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Geographical Gun Control Research Project:

David Bernstein recently noted Illinois State Senator Barack Obama's 1999 proposal for a federal law against licensed firearms dealers operating within five miles of a school or park. Every town I've ever visisted which has more than a few dozen inhabitants has either a school or a park. Hypothesizing that the ban would apply to city parks (e.g., Central Park in New York City) but not to National Parks, pick a geographical region, and describe where a licensed firearms dealer could operate. Or pick a geographic point (e.g, Houston)and identify how far a peson would have to drive in order to get to the closest point where a gun store could legally be located. Extra credit for illustrative maps.

Jonathan Eisenman:
It's not like a gun store is--or needs to be--a corner supermarket. "Honey, I'm going to the store, need a 9 mm with the milk?"
2.23.2008 1:42am
Avatar (mail):
Yeah, but putting the gun stores way out in the country where there isn't any police protection, is that such a good idea?

Not to mention all those poor inner-city folk who don't have cars. Are we going to deny them the right to bear arms? ;p
2.23.2008 1:55am
Malvolio:
No, but there is certainly no place within 30 miles of my house that is more than 5 miles from a school or park and, huh, can't buy guns mail-order any more. Quite a burden on a Constitutional right, if you ask me.
2.23.2008 1:59am
Thoughtful (mail):
What is the rationale for "5 miles" from school or park, anyway? I'm not familiar with any guns that can shoot a bullet 5 miles.

Drawing circles with 5 mile radii from each and every school or park shows quickly that it becomes essentially impossible for a gun dealer to comply with the law. Is this a flaw in the law, legislators not taking the time to consider the consequences of choosing "5 miles" or is this considered the beauty of the plan, that no one objects to a 5 mile radius but would object to an outright ban, despite the fact they amount to the same thing in practice.
2.23.2008 2:45am
Jim at FSU (mail):
Well, simply take the gun free school zones act (struck down as unconstitutional and then passed a second time, go congress) and look at how its 1000 foot limit put entire cities off limits to firearm possession.

Now expand that from 1/5th a mile to 5 miles and you can easily see gun stores banned from entire states. All a county has to do is create a few strategically located parks or schools and suddenly there is a federally enforced ban on gun stores. If counties are small enough, you could probably ban gun stores in neighboring counties or states as well.

Looking at google earth, it looks like most of the northeast would be off limits to gun stores under such a rule. And a good portion of the sparsely populated west is filled with federal and state park land. Gun stores would become supremely rare under such a rule.
2.23.2008 2:55am
Jim at FSU (mail):
Wow, looks like Florida is off limits as well except maybe a few postage stamp sized areas in rural central Florida. The problem is that it isn't a matter of driving 5 miles to find a gun store, it's a matter of driving 5 miles and not finding another town with another school. And most of the time, when you finally do reach the edge of civilization, you find a federal or state park.

The only place to put a gun store would be next to large industrial or agricultural plot and pray that no one in the county govt tries to drive you out by opening a school or park 4 miles away. And the sick thing is that the local government can easily do this through eminent domain and there is no way to stop it.
2.23.2008 3:01am
Lysenko (mail):
Lafayette, Louisville, Longmont, Boulder, and Fort Collins (all CO) would all force their gun stores out of city limits entirely. Working my way through the Denver Metropolitan area now, but so far it looks like a 5 mile radius provides enough overlap to cover just about everywhere.
2.23.2008 4:23am
Ry Jones (mail) (www):
2.23.2008 5:25am
pmorem (mail):
Nice map, Ry.

I followed up and looked at some details. There's a park in North Bend. That effectively excludes almost all existing storefronts along the I-90 corridor. The rest of the county that isn't covered generally doesn't have county maintained roads.

Basically, if you can get there, you're within 5 miles of a school or park.

