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Shawn Vestal: The only good laws are popular laws

Sat., March 16, 2013, midnight

If there’s anyone who understands the limits of gun control – who really gets how ineffective any and all gun laws are – it’s Rep. Matt Shea.

Gun laws are totally ineffective because only law-abiding people follow them, says Shea, the Republican state lawmaker from Spokane Valley. Only fools believe that laws of any kind can do any good, because criminals don’t follow laws.

“If laws stopped crime,” Shea wrote in a recent “Freedom Agenda Update,” “we wouldn’t have any crime!”


You know how Shea knows this, right? How he’s come to this deep, firsthand knowledge on who does and does not follow the gun laws? We don’t need to go into all that loaded-gun-in-the-glove-box laundry, probably, but let’s just say he’s an authority on the subject. He has standing. He knows firsthand that non-law-abiding people do not abide by gun laws.

Rather than feeling sheepish or foolish or hypocritical about this, Shea remains an energized opponent of any sane, minor effort to reduce gun violence, based mostly on his uncanny certainty that laws are utterly, absolutely ineffective.

Not only are gun laws ineffective, but so are laws that would allow the police to keep track of the people who are convicted of breaking those ineffective gun laws. This week, Shea voted against a bill that would create a private law enforcement registry of gun felons – you know, bad guys with guns – in an effort to track repeat offenders. The law would require gun felons to register, and the State Patrol to keep a central database of bad guys with guns.

To many, this seems like a no-brainer. But helping cops is not what the freedom agenda is all about.

The bill passed the House with a huge majority. Eighty-five representatives of both parties voted for it. Ten Republicans voted against. Shea voted nay, as did fellow Spokane Valley Republican Larry Crouse.

What’s the objection, exactly? Shea and Crouse didn’t avail themselves of the opportunity to explain. But I’m guessing it has something to do with defending ourselves against the impending Holocaust.

Shea views any kind of gun regulation as unconstitutional. He refers to them as “people-control schemes,” and people-control schemes – just like legislation passed by elected representatives of voting citizens – never work.

One of the insidious people-control schemes that Shea has bravely battled is the idea of universal background checks. This dangerous idea would mean that anyone who purchased a firearm would be required to pass a criminal background check. As is already required if you purchase from a dealer. Broadening background checks to include gun shows and private sales – which are now a handy black market where savvy non-law-abiding types might look to buy a gun – is an idea that is massively popular with the public.

A recent Elway Poll found 79 percent of Washingtonians support universal background checks. Other polls show similar majorities nationwide.

And yet, a proposal in the House to create universal background checks failed to gain even simple majority support. Why? Here’s a hint: A Republican lawmaker who hinted she might support it drew a hasty attack from the NRA – and she quickly backed down.

Shea needed no corralling. He is not a stray sheep – he’s in the damn pen. He knows that these background checks are a terrible idea. Part of an “all-out assault” on your constitutional right not to endure a background check.

Here’s more of Shea’s logic:

“We all want our kids to be safe in schools. We all want to be safe in our communities. But if an armed perpetrator intent on evil has reached the point where he/she is pointing a gun at someone and about to pull the trigger, it’s safe to assume that person has broken a number of laws already. Will another law stop that person? Not likely!”

Strange that someone who so clearly sees the futility of laws would become a lawyer and lawmaker. But Shea’s database vote is extreme even in that context. He’s willing to deny police a useful tool in tracking people convicted of gun crimes. It’s a strange corollary to his belief – his firsthand experience – that criminals don’t follow laws.

And when they don’t, we shouldn’t pay any attention.

Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or Follow him on Twitter at @vestal13.

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