Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Question for Liberals

In your view, what's the biggest obstacle to gun control? Is it the power of the NRA; the Republican Party; Democratic Party politicians who are overly scared of the NRA; the preferences of the American people; the political system in general; or some other obstacle?

69 comments:

  1. The distractions. We can't even talk about gun violence and sane policy; it's always turned into:

    1) they want to take all our guns away;

    2) we need to protect ourselves from people who mean us harm/civil unrest/riots/home invaders/rapists/robbers/car jackers;

    3) we need to protect ourselves from the government;

    4) Cops --there are bad cops/you can't rely on;

    5) second amendment, na na ne boo boo I can't hear anything else, particularly the 'well regulated' part;

    6) look at that shiny bauble over there (liberals/progressives do . . . insert sin here.);

    7) too many guns out there, already.

    There are other points. Each one may well merit discussion; but those hackneyed arguments should not be used to distract from actual debate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Zic, how can you have an "actual debate" if you don't want to hear what the other side has to say?

      Some of those points make a lot of sense. Isn't it reasonable, for example, to be prepared to defend your home where the police response is likely to take more than a couple of minutes?

      Delete
    2. Couves

      If you actually knew anything about the results of having a gun in the home you would realize that it is not at all reasonable.

      Look it up.

      JzB

      Delete
    3. Jazzbumpa, since you seem more interested in insulting me than in making an argument, I can only guess that you're talking about this:

      http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2012/03/bruce-w-krafft/lies-damned-lies-and-washington-ceasefires-statistics/

      Delete
    4. Couves, we're not interested in hearing the excuses again. When you say that means 'we don't want to talk,' and 'don't want to listen,' I hear that you don't want to listen; you just want to prop your rights up with the same failed arguments. So please, listen to this: people don't want other people going around shooting the place up. We don't want to read about six year olds dead from eleven rounds of high-impact bullets at close range. We don't want this in our schools, our malls, or on our street corners. We see no evidence that the benefit of this type of self-protection outweigh the cost.

      The right to self-defense resides with people who choose not to own guns, too. A gun is not required to defend yourself, unless you're also facing someone with a gun.

      We also have a right to defend ourselves from a gun lobby that refuses to admit things have gotten a tad bit out of their control. There is approximately one gun in circulation for every American citizen out there right now; yet fewer and fewer citizens actually own guns. Fewer and fewer people, with too many stuffed full of gun culture like Nancy Lanza, instead of responsible husbandry. Too many people with the will to stock lethal violence and without the will or capacity to assess the risks.

      Ironically, the very same crowd, the one that talks about fixing their government problems with their second amendment rights, also wants taxes low, services gutted; they've already gutted mental health services.

      I grew up with guns in the home. I know how to use a gun. I've used a gun hunting deer, and was successful. I have many family members who've served in the military. Supposedly, their service was to protect our freedoms here at home. Gun freaks -- perhaps they're addicts -- the kind who need 47 -- threaten my freedom, my right to have my children go to a free school, not a place locked down like a prison.

      I want responsible gun owners to pony up to the very high bar of responsibility. What's your plan? Why does somebody need 47 weapons? Hollow point bullets? What about insurance; shouldn't that be mandatory, and priced to include the well-being of all members of a household? Buy-back programs?

      I think most liberals understand we're not going take your gun away. But in the interest of defending ourselves, we do want to talk about sane gun policy, and that's got to be a policy that gun owners can abide. I can only speak for myself here, I'm sick of the whining, fear, and excuses -- my list of obstacles -- that have hogtied the discussion.

      Delete
    5. Zic, I truly appreciate the candor of your comment -- I’ll try to respond in kind.

      Regarding gun policy, unless we’re willing to go as far as confiscation, I don’t see a policy that could significantly reduce the likelihood of events like this happening. Perhaps there are half-way measures, like keeping all assault rifles secured at gun clubs. I’m open to ideas, but there’s no point in pretending there is a simple solution.

      Regarding people with 47 guns: No one “needs” that many guns, and of course no one can use more than one or two at a time anyway. The only people who own that many guns are enthusiasts: Some people collect movies, some collect fishing lures, some collect golf clubs… some people collect guns.

      Hollow point bullets -- there probably isn’t a law enforcement agency in the US that doesn’t give it’s officers hollow point bullets exclusively. They’re considered the ONLY responsible choice for personal defense, because the bullets are designed to not exit an attackers’ body, which could hurt innocents.