Somewhere I remember reading this as deliberate policy, that primary school children generally shouldn't have to travel more than 5 miles to a school. I searched but couldn't find the reference. Maybe it will ring a bell for someone else.
2.23.2008 6:18am
Samir Chopra (mail) (www):
Would gun dealers be doubly banned in the intersecting zones of two such circular zones? (increase multiplicative factor as needed).
2.23.2008 8:01am
Alan Gunn (mail):
There are good reasons for opposing lots of gun-control measures on the merits. Another good reason is the recurring sneakiness and dishonesty of some gun-control advocates. For instance, there's the DC law defining "machine gun" so broadly as to include lever-action rifles, or the proposed federal legislation outlawing "armor-piercing" bullets, which were then defined as all centerfire cartridges. The "assault weapons" ban, targeting guns on the basis of cosmetic features and on their manufacturers' past political positions (AR-15 bad, Ruger mini-14 good) also comes to mind. Even if I were neutral on the merits, I think I'd oppose measures like these simply because of the dishonesty they reflect.
2.23.2008 8:17am
Greg Lyons (mail):
While they're at it, and using the same logic about "public harm", shouldn't they then consider applying the same constraints on liquor stores/bars/pubs/restaurants, etc.? Alcohol is a prefectly legal commodity that is a significant contributing factor in a great deal of death, pain, suffering and heartache. I have little doubt that it will do an equal amount of good. Simply look back at all of the social benefits we derived from the ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment.
2.23.2008 8:57am
33yearprof:
Minneapolis has a 1000 foot ordinance. There is no location, not one, in the city where a legitimate gun store can be located. The last one was "zoned-out" last year. The same is true in St. Paul. This has, of course, no effect on the bad guys who buy their guns (all hours of the day or night, with bullets, if desired) from their drug sources. The illegal markets for drugs and guns are completely integrated.
2.23.2008 10:00am
wuzzagrunt (mail):
Maybe gun shop proprietors could be permitted to set up shop on all the off shore oil rigs that have been (and will be) shut down.
2.23.2008 11:41am
Houston Lawyer:
Let's just apply these five mile exclusion zones to abortion clinics. Surely those shouldn't be located near schools or parks since their primary purpose is the killing of innocent human life.
2.23.2008 12:14pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I saw a map of Tucson, merely illustrating the standard for gun free school zones, 1000 ft or whatever. A quarter to a third of the city was within those, and of course every major road was repeatedly interdicted. If extended to five miles and parks are added, I'm sure the entire city is off-limits.
2.23.2008 12:15pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
I'd like to know how Obama came up with "5 miles." Did he not realize that this would put most populated places off limits? If he didn't then he was careless. If he did then he was sneaky. Either way this does not speak well of him.

Obama is the child of Stanley (yes Stanley) Ann Dunham a 1960's hippie girl. A fairly detailed article on her, her values and various husbands appeared in this Chicago Tribune article. Makes for interesting reading on the family of the man who would be president.
2.23.2008 12:54pm
Zyzzogeton:
Why worry about a human being's right to self-defense? The collective wants all weapons in the hands of the State, as the collective has determined that will maximize safety and security, and is the best way to prevent governmental tyranny.

:P
2.23.2008 1:23pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
(yes Stanley)

I guess that means that not only was he educated in a Madrassa, and as a Mulatto he's a commie, but he's also a second-generation transgendered individual.
2.23.2008 1:29pm
brian (mail) (www):
Of course, since this won't do anything, it will be extended to prohibit the ownership of firearms within 5 miles of a school or park. Which pretty much gets the gun ban that the left has always wanted. And the bonus is "it's for the children".
2.23.2008 1:30pm
glangston (mail):
Isn't this styled after adult bookstore zoning? And the implication that firearms are inherently pornographic. Soon the food nazis will zone fast food into the same limits, which actually makes more sense. Kids aren't buying guns at gun stores, nor adult materials but they are visiting BK and they probably aren't making good choices.
2.23.2008 2:16pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
Jim @ FSU -

I believe that the federal ban on guns within 1000 feet of a school (school zone or campus/property?) does not cover guns on private property. Lots of people live next to schools; while the gun ban crowd might like to play that game, It's not going anywhere.

Banning gun stores (or liquor stores) in close (?) proximity to schools is an exercise of the zoning bylaws which is apparently legal.

To my knowledge, zoning bylaws cannot restrict what sort of personal property you might own, although they may affect how you use it or display it on your property if that affects other people (no shooting in your back yard, no pickup trucks parked in the front driveway, etc.)

