If only Colorado held its presidential primaries early, like Iowa and New Hampshire. Then we could tell the Democrat presidential candidates that gun-grabbing policies don’t work.
Every Democrat competing to run against Donald Trump is promising to reduce gun violence with feel-good strategies such as mandating "universal background checks" and banning “weapons of war.” While the details vary slightly, the broad objectives are the same: every single candidate supports universal background checks, and the field is evenly split between those who want to ban “assault weapons” outright and those who support a “buyback” program.
“Universal background checks” is the most insidious concept, deriving most of its support from widespread ignorance fostered by misleading rhetoric from its proponents.
Comprehensive background checks on all new gun purchases have already been mandatory under federal law for over 25 years. When the Democrats use the term “universal background checks” in 2019, they’re counting on people not knowing that. In reality, they’re using the term to mean transforming firearms into a special category of property that cannot be sold, traded, or gifted — even between family members — without a trip to a gun store for a new background check.
“Assault weapon” is another term that has had its meaning stretched and altered dramatically since it was coined by anti-gun groups in the 1980s. The designation has no technical definition, making it a convenient vehicle for politicians wishing to create a subset of weapons subject to special regulation, mostly based on cosmetic features.
Another favorite bugbear for gun control enthusiasts is “large-capacity magazines,” a nebulous term that can mean whatever the speaker wants it to mean. Most advocates have their sights on limiting magazines to no more than 10 rounds, but former Vice President Joe Biden went so far as to endorse a ban on all “magazines that can hold multiple bullets in them” — which, of course, would be all magazines. Magazine capacity has never been shown to play a major role in gun death rates, however, so all the Democrats would really accomplish with such a rule is to make life more difficult for law-abiding gun owners.
“Universal” background checks, “assault weapons” bans, and restrictions on “large-capacity” magazines all seem reasonable at first glance, but Coloradans know better. Colorado — once a solidly pro-gun state — passed both of these proposals into law in 2013. We now have five years of data on the effects, and the verdict is clear: they don’t work.
The rate of violent crime, including gun murders, has gone up, not down. Last year, the fourth consecutive year that the homicide rate has increased, Denver suffered the highest number of homicides since 2004. This year is on track to be even worse, and the same troubling trend is evident across the state. Violent crime rose statewide in 2018 for the fifth straight year, with murder rates hovering near 15-year highs.
This spike in violent crimes corresponds neatly with Colorado’s passage of universal background checks and magazine restrictions. This doesn’t necessarily mean that gun control caused the rise in crime directly, but the data suggest that any politician promising to dramatically reduce violence with such measures is either lying or suffering from a severe case of wishful thinking.
Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s anti-gun plan, which features a 50 percent tax on ammunition, is arguably the most radical of all the gun control proposals pitched by the 2020 Democratic candidates. What really distinguishes Warren, though, is her spectacularly unrealistic claim that her plan would reduce gun deaths by 80 percent.
How could she possibly make that kind of promise in the face of Colorado’s results, which are so obviously catastrophic?
Colorado’s experience proves that the Democrats’ gun control proposals would only inconvenience legal gun owners, while doing nothing to stop violent crime. Presidential candidates who promise massive crime reductions from implementing such policies nationwide should spend more time in Colorado. We’d set them straight.
Tom Tancredo represented Colorado's 6th Congressional District from 1999 to 2009.