      I have no problem with gun buy-backs. I don’t feel well-informed about guns and insurance.

      I think conversation is always helpful, but accusing people of “whining, fear, and excuses” does the opposite of facilitating discussion. If you want people to take your thoughts and concerns seriously, you must be prepared to do the same.

      Delete
    6. I'm perfectly willing to go as far as confiscation, Couves. Magazine capacity, caliber, whatever....I don't care.

      Will it ever happen? No. Is my opinion in a decided minority? Yes.

      To disagree with you (not just on the underlying question), I actually don't think conversation is helpful on this. People's opinions on guns seem relatively fixed and hardened. Conversation about guns seems to just piss people off on both sides.

      Delete
    7. "Conversation about guns seems to just piss people off on both sides."

      The most divisive issues are sometimes the ones where honest and civil conversation, if you can pull that off, will be the potentially most fruitful.

      Delete
    8. My favorite thing from the Truth About Guns critique is that it shows that, yes, you are in fact more likely to end up killing yourself or a family member than you are to stop an intruder, and yes, guns do cause more people to die, even under the absolute most favorable interpretation of the results of that study.

      Delete
    9. Anon, even the most favorable statistics didn't account for:

      1) Defensive gun uses in which no one is killed (bad guy is either injured or runs away when he sees/hears the gun).

      2) While owning a gun makes you more likely to shoot yourself, it doesn't make you more likely to kill yourself. (ie, guns don't inspire suicide any more than bridges do)

      Delete
    10. Couves, I struggle with point 1. This needs facts to be true; and facts from some place other then the gun lobby.

      As you say, the statistics didn't account for point one. So where are the statistics that do? Are there any?

      Delete
    11. Couves, here's what wikipedia says on self defense:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_violence_in_the_United_States#Self-protection

      I fail to see how unrestricted access for self-defense rises to a level justifying the crime and carnage we're experiencing.

      Delete
    12. Couves -

      Do you also know that the number of firearm deaths in the U.S in 2009 was over 31,000? That's 85 per day. Sandy Hook is barely a blip, and we only know about it because the deaths were concentrated and involve little children

      With an additional 73,000 non-fatal injuries - that's 200 per day - it's worth considering that we might have a bit of a problem.

      It's also worth comparing the school attack in China on the same day as Sandy Hook -- 22 children injured, none fatal. Still tragic, but it's better to see your kid in recovery than in the morgue. That guy had a knife. It's also worth noting that you seldom hear about drive-by knifings, or innocent bystanders getting ought up in the cross stabbing.

      The other countries with gun related casualties on a par with ours are places like El Salvador. The U.S is unique among prosperous first world nations in having a gun problem. And also unique in lacking gun control.

      Please consider that telling you that you don't know something isn't an insult. It's an invitation to go learn about reality. Check the stats on resident vs intruder casualties in gun-owning homes. You won't believe it.

      Both internationally and within the US, places with stricter gun control laws have fewer gun related deaths. You can look it up.

      JzB

      Delete
    13. Jazz, I’m familiar with the statistics. But you’re comparing us to countries in which it’s difficult or impossible for average people to legally defend themselves in their home, much less on the street. I’m someone who believes that the capacity for personal defense is inherent in your status as a free person. I’m ok with reasonable regulations that might help public safety, including strict regulations on military-style firearms (see my suggestion in a comment below). But European-level restrictions are, thankfully, a political impossibility.

      The comparison with China is a good one, but remember that guns are illegal in that country. Here in the US, concealed carry fits into the mitigation of public violence. At the Cackamas mall shooting, for example, the gunman killed himself when he saw an armed citizen train a gun at his head: http://www.kgw.com/news/Clackamas-man-armed-confronts-mall-shooter-183593571.html

      Perhaps allowing school employees the capacity for self defense is a way to increase security in schools?

      Delete
    14. Perhaps allowing school employees the capacity for self defense is a way to increase security in schools?


      That's a freakin' nightmare. Do you realize this?

      Some times, the kids in a school are . . . difficult. Maybe they're having a psychotic episode, and are really and truly mentally ill, maybe they've been doing bath salts. But they're not always angels. Arms in the school? Armed teachers?

      I'm sorry, but it sounds like a gun-nut dream, and are really, really bad idea.

      Delete
    15. No zic, trying to fight off a crazed gunman with your bare hands is a nightmare.