In MA, the law prohibits discharge of a firearm within 500 feet of an occupied dwelling without the owner's permission. This is aimed mainly at hunting in densely populated areas, but would also affect target shooting in your back yard unless your affected neighbors gave you (written) permission.

All the above having been said, what's the problem with gun stores near schools? Under federal law, nobody under 21 can buy a gun; in many states the gun dealer is not allowed to even let someone under 21 handle (handling is defined as "possession") a gun unless accompanied by parent or guardian. If the squishy liberal types - mostly atheists - think that the very sight of a gun or gun store is going to turn kids into homicidal maniacs, then they are definitely believers - in witchcraft, which is the only way to explain their fears.
2.23.2008 2:19pm
Ben P (mail):

Banning gun stores (or liquor stores) in close (?) proximity to schools is an exercise of the zoning bylaws which is apparently legal.


barring of course, the difference between federal law and state/local law.

If a city wants to ban liquor stores from being within 1000 feet of schools, I would find that dumb, but probably legal. (Many cities and or counties in the south go even further and ban the sale of alcohol altogether.)


If the federal government wanted to do the same thing, There would certainly be doubts about its propriety, and quite possibly about its constitutionality. (Extending Lopez)


I think such legislation would be a terrible idea, but I also think it's very unlikely to happen. It would face massive resistance in congress and probably several constitutional challenges.

Further, I'm not even sure he would propose such a thing. The post by Bernstein quotes the Chicago Defender, which apparently somehow suggests that Obama proposed "federal legislation" while he was a state senator? Or was it in the course of his unsuccessful primary bid for the House of Representatives in 2000? (where he challenged a popular democratic incumbent in the primary and was defeated)Or is this some randomly suggested theoretical plan at the time?


Either way, while many people are obviously willing to take this as if he had proposed it yesterday, this seems to have pretty low value as far as indications of what he would do as president.
2.23.2008 3:35pm
pete (mail) (www):

nobody under 21 can buy a gun


Nobdy under 21 can buy a handgun. 18 year olds can buy long guns.
2.23.2008 4:33pm
VincentPaul (mail):
Just so you know: In Illinois (since 1968) no resident can legally buy any gun or ammo without possessing an FOID card regardless of any federal gun legislation (also, even a federal treasury license will not allow an Illinois resident possessing an FOID card to possess a machine gun).
2.23.2008 4:48pm
FantasiaWHT:
The Wisconsin Supreme Court considered a constitutional challenge to a violent crime enhancer with a "within 1,000 feet of a school" radius. I interned for one of the justices and wrote a bench memo on that case, but I sadly can't say which way it came out. It should be published within the next few months, though.

Here's the court of appeals decision:

2.23.2008 5:59pm
FantasiaWHT:
Ok, I have no idea why the link won't show up, but the citation is:

State v. Quintana, 2007 WI App 29.
2.23.2008 6:05pm
Erick:
Just look at the problem with those sex offenders in Miami. Their restriction was only that they not live within 2500 feet of a school, and they were forced to live under a bridge.
2.23.2008 6:11pm
zippypinhead:
Holy cow! A 5-mile prohibition would be an incredibly effective way of stopping "rogue" gun shops from selling to straw purchasers and gun-runners -- simply by eliminating 90% of the retail firearms industry! Brilliant! Call the Brady Campaign and Mayor Bloomberg! [it's called "sarcasm" boys and girls]

Just did some quick playing around with school and park location maps in Northern Virginia -- part of a reasonably gun-friendly state that isn't overly densely populated when you get 50 or so miles outside D.C. and 20 miles outside a few mid-sized cities (Richmond, Norfolk, Roanoke).

Especially if you include National Parks, National Forests and Federal Military Reservations in the 5-mile category (a reasonable assumption for such legislation introduced by President Obama), there's literally no place for a gun store within about 150 airline miles of Fairfax, VA. Except perhaps IN a National Park, Forest or military base. Or in West Virginia -- oops, guess that won't work for Virginia residents, since nonresidents of a state can't purchase handguns over the counter per current Federal law. Although that would be the first good reason I've heard for undoing the 1863 secession of the northwestern third of Virginia during the Late Great Unpleasantness Between The States...

