The Manhattan Gun Control Lobby

Why the metropolitan island is out of step with America.

In Colorado, gun-permit applications spiked 44 percent in the wake of last Friday’s shooting at an Aurora cineplex. The public response to multiple victim public shootings isn’t gun control. It is more guns.

Colorado’s reaction to the Dark Knight Rises tragedy confuses Gothamites, who have been drawing the opposite lesson from the shooting that claimed twelve lives. Mayor Michael Bloomberg told CNN’s Piers Morgan, “I don’t understand why police officers across this country don’t stand up collectively and say, ‘We’re going to go on strike. We’re not going to protect you unless you, the public, through your legislature, do what’s required to keep us safe.’” Morgan, a Brit who broadcasts out of the Big Apple, had days earlier treated More Guns, Less Crime author John Lott the way Robert Blake had recently treated the host: rudely. Morgan has spent the week lecturing a country where guns outnumber adults about the idiocy of private gun ownership. Last month, Morgan’s ratings reached a primetime low for CNN’s history.

There is the parochialism of cosmopolitans at work here, in which New Yorkers mistake the opinions prevailing among their neighbors as prevailing opinion. But when Manhattanites venture from their island, they discover the presence of woods where people hunt and the absence of a policeman on every corner where most people live. People so drenched in their gunless milieu can’t understand why anyone would want or need a firearm.

The New York Times counseled in an editorial, “The most appropriate response now to the shootings early Friday in Aurora, Colo., is also the simplest: sympathy for the victims, for the injured and for their families.” The editors then discarded their own advice by sermonizing against an “out-of-control gun market” and “too readily available” semi-automatic rifles. The bodies hadn’t even been cleared from the theater and the Times had already politicized the tragedy.

The newspaper of record has over the last week released a torrent of op-eds, editorials, blog posts, and news articles advocating government restrictions on private gun ownership. In a news article this week, the Times cited an “extensive review of the scholarly literature by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center” that maintains that the proliferation of guns proliferates murder.  “There is unanimous evidence that higher homicide rates lead to people getting more guns,” countered Florida State’s Gary Kleck. This is precisely what happened in Colorado.

The paper featured a debate between gun control supporter David Brooks and gun control supporter Gail Collins. “There are some parts of the gun control debate that are definitely open to, um, debate,” Collins conceded. “There are parts that aren’t, like the need to ban assault weapons.” Alas, as Nicolas Kristof pointed out Thursday in the Times, 53 percent of Americans oppose an assault-weapons ban, a position that Collins doesn’t even regard as worthy of discussion. And Brooks offered an “amen” to Collins’ intolerance, adding: “I’d support a ban on assault weapons. I’d support all the background checks you can imagine. I’d support a national registry.” Collins concluded by affirming “the importance of a civil debate.” The Times and its deferential debaters don’t seem grasp that allowing people who disagree into the discussion is a prerequisite of “civil debate.”

In nearly a decade of South-of-the-border slaughter, the New York Times has never responded to the carnage by questioning Mexican gun-control laws. Instead, it regularly blames gun violence in Mexico on the lack of gun control in America. And last Friday’s Aurora, Colorado movie-house shooting has prompted the newspaper of record to solicit Mexico’s opinion of America’s largely permissive gun laws. It turns out that the inhabitants of one of the most violent places on the planet think that the U.S. has a gun problem. The piece contrasts the more 50,000 gun dealers in the United States to the one legal gun shop in all of Mexico. Mexico City correspondent Damien Cave explains, “Mexicans and Americans share many things—a love for pickup trucks, beef, national flags, and family—but when it comes to guns, the two countries are feuding neighbors.”

By Cave’s criteria, Mexico shares more with America than does Manhattan. More than eight million people squeeze into New York City. But the city permits gun ownership to only about 37,000 of those residents, about half of whom are former law enforcement officers or current security guards. Being rich, famous, and residing away from urban violence strangely helps in obtaining a firearms license from the city. Licensed gun owners include Howard Stern, Robert De Niro, Donald Trump, Edgar Bronfman Sr., and Tommy Mottola.

America is not like Manhattan. New York City has about 120 police officers per square mile. In the rest of the United States, there is about a law enforcement officer—using the loosest definition possible—every five square miles. Put another way, there is almost always a policeman within shouting distance of danger in New York City. Elsewhere in America, it helps to have a gun when danger encroaches.

It’s harder to get a gun in New York City than it is in the nation that surrounds. It’s also easier to get murdered in New York City than it is in the nation that surrounds. There are plenty of reasons beyond the gun laws why this is so. The tiny island of Manhattan, of course, differs in so many ways from the massive country encompassing it. It would be nice if Mayor Bloomberg and the editors of his city’s leading newspaper reminded themselves of this when trying to impose their city’s laws upon their countrymen.

Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.