      Nice touch with the bath salts though...

      Delete
  2. This is a clear instance where intensity matters greatly in our political system. Gun nuts believe that vehemently in the no restrictions at all view of the 2nd Amendment and are willing to be active on that issue.

    Of course the rural state bias of the Senate exacerbates this issue.

    In other words, our gun policy is the epitome of the Madisonian system that Jonathan touts.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think that pragmatic liberals see declining crime stats and the intensity of gun supporters and rightly decide that their energy is better spent seeking policies that are more easily attained and that will have bigger effects. And passing legislation is only half the battle- any gun control that doesn't involve an amendment needs sustained defense in the courts. There's no way to take on gun control without that becoming the Democrat's main focus.

    Gun control would probably cause a decline in shootings, but so would improved education, better mental healthcare, and a host of other policies that are less controversial and difficult.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right up to the point where our children have to go to school in armed fortresses.

      That's a bridge too far, and time to push back on prevention.

      Delete
    2. Sadly, I think we'll find that the people supporting gun rights in extreme are also unwilling to come up with funding or support for any other solutions. It's the Conservative worldview. Honestly, I think the Conservative worldview is fatalism dressed up in piety and patriotism.

      Delete
  4. PoliticsUndelivered How would improved education help? What kind of improvement? (Just a general "education" magic wand?)

    Better mental healthcare doesn't seem to be on the horizon. That stuff's not cheap; there's something like ten million people in need of it, and what there was prior to 2009 has been cut to the bone. Is that expected to change?

    Biggest obstacle for me: Passivity, negativity, fear and resignation in the general population.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I think it's the asymmetry. Supporting gun control doesn't earn very many extra votes, but it can cost a lot. So it's more trouble than it's worth, politically.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The losing votes - is that an incontrovertible fact? I know the NRA want people to believe it; that doesn't make it true.

      74% of NRA members want better regulation and better enforcement. Those are the voters, not the lobbyists.

      I come from a rural background; farmers and hunters understand gun safety. They don't need assault weapons and most don't want them. It looks to me like a matter of communication between elected representatives and their constituents.

      Delete
    2. Dispatches, "better regulation" is not necessarily the same as more regulation. Most gun owners would place the assault weapons ban in the second category.

      For example, the assault weapons ban would prohibit the sale of the standard magazines that come with most common handguns (most pistols hold more than 10 rounds). The ban would effect almost every pistol owner.

      Even assault rifles have become mainstream -- go to your nearest gun shop and ask them what they sell the most of. Historically, our civilian population eventually adopts the firearms of our military. This is a continuation of that tradition.

      Hunters have also come to oppose the gun control agenda based on the ignorance behind it and the consequent danger that they’ll get swept down the slippery slope. For example, deer hunters might contemplate the fact that the most popular deer rifle, the Remington 700, is also in use as our military's sniper rifle. Who’s to say that the next call won’t be to take "sniper rifles” off the streets?

      Delete
    3. So basically, sensible reforms should be held hostage to the hypothetical irrational fears of a small segment of sportsmen? You might as well ask the government to stop issuing SS cards because there are some kooks out there who will fantasize that they could be used to track us down and plant microchips in our bodies.

      It is easy to imagine ways to get gun control wrong, even ones that sound sinister. But that doesn't mean those are the only ways to do it, and it certainly isn't likely that those would be the most probably ways.

      Delete
    4. Drew, those fears aren't hypothetical at all. We once banned the "high capacity" magazines that come standard with most basic 9mm pistols. I know, because the AWB is still in effect in my state.

      Delete
    5. If the laws have unintended consequences because they are written poorly, then write them more smartly. If the market innovates loopholes, then close them. Sensible gun control doesn't have to unfairly punish prospective gun owners. Walking away from the conversation seems like the worst way to try and prevent those fears from being actualized into law, followed by blind obstruction, and lastly, constructive cooperation on legislation.

      Delete
    6. Drew, last I heard, Congressional gun control advocates are trying to reinstate the 10-round limit on magazines. If they don't know by now that this has a significant effect on handguns and little .22 rifles, but very little effect on actual assault rifles, then I just don't think they're paying attention.

