Peace Through Weakness–Vermont Governor Signs Gun Control Law Endangering Lives of His Constituents

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Last week, Vermont Governor Phil Scott hurriedly signed the state’s first gun control laws in many decades.  He did this in violation of his repeated campaign promise that he would not support additional gun regulations.  One of the newly-passed gun-control laws limits rifle-magazines to 10 rounds of ammunition and handgun magazines to 15 rounds of ammunition.

Except for remaining in-state inventories, these so-called “high capacity” magazines, will no longer be available to Vermonters, effective immediately.  Ordinary Vermonters will no longer be able to import these magazines from neighboring New Hampshire, where such magazines are perfectly legal.  How Vermont will enforce this law to prevent a homicidal madman from bringing thirty round magazines into Vermont to do his worst, is not even questioned, but that is exactly who this feel-good law is supposed to deter.  Like most gun-control laws, this law will only affect the law-abiding.  Still, the politicians will pat themselves on their backs and imagine they “did something”.

And they have done something. They’ve limited the rights of Vermonters and they’ve endangered the innocent and the law-abiding.  All to no effect.  This, of course, is what is called in psychology; “magical thinking.”  Violent criminals and homicidal lunatics will still be out there, waiting to prey on the innocent — undeterred by this unenforceable law.  After all, the Parkland school massacre was committed with ten round magazines.

Thanks to Governor Scott, Vermonters will now be denied the same tools that police and government officials see as ordinary and necessary to protect themselves. 

It is standard issue gear for American police to carry AR-15s along with multiple 30-round magazines in their cruisers.  These 30 round magazines that Vermont has now banned, are the same standard magazines that are issued to both police and various federal government agencies.  Since we, the citizens, are usually the first people to encounter a criminal predator (before the police are ever called), don’t ordinary individuals need as much firepower as the police?  Isn’t your life worth as much protection?  Remember, we will likely encounter the criminal first, contact the police, and then the police will eventually show up.  Sometimes to do nothing more than to draw a chalk outline around an unfortunate victim.

The reality is that Vermont has decided that the police get the benefit of being protected by high-capacity magazines while ordinary Vermonters, including family members of the police, are denied the right and ability to protect themselves from the same criminal predators walking the same streets that the police patrol.  Do ordinary Vermonters face different criminal predators than the police? Will Governor Scott and the legislature promise Vermonters kinder and gentler criminals and madmen to go with their reduced capacity magazine law?

Although there is an exception in the law that grandfathers in existing magazines, the reality is that the Governor and the Vermont legislature have decided that only the police should be allowed the benefit of having ‘high-capacity’ magazines to protect themselves.  The peasants, the people foolish enough to have believed Phil Scott’s campaign promises, not so much.

Vermont, which has never even required a permit for concealed carry, has now decided to follow Governor Cuomo of New York and climb onto the slippery slope of gun control with magazine limits. This, despite the fact that for years, Vermont has consistently been ranked near the bottom of states for gun homicides, with virtually no state gun control laws at all.  Yes, you read that correctly.

What lessons can we draw from the tragedies of Parkland, the Pulse nightclub, the Nice truck attack and the Bataclan Concert Hall attack in Paris?  The police will not always be there to protect you. They may arrest the criminals after the crime, but they cannot always be there to prevent it.

Never forget: You are your own first responder. Mostly, the police function merely as your backup. Maybe they’re minutes away, or maybe they’re hours away, like at the Pulse nightclub.  You can’t know.   Ask the relatives of the people who bled out at the Pulse nightclub while SWAT waited outside for three hours and then afterward was awarded medals for heroism.

The violent thugs against whom the police arm themselves rarely prey on well-armed police. This is why most mass shootings occur in “gun-free” zones.

One would be hard-pressed to find anyone who has ever been in a shootout saying they wished they had brought less ammunition. Criminal activity is often a group activity.  There are partners in crime, accomplices, aiders and abettors, and terrorist cells.  Columbine had two shooters. San Bernardino had two shooters.   September 11?  19 attackers.  And the list goes on.

Police carry extra loaded magazines on their duty belt for a reason. They lug around the additional weight because their lives depend on it.  You need a standard 30 round magazine for your rifle for the same reason your pistol needs a standard 15, or 17 round magazine. More ammunition is always better. Once you’re out of ammo, you’re out of the fight.

Anyone who insists that magazine capacity limits will deter a madman bent on committing mass murder is naïve, ignorant or else has an entirely different agenda.  The perpetrator in the Virginia Tech shooting used two semi-automatic pistols in his attacks – a .22 caliber and a 9mm. He also had as many as 19 magazines holding 10-15 rounds each.  The perpetrator in the Parkland shooting used only 10-round magazines in his rifle.  Proposals to limit magazine size to 10 rounds would have had likely had no impact at all on the lethality of these attacks.  Nor will they deter a determined killer like the perpetrator in Nice, France, who drove a 19-ton “assault” truck into a crowd killing 85 and injuring 400 innocents.

Finally, it’s interesting to see how these same magazines and the weapons they’re designed for, are described by our betters in Washington.  When the United States Department of Homeland Security buys rifles, ‘assault weapons’ magically morph into ‘personal defense weapons’, even though they add full-auto capability.  And if that isn’t magical enough for you, the dreaded ‘high capacity magazine’ of gun controller’s nightmares, now becomes the “standard” 20 and 30 round M16 magazine and Magpul 30 round PMAG.’  No mention of ‘ten round magazines’ or ‘high capacity magazines’ here at all.  Sorry, DHS and ICE just aren’t interested. Why is that?   Just the “standard” magazines for them, please, Homeland Security must be defending a different homeland than the one Vermonters live in.

The calculus of human nature applies to limiting magazine capacity.  If 30-round magazines are outlawed, only outlaws (and the government) will have 30-round magazines. Gun control measures restricting magazine size serve only to advantage criminals and put the law-abiding into greater jeopardy.

If Vermont and other state governments wish to deny Americans the right to own and use the formerly ‘standard’, but now ‘high-capacity’ magazines, then perhaps Vermont law enforcement including Governor Scott’s security detail, will lead the way and switch to ten round magazines.

Just to set the example for the rest of us.

Mark W. Smith is a New York Times bestselling author and attorney.

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