn't go off. But if California had used that standard, nearly all existing handguns would have passed, because handguns are already tested to that standard. Instead, California created its own test, both to drive up the cost and because a manufacturer has to pay for the test. If the manufacturer is out of business (not implausible for some older handguns), there's no way for that gun to be certified -- and therefore, no way to sell it in California. Some of the standards were also designed rather obviously to prohibit inexpensive handguns. Part of California's effort to disarm a certain class of persons who are a bit too dark for California liberals to trust with firearms.