One of our Steering Committee members got an interesting e-mail from the Lieutenant Governor’s office today. He wrote a message to the Lieutenant Governor in regards to the pending legislation that deals with standard capacity magazines that hold more than ten rounds, expressing his desire that the laws should be left as they are now. He got a response not from the Lieutenant Governor, but from Julia Lawes, the “Director of Constituent Relations and Special Projects.”
Ms. Lawes states in her response:
There is now strong statistical evidence that responsible regulation of large capacity gun magazines does reduce the number of those magazines used by criminals. A study published this year of Virginia law enforcement data showed that following the implementation of the 1994 federal restrictions on large capacity magazines, the percentage of criminals’ guns confiscated during arrests which had those magazines dropped by half. When the ban expired, the percentage of criminals’ guns with high capacity magazines increased all the way back up to the levels seen before the federal law.
As the Lieutenant Governor works to draft a bill regarding large capacity magazines, he has made an effort to reach out to gun owners and solicit their opinions about some of the practical issues involved in regulating these devices. The feedback has been very helpful, and in some cases has caused him to change the way the administration’s bill is drafted. For example, the administration had originally planned to draft a bill that would limit the capacity of magazines for handguns to 10 rounds, and magazines for rifles and shotguns to five rounds, based on the fact that many hunting rifles are sold with five round magazines. However, several gun owners have impressed on the Lieutenant Governor the importance of allowing homeowners who may be inexperienced in firing a gun to have a sufficient magazine to defend their homes. So the bill that the administration will propose to the legislature will propose a limit of ten rounds, no matter what type of gun is involved. The Lieutenant Governor is continuing to talk to gun owners as he drafts the administration’s bill, and he has found their input very helpful.
To be absolutely clear, the bill that the administration will propose will not require current owners of large capacity magazines to turn over or otherwise get rid of their existing magazines. It will, however, limit the places outside the home where large capacity magazines can be present.
Statistics can obviously be used to present whatever side of the story is desired. To counter the Virginia study referenced by Ms. Lawes, one can do some quick research on the web to find statistics supporting the position of the pro-gun/pro-rights side of the argument.
I suppose it is a good thing that Delaware is not going to be in the business of making you turn in your legally owned magazines. However, if you are caught out in public with them, and they are loaded, you will have them confiscated and you will be charged with a crime. If they are loaded and in a firearm, the way most of us carry our semi-automatic pistols, you will be a felon.
I’m not sure what groups have had the chance to speak with Lt. Governor Denn. I know he hasn’t spoken with us, but we are way too new to be on his radar yet. We will attempt to change that in the coming days, and perhaps we can explain our side of the story. I would be very interested in knowing exactly what groups he has spoken with, how their arguments were presented, and how he responded to them. I can only imagine, however, that since his boss – Governor Markell – has decided that restriction is the way it’s going to be, any deviation from that course has only a slim chance of passage (if any chance at all).
The closing paragraph of Ms. Lawes’ letter seems to pretty much put a bow on the futility of further discussion, since we may be destined to “agree to disagree”:
The Lieutenant Governor’s goal in dealing with this issue is to be practical and do things that will truly improve the safety of our citizens. If you have any ideas about the way we could tailor a responsible regulation of large capacity magazines, I encourage you to send them to me. And, if we are simply destined to disagree about this issue, I hope you will at least recognize that the Lieutenant Governor’s work is borne of a sincere interest in protecting the public, and is far broader than responsible regulation of guns.
What Lt. Governor Denn (and any other politicians who uses this same line of thinking) fails to understand is a very basic fact about the way liberty works. It is impossible for a free society to be a totally safe society. When any government tries to balance “public safety” with “rights,” the free society will see rights erode and they will become less free. Our government is a republic that is founded on the principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When criminals misuse a particular piece of equipment, it is incumbent on the government to punish those criminals appropriately. It is not the government’s business to curtail the liberty of law abiding citizens simply out of the fear that criminals may by chance misuse a piece of equipment. Doing so is nothing short of tyranny, which in the end, creates distrust and resentment of government among the citizens.