      Delete
    7. Correction, it looks like they're prepared to exempt firearms that shoot .22 rimfire: http://thehill.com/video/senate/240657-cybersecurity-bill-includes-gun-control-measure

      Which at least means that they are listening, but also that they have decided that citizens can't be trusted with standard-capacity pistols. I've heard they will re-introduce the legislation shortly. It would be a more realistic plan if it had a higher round limit for pistol-caliber firearms.

      Delete
  6. Pretty much everything I can say on this subject applies to Ambassador Rice being forced to withdraw her name from consideration for SoS.

    It's not any one factor, it's that I get the feeling that there's a number of actors that have various incentives to throw monkey wrenches into the works.

    As an aside, it makes getting Obamacare passed all the more impressive, from the first monkey wrench thrown at 'Hillarycare' in the 90's.. to the one Max Baucus threw by not letting single-payer activists speak, to the ones tossed by Bart Stupak and Joe Lieberman just before passage.. to when the very last monkey wrench failed to fall out of Justice Roberts' hand.

    ReplyDelete

  7. I think its basically a bit of everything. The immense passion of many gun owners makes passing even the most basic gun control law hard. The fact that recent interpretations of the 2nd Amendment leans towards there side and the slowness of the American political system makes it near impossible. I think that you are going to have to amend the Constitution in order to get decent gun control and that is not going to happen.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Im definitely gonna go with the preferences of the American people, with an assist from the nature of the system. The status quo bias is difficult enough to overcome on issues that enjoy majority support (ending DADT, higher taxes on the rich, big cuts to foreign aid, etc.)

    On an issue where the public is at best divided, the status quo is going to win out quite often, especially with an intense minority advocating on its behalf.

    I don't see this dynamic changing without a shift in public opinion, which of course is also hard to fathom changing.

    ReplyDelete
  9. There's so many assault rifles and high capacity magazines out there at this point, that any effective gun control would have to include confiscation, which is never going to happen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's reason #7 on my list of obstacles. Thanks, Couves.

      Delete
    2. zic - I guess that's another "hackneyed argument" that I agree with then. I'm not sure what you're thanking me for or what your point is.

      Delete
    3. Because it's not an argument. "We can't do anything" is not an argument. "Too hard, can't try" is not an argument. It's a statement of utter refusal, an indication that you are no longer discussing policy, but having a fit.

      Delete
    4. Because it's not an argument. "We can't do anything" is not an argument. "Too hard, can't try" is not an argument. It's a statement of utter refusal, an indication that you are no longer discussing policy, but having a fit.

      Delete
    5. Tybalt, I always think good policy starts with a candid recognition of what would work and what wouldn't.

      Confiscating all guns that can shoot more than ten rounds WOULD work to make killing sprees more difficult for sick people to pull off. I think the problems with that policy are obvious. There are less ambitious policies that may have very marginal effects. And of course we could just spend a lot more money on security.

      If you have better ideas, I'm listening...

      Delete
    6. In other words, "nothing can be done." It's fatalism. I think it might be the central part of Conservatism. That's all we ever hear anymore from Conservatives. Nothing can be done about health care or health insurance reform. Nothing can be done about homelessness. Nothing can be done about mental illness. Nothing can be done about gun control.

      Delete
    7. phat, I didn't say that. I listed two options for dealing with the problem. One has practical and political complications, the other is expensive. If you have better ideas, please don't keep them to yourself.

      Delete
    8. The Supreme Court recently decided that cities can't choose where guns are within them.

      Why is it so unreasonable for cities to choose for themselves if what are allowed in apartments and private homes, along with their public spaces?

      If you don't like it, you can move to a town with looser requirements. You don't have to live in Santa Cruz if you don't like bare breasts, but it's damn legal to bare them in Santa Cruz. You're imposing your right to drive a gun around town is higher than a town to choose where is appropriate for guns to be in them.

      Delete
    9. Crissa, I may not be familiar with the case. I know concealed carry is basically illegal in NYC and almost impossible in Boston.

      It seems reasonable to protect the right of law-abiding people to defend themselves in their home.

      Delete
    10. couves, you presented possible solutions and rejected them as you presented them. that's really not presenting solutions. that's listing off objections towards solutions you've already deemed unobtainable. you ask me if I have any ideas. but you apparently have none of your own. i think it'd be a good idea to ban clips larger than 10 rounds. you would probably include that in the "marginal effects" category. but what exactly do you mean by marginal? would it limit the amounts of gun crime in the US? probably not in toto, no. would it possibly have some effect on the total number of deaths? i think it could. no solution is going to work overnight. some will take a LOT of time.

      but again, I think you reject any solution out-of-hand.

