Sure, let’s go ahead and play with fire. I trust my readers to be civil to one another in the comments.
I simply cannot. understand. the state of gun laws in this country, and the direction they’re headed in. That people think private gun ownership should be legal, yes; that people think civilians ought to be able to walk around with a semi-automatic rifle, no. That you should be able to go hunting, yes; that you should be able to carry a concealed handgun anywhere you like, no.
And yet our current progress is toward less regulation of guns, not more.
I’ve seen the usual pro-gun arguments, and very few of them make sense to me. Hunting! Do you need an AR-15 to kill a deer? Defending my home! How many lives have been saved by shooting the intruder, and how many have been lost due to those guns being put to another purpose? If only somebody in that theater had been armed, they could have stopped Holmes! It’s a nice fantasy, but do you really think one or more civilians shooting in a darkened, panic- and smoke-filled, chaotic room — against a guy in body armor — would have resulted in fewer deaths, rather than more?
I could go on. Even if we ban guns, criminals will still find ways to get them. So this means we shouldn’t try to regulate them, to keep an eye on who’s buying what, and to keep the really dangerous things out of the hands of people without black market connections? People will still kill each other, just with different weapons. Weapons that can’t easily take out their victims in mass quantities; I’d call that an improvement. You’re far more likely to die in a car accident than from a gunshot! True, and I’m also in favor of improving automobile safety, as well as regulating guns.
But treating those two as equivalent is nonsense. Cars serve an absolutely vital purpose in our society that has nothing to do with inflicting violence on others. If we banned motor vehicles, this entire house of cards we call a country would fall down. Furthermore, there’s a balance point between minimizing risk and the costs thereof, and it’s hard to decide where that should fall. Most people agree that making cars incapable of going over twenty miles an hour would be an unacceptable cost, no matter how many lives it would save. We make calculations like this all the time, even if we don’t like to admit it.
But right now, we’re saying — as a society — that this is an acceptable cost for gun rights. So are this, and this, and this. And a bunch of this, though I can’t find a list that just covers the United States. And we’re saying that minimizing that risk would cost more than we’re willing to pay. That waiting periods, background checks, mandatory training, prohibitions against carrying a concealed handgun in particular places, bans on weapons that serve no purpose but to slaughter large numbers of people at high speed — those would take away something so precious that it’s worth the lives of all those people.
We’ll ban costumes at movie theaters instead. Because we all know that guns don’t kill people; people wearing costumes do. (With guns.)
And yeah, yeah, Second Amendment! This post is a very rational assessment of that, and I agree with a lot of what it says (including the follow-up). Our private gun ownership laws, in their current condition, are not providing us with “a well regulated militia,” nor are they contributing to “the security of a free state.” Quite the opposite, I’d say.
Mind you, I do agree with the guns versus cars post that we’re doing a terrible job of promoting solutions. Those of us who favor gun control need to find new tactics, a way to change the conversation to one the NRA hasn’t already won. I don’t know how to do that — but I do know we need to actually talk about it, and not just mouth platitudes about tragedy and then go our way as if Aurora was no more preventable than an earthquake.
I do take comfort from the statistics that say gun violence has actually declined in recent decades, and so has gun ownership. That’s good to hear. But when smallpox deaths declined, we didn’t celebrate that and stop there; we went ahead and eradicated the disease completely. Do I think we can eradicate gun violence? Of course not. But we can do better, and should.