If I had a magic wand that could magically get rid of all the handguns in the United States, and prevent people from getting any more of them, I would use it. But I don’t have such a wand, and if my plan for dealing with the social problems associated with handguns was to search high and low for such a wand, most people would, I think, conclude that I was wasting my time.
A national gun ban, in my view, was the gun control folks’ equivalent of a magic wand. I don’t know how effective a national ban would have been in limiting gun deaths and/or gun crime, but the question is largely irrelevant. Such a ban was never a realistic possibility. From 1939 until last Thursday, the Second Amendment was basically dead letter. It provided no meaningful restriction on the ability of government to restrict access to handguns, up to and including a total ban. Yet despite this, neither the federal government nor any state government has come anywhere close to passing such a ban, and if Heller had gone the other way, no such ban would have been forthcoming.
The best the advocates of gun control have been able to do is pass bans in a few major cities. These bans have had no discernible impact on gun related violence (anyone who tried to figure out when the D.C. gun ban was enacted simply by looking at the city’s violent crime statistics would be doomed to failure). As Matt Yglesias (no right-winger, he) has noted, the main effect of the D.C. ban was to validate the old saying that “if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” While a country in which no one has guns would be preferable to the current situation in many respects, I don’t see how a situation where violent criminals have ready access to guns while the law abiding don’t is at all preferable to just letting everyone have them.My advice to people who really want to reduce gun-related violence and crime (as opposed to people who just don’t like people who like guns) is this: stop looking for the magic wand. Treat Heller not as a cause for wailing and gnashing of teeth, but as an opportunity to refocus your efforts on actually achievable goals that will help reduce gun deaths and gun crime (and if you’re looking for ideas on how to do this, you could do worse than to start here).