Monday, July 15, 2013

Malloy, Gun Manufacturers And The Public Good

Guns are highly regulated in Connecticut, which means that gun manufacturers must satisfy two kinds of clients: those who buy guns and state regulators.

Before Connecticut passed its latest gun regulations, it was possible for gun manufacturers in the state to submit to the State Police finished prototypes for products so that the manufacturer could receive a nod of consent before the company invested money in producing the product.

The arrangement was a happy one for manufacturers, the General Assembly and Connecticut’s governors. Governors and state legislators charged with protecting the public – presumably from criminals rather than law abiding owners of guns -- were given a veto over products before they appeared in the marketplace; manufacturers were assured before production that their product either was or was not legally compliant; and because many regulations and laws are necessarily ambiguous and opened to reasonable interpretation, lawyers with tiger’s teeth, ever on the prowl for deep pocket industrialists who run afoul of the law, were kept at bay. Everyone was happy with the arrangement.

A worm has now crept into Eden’s apple.

“I was told to get a lawyer, figure it out and if I’m wrong I’m going to have to deal with it,” Stag Arms owner and President Mark Malkowski confided to a reporter. “It’s my responsibility to interpret…I was told we were no longer allowed to bring prototypes in.”

Over at the Hartford Courant, a left of center paper, business reporter Dan Haar –not a member in good standing, one supposes, of the local branch of the Tea Party movement – lodged a reasonable objection:

“That means Stag, and any other manufacturer seeking to design a rifle within the rules, and any retailer who offers that product in Connecticut, must take a risk when it comes to figuring out a regulation — a high risk, since selling assault weapons could be viewed as a crime.

“It seems reasonable to ask a law enforcement agency to tell citizens what is and is not legal. We expect that of town building departments, tax authorities and countless other local, state and federal offices.”

Mr. Haar wonders whether the new policy might have drifted down to the state police  from the Malloy administration “since it’s no secret that Malloy and many legislators are in a running tiff with the gunmakers, and some resented Stag’s efforts to design a new AR-15,” so that the new design might conform to new legislative strictures.

The inevitable consequence of the new procedure will be to drive cost conscious gun manufacturers in Connecticut, already skittish and eyeing exit signs, away from Connecticut into the arms of such business poachers as Texas Governor Rick Perry. One manufacturer, PTR, already has pulled up roots and moved to South Carolina.

Now then, the operative rule in any politics worthy of the name is that things happen in a certain way because politicians WANT things to happen in a certain way. In states like Connecticut in which a single party is dominant and political resistance is not a practical option, the path to political success is made straight by the use of power rather than persuasion. In such a regime, every effective bar to political force – the resistance of an opposing party, the opposition of a critical media, constitutional prescriptions, the consent of the governed, the opposition of an informed and aroused citizenry -- is dangerously lowered to facilitate the refashioning of the state in the mode of a permanent political oligarchy based on ideological presumptions rather than class or wealth. Such political reinventions are rolling stones that eventually flatten what Edmond Burke called in his “Reflections on the French Revolution” the indispensable platoons of democracy:

“To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind. The interest of that portion of social arrangement is a trust in the hands of all those who compose it; and as none but bad men would justify it in abuse, none but traitors would barter it away for their own personal advantage.”

Under such a reinvented system, ambitious and arrogant ideological oligarchs are permitted a free hand to reshape states according to their own ideological preferences. The mark of the true ideologue is his disposition to reinvent the multifaceted social wheel, the intricate and self-reinforcing substructures of a society that promotes prosperity and democracy.

At some point, citizens of Connecticut may find it necessary to reject a paternalistic government that subtly subverts such platoons of democracy as a viable two party system, constitutional prescriptions that advance the liberties of the governed rather than the liberties of politicians, independent legislatures and judicial departments, a tripartite system of governance in which the centralization of all governing authority is tempered by a necessary deference of government to a rule that maximizes individual liberties, free churches, strong family units, the upward mobility of an economic system made possible by the creative choices of a moderately and fairly regulated free enterprise system.

If “government is force” – as George Washington said – it must be used sparingly to support the public good, which often is inversely related to the “good of politicians” disposed to use force for the advancement of their own narrow political ambitions.
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