Conrad Black: A Practical Solution to Reducing the Shocking Rate of Gun-Related Crime in US

Conrad Black: A Practical Solution to Reducing the Shocking Rate of Gun-Related Crime in US
A customer shops for ammunition at Lawful Defense in Gainesville, Fla., on April 19, 2023. (Nanette Holt/The Epoch Times)
Conrad Black
The New York Times ran an extensive and well-researched article by Ben Dooley on Nov. 12, starting on the front page and continuing through three inside pages, on the subject of labelled ammunition mainly supplied to the U.S. Defence Department from a large facility at Lake City, Missouri, but which has also turned up as the ammunition used by the killers in a number of notorious mass murders.

It is an admirably factual and thorough piece of reportage, and the principal conclusion that it incites is that it is irresponsible of the Defence Department to allow the private contractor, Olin-Winchester in this case, to produce also for the private sector and that doing so makes the Defence Department, which has a priority call on all production from the plant, unintentionally complicit in criminal use of firearms.

There is one problem with Mr. Dooley’s article, however. In reaching his conclusion, he is wide of the mark and misses the real target, though he accidentally scores a near miss. It is possible to identify the source of all ammunition in the way that the Lake City ammunition is identified with the letters LC on the bottom of the bullet casing, and much more explicitly. A company with which I have a modest association that is motivated more by a desire to reduce gun-related crimes than personal profit, has a patented method of lasering onto ammunition precise information about where that ammunition was purchased. If the ammunition dealer who sold the ammunition were to record the name and address of each buyer, a matter of 15 seconds, all such ammunition could be traced to the buyer.

Of course, some ammunition is stolen, some is smuggled into the country, and it is possible, though time-consuming, to blur the identification cartridge by cartridge. But if all ammunition sold to the public were required to be identified and the identity of each buyer recorded and connected to the markings on the ammunition sold, it would undoubtedly be possible to trace to the culprit a great many gun-related crimes that now go unsolved. That is not proof of the identity of the shooter, but it is a good start. Mr. Dooley’s proposal of restricting ammunition sales to the private sector is not the solution, as it would merely be replaced by ammunition produced by other suppliers.

The obviousness of this fact invites the inference that the way to reduce gun-related crime embraced by Mr. Dooley and others is simply to strangle the supply of ammunition other than to military and police and other law enforcement customers. This is just gun confiscation by another name and it won’t fly politically. Congressman Sam Graves of Missouri, who represents the district where the Lake City factory is located, has already rounded up a number of fellow congressmen and signalled their objection to any such step as a violation of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. The more strenuous supporters of that right have long suspected that a chronic restriction of ammunition sales would be the fallback position of that large faction of Americans who would really like to seize privately owned firearms.

Because I came across the technique I mentioned of lasering identification onto ammunition and saw that if that were made compulsory (at a cost of only one cent per bullet), and ammunition dealers were required to record sales connecting the ammunition to the name and address of the buyer—a trivial addition to the sales process—great progress could be made in gun-related criminal convictions and deterrence, without ruffling the sensibilities of gun owners. No significant element of the so-called gun lobby is blasé about criminal misuse of guns and all of the major organizations, certainly including the National Rifle Association, constantly emphasize gun safety and the requirement to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

Like a great many other people, I’ve tried to think of practical solutions to a rate of gun-related crime that is shocking and makes the United States an unenviable outlier among advanced Western countries, which generally have only about one-tenth of the frequency per capita of gun offences and generally not more than a quarter of America’s incarcerated people per capita. Of course, these are matters that involve a constitutional right that is eminently justifiable: that honest adult citizens have a right to own a gun. It also involves historic and sociological factors unique to the United States among advanced countries, some of them having to do with the legacy of slavery. And unlike other more-or-less comparable countries, such as Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom, America owes its existence to citizens taking down from their walls their own firearms and forming a citizens’ army that ultimately emancipated the country (with the conspicuous help of the King of France).

Because of my belief that this is the only practical method of reducing gun-related crime, increasing convictions for gun-related crimes, and avoiding a trespass on the constitutionally guaranteed rights of legitimate gun owners, I have taken it upon myself to mention this policy option to a number of prominent people in the American police community. They include some familiar names but it would be an indiscretion to mention their names as they had every right to believe that our exchanges were private. (For the military and police, this is also a vital method of maintaining ammunition inventories, and sells itself to them for administrative efficiency alone.)

I would only say that I have been disappointed by the sluggish inaccessibility of these people to anything other than an endless continuation of the impasse between gun owners—who’ve been given ample reason to be suspicious of almost anything that could be described as gun reform—and those who regard guns and gun ownership as primitive and dangerous.

On any mention of it, hackles rise that this will be an unbearable burden to the ammunition vendors and require an unjust level of vigilance by the ammunition owners in reporting thefts of their ammunition. These are all just reflexive pretexts, encrustations of skepticism built up by decades of the struggle between gun owners and aspiring gun confiscators. All indications are that the public realizes that the possession of firearms by law-abiding people is a deterrent, and if it were possible to confiscate those firearms (which it is not constitutionally), it would merely leave the great law-abiding majority of Americans completely at the mercy of a heavily armed criminal class.

I will contact Congressman Graves and continue my low-voltage efforts on this subject since it obviously possesses practically no downside and a considerable upside. In the gun debate in the United States, anything that can be so described should be explored. Another 50 years of rancorous debate between armed American citizens and those who would disarm them, will just aggravate public policy frustration for everyone, without reducing a violent crime rate that is one of the scandals of contemporary life in advanced societies.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Conrad Black has been one of Canada’s most prominent financiers for 40 years and was one of the leading newspaper publishers in the world. He’s the author of authoritative biographies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, and, most recently, “Donald J. Trump: A President Like No Other,” which has been republished in updated form. Follow Conrad Black with Bill Bennett and Victor Davis Hanson on their podcast Scholars and Sense.