Freedomnomics

Article published Thursday, September 29, 2016, at Minneapolis Star Tribune.

In Second District race, a real difference in how to battle terror

By John R. Lott, Jr.

St. Cloud is still reeling from the stabbing of nine people on Sept. 17. The terrorist yelled “Allahu akbar!” as he attacked shoppers at the Crossroads Center mall.

A bombing in New York City left 29 people wounded. The Cascade Mall in Burlington, Wash., was next, with five people shot to death.

While investigations are still ongoing, all of the attacks are likely to be similarly-motivated and perpetrated by Muslim immigrants.

Similar deadly attacks have included the Boston Marathon bombings, the Chattanooga and Little Rock military recruiting office attacks, San Bernardino, and earlier this year the Orlando nightclub shooting.

Minnesota’s Second District congressional race between Republican Jason Lewis and Democrat Angie Craig couldn’t present more different views on the threat of terrorism. Last December, Lewis noted: “More gun controls won’t stop domestic terror; more immigration controls and border security will. Time to get serious.” On her campaign website, Craig called her opponent’s statement “absolute lunacy,” and argued that: “To conflate the issues of domestic mass shootings and immigration is either the worst, most cynical, kind of politics or just plain ignorant.”

But in an appearance on WCCO-TV the day after the Crossroads Center bloodshed, Craig called for more funding for customs and border protection. Craig also said she wants more money to combat the “extremism” in the Somali community. And without any evidence, she claimed that Lewis was the candidate who wanted to cut such funding.

Until recently, Craig’s solution to terrorism has been to only push more gun control — first on her list has been background checks on private transfers of guns. But it would be nice if she could point to a single mass shooting that would have been stopped if such a federal law had been in place.

Unlike Lewis, Craig pushes new laws while completely ignoring the matter of fixing the current background-check system mess. More than 2.4 million people have been denied gun purchases because of checks, but about 99 percent of those people are actually law-abiding citizens who happen to have similar names to the individuals we actually want to stop. More than 99 percent of the denials are mistakes!

These mistakes disproportionately disarm blacks and Hispanics. And there is no reason for this government-imposed racial discrimination. Private companies hardly have a 99 percent error rate when performing criminal background checks.

Gun buyers and sellers are stuck with all of the fees for background checks on private transfers. In New York City and Washington, D.C., these fees are at least $125. In Washington state and Oregon, the costs of transferring a gun are about $60 and $55, respectively. Such fees might not bother Craig, but these fees can make a difference for Americans who face the greatest risks of crime. Namely, poor blacks who live in high-crime urban areas.

Yet, in Craig’s long list of gun-control proposals, she never mentions something that is true in virtually all these mass public shootings: killers keep targeting gun-free zones. More than 98 percent of the mass public shootings since 1950 have occurred where citizens haven’t been able to defend themselves.

Just look at the explicit statements made by recent shooters. This spring, a young ISIS sympathizer planned a shooting at one of the largest churches in Detroit. An FBI wire recorded him explaining why he had targeted the church: “It’s easy, and a lot of people go there. Plus people are not allowed to carry guns in church. Plus it would make the news.” Fortunately, that ISIS sympathizer ended up being only a would-be shooter. But, during the last couple of years, shooters have made similar statements after attacking a church in Charleston, S.C., a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., and a sorority house in Santa Barbara.

It ought to be common sense — even the most ardent gun-control advocates would never put “Gun-Free Zone” signs on their homes.

Angie Craig may never understand how gun-control laws disarm the most vulnerable citizens. But candidates who push laws to combat terrorism should be able to point to at least one attack that their proposal would have stopped. On immigration, Jason Lewis is the only candidate who has been consistently tough.

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