The Slippery Slope Argument On Guns

The Captain’s Journal – by Herschel Smith

There is an increasing number of charges that the recent gun control legislation was rejected because of slippery slope arguments.  One such charge was leveled by the loser himself, Joe Manchin.

Think gun control failed in the Senate because of gun-clutching extremists? Or because of fanatical radicals who want to abolish the Second Amendment? Senator Joe Manchin, who’s been at the heart of the effort, says it’s nothing of the sort. In fact, the central problem really has nothing to do with firearms at all — it’s about trust.  

When he speaks to gun owners, “they’re scared this is the first step” in a massive government overreach, said Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat. He made the remarks during an interview with Margaret Carlson at the New York Ideas Festival, a daylong conference sponsored by The Atlantic and the Aspen Institute.

“When you say universal background check, the first thing that comes in the mind of a gun owner is that means registration, and registration means confiscation. ‘I haven’t broken the laws, why do you want to know everything?’” he said. According to Manchin, even in gun-loving West Virginia, constituents he spoke with repeatedly told him that if the bill did only what it said it does, they would wholeheartedly support it. (“There’s a lot the NRA likes in this bill,” he added.) The problem is, they’re skeptical that the bill will in fact go farther than it claims. That means the effort to pass it on a second try will require emphasizing, for example, the harsh penalties associated with keeping records past a certain period.

He portrays gun owners as pitiful sheep, “scared” of anything and everything.  The reality is much different.  But then there is Cass Sunstein, who thinks he is much smarter than we are.  You can read his entire piece, but this is the money quote.

Illuminating though it is, Hirschman’s account misses an especially pernicious example of the rhetoric of reaction: the slippery-slope argument. According to that argument, we should reject Reform A, which is admittedly not so terrible, because it would inevitably put us on a slippery slope to Reform B, which is really bad.

But the problem is that this criticism neglects to consider – or maybe intentionally ignores – the real presence of intentionality.  I have never made the case that the proposed gun control law should have been rejected because it is a slippery slope and could lead to more pernicious or onerous things.  I don’t know another gun rights blogger who has made that case.

The case that I have made, and repeatedly so, is that a system of universal background checks is a precursor and necessary prerequisite to a national gun registry.  I have never charged that it would be some accidental feature of overbearing governance.  I have charged that it would be intentional, and that universal background checks would have no effect on gun crime.

Furthermore, I have pointed to progressive arguments for that very system, showing that this is the real goal of every progressive.

The only way we can truly be safe and prevent further gun violence is to ban civilian ownership of all guns. That means everything. No pistols, no revolvers, no semiautomatic or automatic rifles. No bolt action. No breaking actions or falling blocks. Nothing. This is the only thing that we can possibly do to keep our children safe from both mass murder and common street violence.

Unfortunately, right now we can’t. The political will is there, but the institutions are not. Honestly, this is a good thing. If we passed a law tomorrow banning all firearms, we would have massive noncompliance. What we need to do is establish the regulatory and informational institutions first. This is how we do it.  The very first thing we need is national registry. We need to know where the guns are, and who has them.

In the end, Manchin’s proposals were rejected because the people didn’t like his ideas, and Cass Sunstein isn’t as smart as he thinks he is.  Gun control laws such as universal background checks may in fact end up a slippery slope because the federal government is a micromanager and even if there is opposition to a national gun registry one may develop anyway.  But the reason to oppose them has more to do with intentionality, not accident.

Finally, there is another reason to have opposed Manchin’s proposals.  We simply didn’t like what he proposed.  Or in other words, we like the idea that we can buy and sell guns to each other without having to go through a federal firearms license and pay a transfer fee, and we like the idea of gifting guns to each other without telling the federal government about it.

3 thoughts on “The Slippery Slope Argument On Guns

  1. The slippery slope argument is a valid one, proven by their own stated goals, and the fact that infringements of all other rights have followed the same slippery path. Infringements of the First Article have led to “hate speech” crimes, and people being locked up and drugged for their political comments. Infringements of the Fourth have led to “no knock warrants” and the pigs who claim “I don’t need no stinkin’ warrant.” All of your inalienable rights have been infringed upon, and doing so is a constant process. Wherever they meet no resistance, the infringements increase. You have to draw a line somewhere, and gun registration is a wise place to draw it, because your life will probably depend on guns NOT being registered.

    But this is interesting too:
    “There’s a lot the NRA likes in this bill”
    Isn’t every new anti-gun bill just another infringement? Why would the NRA like anything about it unless they weren’t really in the business of guarding that right, but rather letting it slip away at what they consider to be an “acceptable” speed?

    1. “Why would the NRA like anything about it …”

      That’s a darned good question. But you might also ask why that organisation supported the 1934 GCA, the 1938 GCA, and the 1968 GCA.
      Here’s an excerpt from an excellent article:

      The NRA supported the National Firearms Act of 1934 which taxes and requires registration of such firearms as machine guns, short-barreled rifles and sawed-off shotguns….[Continued…]

      It supported the Federal Firearms Act of 1938, which regulates interstate and foreign commerce in firearms and pistol or revolver ammunition. It supported legislation to amend the Federal Firearms Act in regard to handguns when it was introduced as S.1975 in August, 1963. Among its provisions was the requirement that a purchaser submit a notarized statement to the shipper that he was over 18 and not legally disqualified from possessing a handgun.

      In 1965, the NRA continued its support of an expansion of the above legislation to include rifles and shotguns, as well as handguns.

      Additionally the NRA supported the regulation of the movement of handguns in interstate and foreign commerce by:

      · requiring a sworn statement, containing certain information, from the purchaser to the seller for the receipt of a handgun in interstate commerce;

      · providing for notification of local police of prospective sales;

      · requiring an additional 7-day waiting period by the seller after receipt of acknowledgement of notification to local police;

      · prescribing a minimum age of 21 for obtaining a license to sell firearms and increasing the license fees;

      · providing for written notification by manufacturer or dealer to carrier that a firearm is being shipped in interstate commerce, and;

      · increasing penalties for violation.

      All of these facts have been carefully and meticulously documented by Founder and Executive Director Angel Shamaya in an article entitled, NRA Supported the National Firearms Act of 1934. This excellent and thorough essay details the NRA’s long history of supporting gun control laws, as documented and admitted by the NRA itself in a March, 1968 issue of American Rifleman. Those of you who have the issue, may want to give it a read. Those of you who haven’t, can access the entire article on the website via the above link.

      Never mind that several of the above are stepping stones to registration of gun owners – which NRA has publicly, repeatedly admitted leads to confiscation. In fact, NRA has raised money to ‘fight against gun registration’ out of one side of their mouth while helping create gun and gun owner registration lists out of the other.

      Never mind the absurdity of placing a minimum age on a constitutional right – especially when teenagers can enter the military and use firearms in the defense of our country.

      Never mind the pure maliciousness of forcing Americans to wait a week to exercise their constitutional rights!

      The issue is: why does an organization which purports to be a major force in defending the right to keep and bear arms actually support infringements on said right?…..

  2. “…the central problem really has nothing to do with firearms at all — it’s about trust.” EXACTLY! We don’t trust you or the govt…with good cause. Look what Manchin and his fellow travelers have done to the country. We are bankrupt/insolvent. We are on the verge of martial law(will be needed WTSHTH economically/financially). Holder said the bankers will not be prosecuted. It might hurt the economy. We are in the process of lighting up the middle east. What’s not to trust? Remember, this isn’t about gun control. It’s about people control.

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