Eliot Spitzer, a former governor of the state of New York, and NYC attorney Peter Pope recently co-authored an article in The Slate titled “Gun Control Without Gun Laws.” It appeared in Spitzer’s online column, click here
Spitzer’s argument focuses on finding a solution to the long-standing 2nd Amendment dilemma: restricting the illegal flow of firearms through otherwise legal channels. He and Pope propose non-statutory answer, specifically a government procurement and acquisition policy answer, to reward firearms manufacturers that “control their product distribution” in such a way as to limit sales to dealers that “[sell] a disproportionate number of ‘crime guns’.” As they indicate, the government buys guns “by the crate.” (Of course, they mean local, state, and federal level sales to law enforcement agencies and the military.)
As an example, they highlight the predicament of the NYPD in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Police increasingly found that their service revolvers were no match for the 9mm semiautos the drug dealers and criminals wielded, compelling the NYPD to upgrade their sidearms. Spitzer and Pope suggest that drug dealers “pioneered” the use of more effective firearms with the tacit support of firearms manufacturers and crooked dealers.
This example prompts Spitzer and Pope to ask: “Why do we buy guns from companies that permit their products to be sold to bad guys?”
They propose a variety of government acquisition policy changes for firearms procurement, positing that the sheer quantity of government sales would cause firearms manufacturers to change the way they sell and distribute. But let’s analyze those procurement policy changes. I won’t list them all here, but they’re worth taking a look at. How would these changes affect firearms manufacturers if they were implemented? Are they feasible? More importantly, would they serve their intended purpose of “keep[ing] [firearms] out of criminals' hands?”
Alyssa Rosenberg, a federal workforce blogger with Government Executive magazine, is doubtful that the policies could even be implemented with a degree of consistency. She also challenges the notion that procurement policy should be used to achieve social or political goals. Rosenberg’s article can be read here
At the core of Spitzer and Pope’s case is the assumption that guns need to be “controlled.” In the theoretical sense, in order to promote responsible firearm ownership they must be kept out of the hands of (unsupervised) children and criminals. But is their solution a good one? And what implication might these procurement policies have on the average citizen? Cynical as it may seem, these proposed policies might only serve to choke manufacturers and dealers in complicated purchasing “red tape.”