      Delete
    11. phat, See my lengthy comment below on banning magazines. I'm interested in making policy that's both effective and politically viable. That's not possible without first looking at it with a critical eye.

      Delete
  10. It's like other commenters have mentioned. It always dissolves into a debate about confiscation. In order to gain any traction, you're going to need to change this from a debate about banning guns into what it should be: a public safety issue about the best way to control them so messed up people can't get ahold of them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So how do you do that? Friday's killer attempted, and failed, to purchase a firearm at a store. The system worked. The guns he used were stolen from his poor mother. Perhaps the guns weren't locked up and Connecticut needs a law to that effect, but something tells me that wouldn't have made a difference in this case.

      Delete
    2. Agreed, but I don't think "Is there a reasonable set of regulations that would have prevented the massacre in CT" should be the test of whether to enact tighter gun control. Obviously there is no set of laws that will perfectly prevent all or most acts of gun violence without infringing on the freedoms or convenience of gun owners.

      The question should be "Can we do better?" and the answer is yes, probably.

      Delete
    3. His poor mother.. who failed to properly secure her firearms.

      Apparently.

      So long as there is no way politically to take baby steps like agreeing to closing the gun show loophole or revisit the assault weapon ban, gun enthusiasts get to 'own' every one of these mass shootings. Because the rest of us are waiting for them to get off the 'absolute, unlimited gun freeeeedom' dime.

      (Pre-buttal: Please spare me the 'but, but.. the weapons were purchased legally' dodge - results trump parsing what gun laws are still allowed to exist.)

      Delete
    4. JS, do those "baby steps" lead to some policy that would have prevented this?

      Delete
    5. "The mass shootings will continue while the gun enthusiasts continue to whistle past the graveyards and insist that any proposed solution won't solve the entire problem, ensuring nothing ever gets done."

      It's on your hands - you support guns, you own the results.

      Delete
    6. JS - You're ducking the issue. I don't think it's too much to expect a solution to have some significant impact on the problem.

      Delete
    7. Yeah, I don't have the perfect, magic, comprehensive gun safety proposal that is apparently all that will satisfy you.

      Sorry about that. Otherwise I can do without the passive-aggressive runaround.

      Delete
    8. JS - So is my own idea for banning the 30-round magazines used in the massacre part of a "passive-aggressive runaround."

      I was challenging you as gently as humanly possible to address a policy to the actual problem. If you can't take that, I really don't know what to say.

      Delete
  11. As reasons, you offer the NRA and then 4 variations on "it's the NRA."

    I guess under "some other obstacle" you could include obstruction and intimidation by powerful lobbies such as the NRA.

    It's the NRA.

    With an assist to talking point regurgitating fellow travelers like Couves.

    JzB

    ReplyDelete
  12. I rather like James Fallows' take (http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/12/gun-safety-not-gun-control/266318/; http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/12/the-atlantic-and-the-more-guns-solution/266324/).

    My personal, unattainable preference is very restrictive licensing of guns. But, then, I read the Second Amendment in a very narrow way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too.

      I don't buy this whole must-be-in-private-home crap, I don't buy this must-carry-around crap, and I don't buy this they-didn't-actually-mean-militia-or-regulated crap.

      Delete
  13. The obstacle is Pain, Violence, Suffering, Cruelty and Death. Americans love them, especially Death, and they are very powerful political forces in the USA.

    They are important political players, universally respected as important constituencies and stakeholders, and must be cut in on every political deal or a deal doesn't get done. I don't just mean on guns; Death, Pain, Violence, Suffering and Cruelty are big players in the politics of health care, of transportation, of foreign affairs, of drug regulation, of crime and criminal justice, of corrections, of race policy, and so on.

    I am not trying to speak metaphorically. Models of political action in the USA make a lot more sense and get a lot more accurate if you assume these are actual players with actual constituencies.

    The way to move on from the country's gun madness is the same way to move on from its madness in many other areas as well: call out and call attention to this kowtowing to the interests of Pain and Death and try to jolt the public out of love with them. It's a long-term project.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This thread is showing a microcosm of how this problem works. The argument devolves into the 7 arguments listed above by zic and then somehow people get persuaded that we should just give up. "This wouldn't have prevented Columbine/Virginia Tech/Aurora/Newtown so why bother?"

