Staff Columnist

Rubio doctrine is losing for Republicans

"They will find a way" is not an effective argument in gun control debate

Audience members listen to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speak at a town hall event at the Best Western Plus Longbranch Hotel & Convention Center in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
Audience members listen to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speak at a town hall event at the Best Western Plus Longbranch Hotel & Convention Center in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

Republican politicians are re-imagining the laws of economics.

According to the trending theory, the government’s restrictions have very little impact on human behavior. They say the bad guys “will find a way,” no matter what rules we put in place.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio articulated the idea during a recent discussion on gun violence, in response to the deadly shooting at a Florida high school this month.

“If someone’s decided, ‘I’m going to commit this crime,’ they’ll find a way to get the gun to do it,” Rubio said during a brief address on the Senate floor.

This is a curious approach for Republicans to take toward gun control, since they don’t seem to follow the same rationale in a long list of other policy discussions. Consider a few examples of the Rubio doctrine, applied to other pieces of the modern conservative agenda.

Some conservative critics have called for punishing high school students planning walkout protests across the country, like hundreds in Iowa City this past week. But if someone has decided to skip school, they will find a way to do it.

President Donald Trump is calling for more than $20 billion in federal money for border security, including his long-promised wall. But if someone has decided to cross the border illegally, they will find a way to do it.

Iowa is implementing a new voter ID program this year, after Republican lawmakers and a Republican governor approved the new polling restrictions earlier this year. But if someone has decided to commit voter fraud, they will find a way to do it.

The Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature advanced a bill this month that would impose stricter penalties on those convicted of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, including expanded use of vehicle tracking devices. But if someone has decided to drink and drive, they will find a way to do it.

As you can see, Republicans have repeatedly tried to make illegal things even more illegal, just like gun rights advocates are trying to do now.

Why does it seem Republicans can only recognize the folly of government intervention when it comes to gun control? If the bad guys will always do it anyway, what are these thousands of federal laws for?

This is not an argument for gun control, but rather an argument against all those other stupid things Republican politicians have been wasting our time and money on.

Of course prohibition and regulation will never be totally effective, but economics teaches us those policies can reduce access and increase costs for goods and services. If that weren’t the case, I wouldn’t spend all my time fighting against prohibition and regulation.

The Republicans’ bad logic campaign frustrates me because I already oppose gun control, without resorting to imaginary economic axioms. I find pro-regulation activists’ analysis of the problem to be misleading, and their proposed policies unconvincing.

A more honest argument would acknowledge government prohibitions have a limited ability to curtail some undesirable behaviors, but that they also lead to negative unintended consequences. We should argue for balancing pragmatic policies with respect for individual liberties.

Second Amendment advocates make up one of the most successful political movements in American history. We have preserved our rights for more than 200 years by simply telling the truth about freedom and the Constitution. There is no reason to fall back on to fake economic theories now.

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