I hope someone publicly challenges Obama to either repudiate or affirm various of his specific past gun control proposals, notwithstanding his alleged acceptance of an individual right to keep and bear (but not transfer?) arms. Should be a very interesting and probably slippery answer.
2.23.2008 6:32pm
zippypinhead:
In fact, I'm also pretty sure (without actually doing all the busy work necessary to find and string all the maps together) this 5-mile proposal would eliminate the retail firearms industry from the entire Northeast Corridor -- running at least from southern New Hampshire to south of Richmond, Virginia (and if you want to keep going a bit more narrowly down the I-95 corridor, quite possibly all the way to Florida).

Again, Brilliant! <:~(
2.23.2008 6:44pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
How many people who really care about the Second Amendment were going to vote for Obama anyways?
2.23.2008 8:11pm
DougA (mail):
"No, but there is certainly no place within 30 miles of my house that is more than 5 miles from a school or park and, huh, can't buy guns mail-order any more. Quite a burden on a Constitutional right, if you ask me."

The mail-order ban isn't a big or bad thing. People order guns all the time from out of state and in-state and have it shipped to them. The mail-order ban only means that it has to be shipped to a FFL who then insures that you meet the requirements to purchase. The FFL that I use is a police officer that operates out of his home. Obama's proposal is that all FFLs must operate from a store front outside of the five mile limit. Also increasing the fee for a FFL.

What a surprise that Obama might be pro gun control.
2.23.2008 8:54pm
zippypinhead:

DougA wrote:
"The mail-order ban only means that it has to be shipped to a FFL who then insures that you meet the requirements to purchase. The FFL that I use is a police officer that operates out of his home. Obama's proposal is that all FFLs must operate from a store front outside of the five mile limit."

In other words, President Obama also wants to eliminate the ability to order firearms and have them shipped to a local in-state FFL for a very large percentage of the U.S. population.

So starting in January 2009, perhpas I'm limited to only buying 50+ year old guns that I don't need to send through a class 01 FFL, at least until President Obama figures out how to revoke my class 03 FFL (Curio &Relic). Or until he decides to toss me in jail for having "dangerous assault weapons" like 65-year old Garands and M1 Carbines — complete with naughty bayonet lugs, even!

Since I can't bring myself to publicly endorse any of the current candidates for President, I'll just chalk this up as yet another reason to root for a resounding affirmation of the D.C. Circuit in Heller. Otherwise, might as well cut out the middleman/mouthpiece and simply write in Michael Bloomberg's name for President. Sigh...
2.23.2008 9:47pm
James Gibson (mail):
I went through this lesson in geography years ago in California when a similar proposal was before the legislature. By the time we took into account every public and private school (K-12), plus the catholic schools, plus the church schools, then the parks, there wasn't a single place left that you could operate a firearm business (and that was the 1,000 feet proposal). The few locations that were not within the overlapping radius's were private homes which the cities were to prohibit people from operating kitchen table gun stores. As noted in Obama's proposal, he would prohibit people from having an FFL without working out of a store front, and he would increase the cost of the FFLs. In the end its the same set of actions the gun control movement sold Clinton on in his first year when he "strengthened" the FFL regulations. The result, a massive drop from 28,000 FFLs to about 13,000 in just three years prompting a GAO investigation. A little over a decade later VPC then publishes a study saying that the drop was over a period of 13 years, the decline was linear, and it was due to a general reduction in private ownership of guns not any changes in law or regulation.

And if Obama does it again with even worse results he won't be able to claim culpable deniability. Joyce Foundation supported the earlier action by Clinton, funds VPC who advised Clinton and was contacted by the GAO in 1996 regarding the "unexpected" drop, funded the recent VPC study that white washed what happened, and supports the new/old proposal. And Obama was on the Joyce Board of directors throughout all of it.
2.23.2008 10:30pm
Waldensian (mail):

and, huh, can't buy guns mail-order any more.

Not true!!

So long as your state law doesn't prohibit it, it's actually quite easy to transact in firearms through the mail, so long as you don't engage in dealing of firearms. All you need to do is:

1. Obtain an 03 (curio and relic, or "C&R") federal firearms license (which basically requires a criminal background check);

2. Find a firearm that is at least 50 years old (or otherwise is on the curio &relic list); and

3. Purchase by mail!!

Just about all your gun needs can be met with firearms that are 50 years old or that are on the list. I could die happy owning just C&R firearms. For example, you can get a 1911 Colt pistol, an M1 Carbine, an M1 Garand, an SKS, any number of bolt action rifles, hundreds of different revolvers -- the list goes on and on.