    It's certainly possible that no amount of reasonable regulation would have prevented those killings, but that's a pretty shitty reason not to try.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Part of the problem might be the NRA members who express a desire for certain gun regulations (though I grant the problem with polling questions), but nonetheless actively support the NRA, rather than some other gun organization that more clearly represents their beliefs.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Gosh, all your problems seem to be 'the NRA'.

    I think one of the problems is that since we're all afraid of the NRA because it's so powerful - we don't bother to learn or write reasonable strengths into our laws.

    Our weapon laws are stupid, aren't based upon what they do but how they do it or specific weapons and their names. For instance, if a semi-auto is easily modified to a fully-auto, it should be banned. Our laws don't care about how easily they're changed, they talk about specific weapons in the past not weapons in the future.

    And then we have the stupid ATF that has multiple conflicting jobs, the FBI that handles their records, and the ATF's hands are tied to do anything but draconian raids. It's stupid. And if an ATF agent's raid fails, they suffer criminal prosecution! It's stupid.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Just thinking out loud here of a potential compromise on assault weapons:

    Require all rifle magazines >10 rounds and pistol magazines >20 rounds to be turned in to local authorities, who would allow gun owners (screened by local law enforcement) to use them only at properly authorized and secured gun clubs.

    Benefits: Unlike the Assault Weapons Ban, which does nothing about pre-existing high capacity magazines, this ban would require that they be turned in, in addition to banning their sale. Also, this would only impact true military-style weapons and would only require the confiscation of magazines. Basically, it would accomplish what gun control advocates really want, while avoiding true gun confiscation and the parts of the AWB that bother gun owners the most (that you can’t buy a glock with a standard magazine, can’t have an adjustable rifle stock, etc.). And if gun owners still wanted to play soldier, they could just go to their local gun club.

    But why would gun owners agree to this? What would they get in return? Some ideas:

    End onerous taxation and regulation of suppressors (Despite urban legend, they don’t actually “silence” guns, but they do reduce the risk of deafness and tinnitus. Like car mufflers, their use is actually encouraged in a few countries.)

    Sell ammo at authorized gun clubs at Federal contract prices (ammo is the biggest expense for recreational shooters).

    End import restrictions on foreign arms (firearms that are no more dangerous than domestic arms)

    The main problem with this is that many magazines would probably never be turned in or seized (some people would bury them, a few might sell them on the black market, etc,). While a determined and resourceful person would still be able to track down some of these magazines, a lot of these mass shooters seem like the type that would have trouble with that. The feds could run stings to catch at a lot of the low-hanging fruit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like that idea. I certainly believe that a gun buy back scheme, like the one we had in Australia after the Port Arthur Massacre is impossible over here. But allowing certain weapons (automatic and semi-automatic and high-capacity ones) to be kept at Federally sanctioned ranges (by that I mean licensed and federally regulated), under lock and key where people can fire them there at their own desire. There is no need for these weapons to be in the community.

      Also ending the gun-show loophole would be a good place to start.

      Delete
    2. This might be the most, and really, only, attempt at a reasonable compromise from a gun advocate I've ever seen.

      Delete
    3. Thanks phat. It wouldn’t stop things like this from happening, but reducing the lethality of weapons would make a difference in some instances.

      Honestly, I don’t think many people are interested in applying critical thought and honest discussion to this issue -- it’s so much easier and more satisfying to just revert to preexisting prejudices and agendas.

      Delete
  18. I hate this issue and wasn't going to weigh in, but reading the thread did get me thinking. "If you're good old boys like we are, they [the blasts from firing into explosives] are exciting," says a firing-range owner quoted on Talking Points Memo. I would have said "If you're mental 11-year-olds like we are," but whatever. Seems to me that gun enthusiasm will eventually go the way of dueling, dog- and cockfighting, lynching and other "exciting" practices that were once common, then less common but tolerated -- persisting for a time in certain regions, subcultures and/or legal gray areas -- but that finally came to seem stupid, idiotic and uncivilized except to a scattered few sufferers from arrested development. That's not (quite) to say that the gun problem will eventually solve itself -- pressures will still need to be brought, legislation will still need to be passed when the opportunity finally arises, etc. -- but I do think we're looking at a phenomenon destined for the scrap heap of history. And when cultural or generational change makes something look childish and idiotic, as we've seen lately with, for instance, homophobia, it can collapse in a relatively short time.

