God, guns and geese

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I have never shot a gun. I don’t particularly understand why people love shooting guns so much. Not my cup of tea, gun sports. On the other hand, I am an unabashed fan of the fatty liver of overfed fowl. In the hands of the right chef (and even some of the wrong ones), foie gras is damn delicious.

I’d hazard to guess your average NRA member would scoff at my enthusiasm. But live and let live, right?

Alas, this is America, where every activity, no matter benign, has a political constituency aligned against its practice. Presently, foie consumption and gun use are in the busybody crosshairs. As it happens, gun control proponents and foie gras opponents have adopted a similar strategy.

PETA, and other groups opposing meat consumption, were able to coerce a witless Governor Schwarzenegger to issue a decree banning foie gras. In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, Code Pink, and other groups seeking to ban all guns, have set their sights on so-called “assault weapons” and ammunition clips.

In both cases, sophisticated political operations are preying on the sympathies of an ill-informed public to pass incremental laws toward a broader agenda. I won’t rehash the arguments for or against criminalizing foie, but I can say with certainty the average Joe does not understand how and why it is produced. Virtually nobody even knows what an assault weapon is, much less what it does, how it is used, or what allegedly makes it so dangerous.

But they sure SEEM bad, don’t they? Military grade weapons near our schools? Over-feeding defenseless birds? Semi-automatic weapons and fatty liver make easy targets because most people don’t know anything about them, and have no desire to learn. Planet Hollywood doesn’t need foie gras on the menu, so why should any other restaurant?

Activists, whose core mission is deeply unpopular when forthrightly articulated, have found a rare opportunity to appeal to common sense. But applying common sense to uncommon policy matters is a recipe for unintended consequences.

And, look, here they come. In California, restaurants are already finding ways around the law. Residents are going across state lines to acquire foie gras for themselves. The result will be in unaccountable market. Questions of sustainability and safety will take a back seat to accessibility.

Similarly, banning popular guns because they meet arbitrary criteria will create a well-trafficked black market. If you think that market will mirror the existing regulatory scheme, allow me to assuage your delusion.

Simply put, when you criminalize people, they start to act like criminals. If you are going to break the law procuring an ammo clip, why not go whole hog and grab a machine gun or two? A clandestine foie operation, in addition to mistreating fowl, might just go ahead and peddle shark fins, or even endangered species.

This isn’t simply theoretical. It is the fruit of our failed drug war. Would a free and open market yield crystal meth, or drugs padded with paint thinner and neurotoxins? I doubt it.

When it comes to policy, common sense and popular sentiment aren’t enough. As citizens, we have a responsibility to demonstrate concern for liberty, even when those liberties do not accord with our interests. Else, our laws will not benefit society, but instead the hidden agendas of myopic interest groups.

Kevin Sawyer is a contributing writer to Shefzilla.com. His views represent his own, and not necessarily that of Shefzilla.