With the right paperwork, and after jumping through only a few hoops, you can even buy a stupendous rifle directly from an arm of the U.S. government. And yes, it gets delivered right to your door. You don't even need an 03 FFL.

Again, state law may restrict this, but if so, simply move to a new state.

With the proper tax stamp, etc., I believe it MAY (emphasize MAY) even be possible to purchase a 50+ year-old machine gun through the mail. Again, state law might prohibit this in your area.

Luckily I live in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
2.23.2008 10:35pm
whit:
"How many people who really care about the Second Amendment were going to vote for Obama anyways?"

i had a guy who is a staunch gun owner, who told me he had never voted democratic in his life, but was going to vote for obama.

i guess you could say that proves he doesn't really care about the 2nd amendment (there's a logical fallacy there), but you get my point.

his sole knowledge of obama's stance was obama's CLAIM that he supported the individual right's argument or whatever rhetorical claptrap obama had used.

even at reason magazine a lot of so called libertarians are pretty pro obama, which just boggles my mind.

it really seems that his style outweighs his (bad) substance.

mccain is no 2nd amendment hero, but he is metric boatloads better on this issue than obama.
2.24.2008 12:54am
BT:
Obama is a product of the Chicago &Illinois Democratic Party machine, a party the has at its head a mayor, Richard Daley, who is as anti-gun as any politician in the country and who just happens to have 24/7/365 taxpayer funded armed security. Additionally, our beloved governor, Rod Blagojevich, the titular head of the state Democratic Party, who when running for congress also ran on an anti-gun platform. Governor Blagojevich, who happens to live in the same general area that I do, at times jogs down my street with a trail of several SUV's in tow, no doubt providing security, more than likely armed to the teeth. Most of you did not see the commercials run by the various candidates running for Cook County State's Attorney. Almost all spoke about the need for yet more tighter gun control laws, that we have to get guns of the street, etc,. As a law abiding citizen of Chicago, I cannot legally own a hand gun.

For Obama to come out against the anti-gun culture of the D Party in Illinois and accept an individual right to bear arms is a pipe dream. It would be akin to him suddenly saying that Strom Thurmond should have been elected president in 1948.
2.24.2008 9:31am
zippypinhead:

Waldensian wrote:
"With the right paperwork, and after jumping through only a few hoops, you can even buy a stupendous rifle directly from an arm of the U.S. government. And yes, it gets delivered right to your door. You don't even need an 03 FFL."

Yup. At least for now. The Civilian Marksmanship Program is a wonderful Federally-chartered program that supports firearms safety and marksmanship, continuing a tradition begun under Teddy Roosevelt in 1903 as the National Board for the Promotion of Rifle Practice and the Army's Director of Civilian Marksmanship. The CMP sales program rescues vintage WWI/WWII-era USGI rifles out of long-term storage or worse, and sells them to responsible citizens (who pass background checks, and demonstrate firearms use experience and membership in affiliated shooting clubs). Meaning these historic old warhorses can be cared for, restored, collected, and fired.

And having purchased CMP rifles, I can attest to the fact that they usually need the kind of semi-skilled TLC that your average crook or gang-banger would never bother with. And to my knowledge, there's essentially no history of DCM/CMP rifles being used in street crimes.

BUT -- let's not tell Obama about CMP, OK? One of my fears given the current political climate is that CMP could easily end up in the gunsights (sick pun fully intended) of an anti-firearms administration. It's not much of a stretch to imagine President Obama decrying a Congressionally-sponsored organization that distributes "semi-automatic assault weapons" to civilians. And it's not inconsistent with VPC/Brady Campaign-style rhetoric to envision such an administration objecting to an organization that "encourages gun use by children" (through the CMP youth marksmanship programs).
2.24.2008 11:03am
Ben P (mail):

For Obama to come out against the anti-gun culture of the D Party in Illinois and accept an individual right to bear arms is a pipe dream. It would be akin to him suddenly saying that Strom Thurmond should have been elected president in 1948.



