Common Sense About Gun Laws



“Arms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property… Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them.”        Thomas Paine

“Common sense gun laws” is a favorite expression of anti-gun politicians and hoplophobic celebrities.  They use that phrase to make their proposals sound innocuous and to attempt to paint Second Amendment supporters as lacking common sense.

But, alas, as Voltaire said, common sense is not so common.

Immediately following the recent mass murder at the airport in Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, the usual cast of anti-gunners began demanding a prohibition on transporting firearms in checked baggage, and the extension of security zones beyond the current TSA access control points throughout entire airports.

Apparently for gun control advocates, what they call common sense doesn’t include recognizing the few common denominators in virtually every mass shooting in recent American history.  They virtually all occur in so called Gun-Free Zones, and almost all attackers cease their attacks immediately when faced with violent resistance.

What common sense tells me is that while it is impossible to prevent or predict these violent assaults, evidence suggests that eliminating areas in which people are disarmed by law, and minimizing the amount of time until the attacker faces armed resistance, are the best ways to minimize these terrible crimes.  By coincidence, eliminating gun-free zones is simultaneously the least expensive and least complex way to accomplish both goals.

For gun-grabbers, it seems, ‘common sense’ doesn’t include recognizing that shifting airport access control points will simply change the location of the traffic choke point.  If the population at that point is disarmed, common sense tells me the result will only be a change in the location of an assault.

What Debbie Wasserman-Shultz calls ‘common sense’ doesn’t help her understand that prohibiting the transportation of firearms in checked baggage won’t make airport baggage claim areas any more secure.  A gunman could just as easily enter the area from outside, without ever taking a flight, and would then encounter the same disarmed populace in baggage claim.

What ‘common sense’ fails to reveal to virulently anti-gun liberal news outlets is that, like the ringleader of the Columbine High School attack, many of these murderers seek notoriety, and that plastering their names and images across newspapers and television screens makes the next attack more likely.

The idea that we can prevent the next mass homicide simply through heightened mental health screening has taken ‘common sense’ to an absurd extreme in the state of Washington.  There the State Supreme Court just ruled that mental health professionals can be held liable for failing to identify attackers before they strike.  (Four months before, in this case!)  ‘Common sense’ tells me that predicting such things is extraordinarily difficult, since mass murderers are sometimes already receiving professional mental health counseling prior to committing their horrible crimes.

Even if a more aggressive approach to involuntary commitment were undertaken, there would be no way to measure the effectiveness of the program.  How do you prove you prevented something that never happened?  Doing so would come at a very high cost to individual liberty and personal freedom—not to mention a heavy financial price.  That’s not to say that enhancing mental health programs and destigmatizing mental health issues wouldn’t be beneficial.  But criminalizing the practice of psychology and psychiatry would end up decreasing access to and the use of mental health services.

True common sense can offer us legitimate guidance with regard to gun laws, and any other restrictions we contemplate placing on Americans’ individual liberty.  It tells me that we should demand convincing empiric evidence of efficacy before infringing on people’s rights. It also dictates that once enacted, such restrictions should be subjected to periodic reviews, and should be rescinded unless they prove to continue having substantial value.

If physicians were to perform draconian medical procedures without any proof of efficacy, choosing interventions simply because they aligned with our prejudices and satisfied our own preconceived notions, the public outcry would be deafening and well justified.  If we pressed on with ineffective treatments and doubled down on every treatment failure, we’d lose our licenses and be run out of town on rails.  If we failed to modify and scale back recommended therapies over time to achieve maximum benefit with minimum suffering, we would be out of work, and deservedly so.

Why do we accept any less proof and accountability from those who wish to deny Americans’ Constitutionally enshrined right to effective armed self-defense?  Why don’t we demand real common sense?


—Tom Vaughan, MD is a neuroradiologist in private practice in Louisville, KY.  He is a shooting enthusiast who believes in individual liberty and personal responsibility.

All DRGO articles by Tom Vaughan, MD.