    Also, legislatively, you don't need to confiscate guns. You just need to make it very difficult to repair or replace them, then wait a time while the ones that are out there wear out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is a good point, Jeff. When Britain got serious about dealing with firearms, one of the main and most effective lines of enforcement was to sharply restrict the activities of gunsmiths, essentially making the government defense and police contractors. This has been reinforced by banning sales of gun-cleaning and repair kits, etc. I believe the ban even includes certain kinds of gun manuals, although I may be wrong about that.

      Of course there is the problem of the internet, garage mechanics, etc. But those problems exist in other areas as well (garage meth labs, for instance, and even most who advocate the end of the drug war don't advocate repealing the laws against making meth). So, it would be a law widely evaded. On the other hand, it would also be a policy very cheaply enforced, and together with some other low-hanging fruit, to use Couves' phrase, might significantly cut down on the number of firearms (particularly relatively complex firearms that require greater care and repair) in circulation over time. As far as home repair faciities (i.e. unlicensed facilities) over time, it would be easiest to simply enforce by severe action and legal penalties if the guns in question are used as part of a crime (which could include suicide if the person commiting suicide was not the builder/repairer/cleaner of the gun).

      In general, I think the best way to approach restriction of the gun culture is by taking a kind of public-health tack such as has been used in other public-health scourges, I am thinking particularly of smoking. At one time smoking was essentially ubiquitous in American culture, and the thought of restricting it evoked even more objections than gun control now brings. But we were able to greatly restrict the prevalence of smoking and address its effects. No, we have not eliminated smoking. No, we have not able to get rid of all the problems associated with smoking. Yes, cigarettes are widely and easily available. But by any reasonable measure the effort has made things much better for most people, and society as a whole, than was the case even a generation ago, never mind in the 1950s.

      What worked? A multi-prong effort that aimed not at banning smoking but at making it expensive, extremely inconvenient, and socially unacceptable. This involved everything from action against tobacco companies to public awareness campaigns to restricting smoking in public places to scientific research to you name it. And it involved difficult choices and controversy as well. Yes, it is unfair to target law-abiding gun owners, but it was also unfair to target stressed out blue-collar workers who only wanted to enjoy a smoke in the break room. Yes, it would be unfair to target hard-working gunsmiths who are only trying to provide for their families. It was also unfair to target the livelihood of hard-working tobacco farmers who only wanted to provide for their families.

      We have a health scourge in America, one that isn't as prevalent and overall as deadly as smoking, but one that that is prevalent and deadly nevertheless. We did not make smokers criminals, but we made it more and more difficult and unacceptable for them to indulge. Let us not make gun owners criminals, but let us put great obstacles and inconvenience in their path and make it clear that their activity is severely disapproved of, and make clear the reasons. We did not make tobacco companies criminals, much as they richly deserved it. Let us not make gunsmiths or firearms companies criminals, but force them to partner in the effort in the same way the tobacco companies have. In the end smoking is still with us, but it has gone from being a socially approved scandal to a disapproved problem that is, granted, still major, but at least better controlled. Let us take the gun culture from a place of socially acceptable moral horror to a place of legal but inconvenient, controlled, and disapproved public health problem.

      Delete
    2. Yes, Mr. A, smoking is an excellent example -- more recent and therefore easier to draw lessons from than dueling or my other examples from ye olden times. Multi-pronged, public-health approach: exactly. To which I would add, lift caps on liability for people in the gun-supply chain. If whoever originally made or sold this kid's weapon had to pay out for 27 deaths, and then had to raise prices to compensate, every gun would end up costing as much as, say, Rafalca, even without any new taxes or criminal penalties. If you're one of those highly industrious, work-ethic-y people whom conservatives laud, you'd still be able to work and scrimp and save for your gun, just like you can today for a horse or a boat or a Cartier necklace. But mostly they'd be unavailable except to rich eccentrics, a smaller and (therefore) safer group than the alienated masses. Let's use the special privileges of wealth to our advantage, for once.

      So, to the original question, what's holding it up: My answer is that cultural change takes time, then, at some tipping point, suddenly happens pretty fast. And a string of massacres such as we're seeing may be that tipping point.

      Delete
  19. By and large, I think I've seen more civility, more creativity, and more willingness to compromise in this thread (and I'll include the conservative thread in that) than I have seen on this subject anywhere else.

    ReplyDelete

Who links to my website?