Which is another reason I don't consider this quite the same as if he had actually proposed something like this recently.

The only reason I even might consider voting for Obama (whereas if Hillary had gotten (or somehow gets) the nomination I would vote for McCain hands down). Has not that much to do with his issue positions, and not necessarily that much to do with "pretty speeches."


Obama, more than any other candidate (and far more than Hillary) seems to exhibit a genuine acceptance of the idea that people reasonably differ on public policy, and that compromise is a good thing.

One of my biggest dislikes of the Bush Presidency was the 50+1 style of governance. I see no difference from that in Hillary except from the opposite side. McCain appears to be willing to cross party lines on issues that appeal to him, but doesn't necessarily exhibit this on other issues.


I have no doubt that Obama is liberal and that I'd disagree with many of his policy positions, (at least the economic ones) but what I think I have confidence in is that his process of making decisions and enacting policy that will be more likely to produce non-harmful results.
2.24.2008 11:10am
Sebastian (mail) (www):
"his sole knowledge of obama's stance was obama's CLAIM that he supported the individual right's argument or whatever rhetorical claptrap obama had used"

Politicians wouldn't do it if it didn't fool a lot of people.

"BUT -- let's not tell Obama about CMP, OK? One of my fears given the current political climate is that CMP could easily end up in the gunsights (sick pun fully intended) of an anti-firearms administration."

Bill Clinton already got Congress to defund the Civilian Marksmanship Program during the 90s. While it still operates, I believe, with a Congressional charter, it receives no funding from the federal government any long. It's an entirely self-supported organization. In order to completely shut CMP down, I believe that would take an Act of Congress. The president couldn't unilaterally do it.
2.24.2008 1:24pm
James Gibson (mail):
Clinton, at Brady/VPC insistance, took the CMP away from the Army and created a civilian rifle board. He tried to get Congress to end the program but, as noted, Congress balked. When he couldn't kill it he then took advantage of it.

In 1997 his Board mandated the AR-15 as the approved rifle for upper level competitions. The board set as requirements that the guns had to be AR-15A2 series; with the 8-1 rifling heavy barrel, mil-spec sights, and the components were to be only built by either Bushmaster or Compass Lake. Thus the guns actually met military requirements minus the muzzle brake and the chrome finish barrels. Given the loss of the Federal reserve of rifles in 1994 by Clinton, the largest reserve of nearly military grade rifles in America are now the CMP rifles. And the CMP supported the maintaining of two manufacturers other then FN and Colt who could make mil-spec guns.

On a separate note, in Clinton's second term Brady called for the banning of the importation of surplus Army M1s and carbines because according to Brady they were now the weapon of choice for killing Police. Clinton did his presidential ban, but then authorized the CMP to import the weapons for sale to CMP members. He then started the vintage rifle and Garand matches so people would actually shoot these guns in competition. I know, Vintage rifle and Garand are the only CMP approved matches allowed in California given our Assault Weapon ban on the M1A and the AR-15.
2.24.2008 8:15pm
W. J. J. Hoge:
The State Attorney for our county (Carroll County, MD) is one of the amici for the Respondent in Heller. I plotted the 5 mile radii for all the schools and parks in our county and found several hundred rural acres that might at first seem legal under the Obama proposal. However, every square inch of the those acres is within 5 miles of a school or park in an adjoining county.
2.25.2008 11:38am
Earnest Iconoclast (mail) (www):
I just did a map for Houston and stopped after about 550 elementary schools (I didn't look up parks or high schools). There was no place within 20-30 miles (depending on the direction) where you could locate a gun store. I suspect that if I'd kept going, that 20-30 miles would have increased greatly as I can see a number of towns located just outside the Obama Exclusion Zone.

When I did the search, there were something like 3,500 elementary schools and over 7,000 parks (though includes some non-parks with "park" in the name) in the search area. As I noted above, I got bored after about 550 schools (covering probably 3/4 of the map).
2.25.2008 5:57pm
ChrisPer (mail):
So where is the actual citation for the quote? Are there any concrete proposals about which include this idea?
2.26.2008 3:54am