Friday, October 9, 2015

Yep...I Wrote about Gun Control

While I'm on the subject...

It seems ludicrous for anyone to be completely against "gun control." Some sort of control is a good idea, right? We don't let 14-year-olds buy whisky; we don't allow child molesters to move silently into suburban neighborhoods; we don't hire people who have seizures every three minutes to drive public buses. We need, also -- it would seem to me -- to control who gets to have a gun. No?

Should we argue that "alcohol doesn't get people drunk, people get themselves drunk?" Of course not. We need to control alcohol based on when someone is equipped to make the right decisions, in terms of drinking. Does it always work? Of course not. Does that mean it shouldn't be controlled? -- that there shouldn't be a drinking age? -- that it should be okay for a bartender to let a drunk guy do one last shot of tequila before going out to his car?

So, if it makes little sense to just let anyone buy guns, the question then becomes: How much control is necessary? I won't dive into the argument too deeply, because, admittedly, I am not too up on firearm technology. I'm reluctant to start deciding what types of weapons the general person ought to be allowed to buy, but somewhere between a snub-nosed .38 and an Abrahms tank, there have to be things the average citizen should not be allowed to purchase, right?

I agree that we have a right to defend our own homes with firearms. I understand the argument about defending ourselves against an oppressive government and I take it very seriously -- it does happen; it could happen again; only a fool would think otherwise. But, if we are playing the odds, is the possession of a hyper-powerful weapon more likely to end in some series headline slaughters, or is it more likely to end in victory against a new oppressive American regime? Again, I am not saying this flippantly. I do understand that the Revolutionaries were very conscious of the average citizen and the potential for him to need to defend himself against his own government, the way they had to against theirs...

...but sometimes, the philosophical idea, valid though it may be, is not an absolute open ticket. And, it occurs to me that a united revolution, even if underfunded and under equipped, can still be successful. Revolutions are not simple things, you know. The military contains about 1,500,000 people. The US population is about 320,000,000. If each person had a gun that ranged from a pistol to a shotgun...

I know. I know. Those numbers are filled with kids and the elderly and with people who will neither have a weapon nor participate in the fight. I'm just trying to illustrate the uncertainty of the whole thing; or, at least, the very real potential for revolutionary victory, if needed, in spite of being outgunned.

This is not me being partisan or even presenting a hard-line position. This is me asking questions. This is what it looks like to me afer some contemplation. Put succinctly, I think we should have the right to have guns, certainly, but that we need to be judicious in terms of who gets guns and we need to decide how much firepower "crosses the line" from self-protection into potential mass slaughter. When does the scale tip into daily danger and away from a potential preservation of personal saftey and freedom? A nut can kill ten-times as many people with a machine gun than he can with a hammer. What if the numbers in the next 200 years add up to 10,000 people mass-murdered with machine guns and not one Second American Revolution? (oh, stop it -- I am not saying we should be limited to hammers. See paragraph four.)

I welcome discussion on this. My ways are not set. I write this in part to see what I think on the subject ("How do I know what I think unless I write it down?") and in part to hear from those who disagree -- or, more accurately, to learn about the nuances of the argument that I don't see.

One purpose of argument is to win; the highest purpose is to find the truth. I'm into the latter.


  1. Interesting read! I waffle on this, as I do most things. Guns are not only sport and defense implements, but they're an intrinsic part of freedom here, whether some of us like it or not. At the same time, it's a little frightening that any adult with a pulse can hop over the bridge and grab themselves a handgun, shotgun or precision rifle after a short, vendor-conducted background check.

    This is funny timing, because I just shot a machine gun in Tennessee, which made me giggle like a toddler, as well as a precision rifle with a suppressor can on it and a semi-automatic assault rifle. All three are quite illegal in our fair state. The machine gun absolutely should be. The other two...? I mean, they look a little more badass, but what's more dangerous about a suppressor on a bolt action hunting/target rifle? If some semi-automatic rifles are allowed, why not ones that look like assault rifles? Who cares if it has an adjustable stock? If it shoots one bullet at a time, how is it different from any other, less-cool-looking rifle chambered in .223? I'm not one to really push for those things, because I wouldn't have the money for any of that cool-looking stuff even if I lived elsewhere. I do have to question the purpose of the law, and whether you're just creating a bigger, more dangerous black market by over-controlling weapons and attachments that aren't responsible for the overwhelming majority of gun crime when purchased legally anyway.

    For me, it's more about who can buy and how easily than what vetted, responsible citizens can buy. I find NJ's background check process to be very fair, but--quick digression--I find the several-month lag time in some townships to be an absolutely egregious affront to constitutional rights that I don't know how said townships continue to get away with (see stories where estranged ex murders applicant-in-waiting). That said, my township spun mine right around and I have nothing but positive feedback about the process.

    On the revolutionary topic, I think that ship has long since sailed and we have to live with it. From my limited knowledge, it seems that the technology that wins wars has far outrun anything civilians could hope to own or operate. In my mind, bans and restrictions don't prohibit any revolutionary capabilities we would otherwise have as much as they create dangerous black markets. Econ 101. People get shot by and over illegal guns WAY more often than they do legal ones. And by forcing more classes of products into the realm of illegality, you strengthen black markets.

    We could have registered owners of assault weapons. Instead we have unregistered owners of assault weapons. We should have learned by now that prohibition is anything but prevention.

    I guess I've clarified my own stance for myself...I say regulate "what" a little less and "who" a little more. Again, interesting read, and interesting timing for me. I had a chance to think a lot about this stuff while in TN and MS. Open carry is flat out legal in MS, as I learned over a few beers in Tupelo. That is a little scary to consider in a dense area like the Northeast.

    1. "what" a little less and "who" a little more. -- I like it. But we do need to find the middle on what, too, as you mention.

  2. As an outsider, I find this debate baffling, but I think I need to try and understand the historical and cultural context more. On the face of it, there seems to be no argument. The number of gun homicides in the US for 2010 was 8,775. In the UK, there were 58. Obviously the UK has a lower population, but even if you adjust this figure, there would still only be 312, so I can't help asking myself if 8,000 deaths is a price worth paying for liberty. And doesn't liberty also include the right to move freely without the risk of being gunned down by a madman?

    I think the pragmatic answer would be to ban the sale of assault weapons, except to gun clubs. I would also require every handgun and rifle purchase to be subject to proof of mental health. I'm not naive enough to think that this would change everything overnight, but challenging people's terrifyingly casual attitude to firearms is a start.

    1. I’m always interested in the UK perspective on this, because you can’t argue with the correlation between your ban and your crime rate.

      I do think, however, that our situation is different. There are a lot of illegal guns on the street here, many of which were never legal US weapons. And if I may quibble with a point here...liberty does not include the right to other people not having guns. That would be a case of sacrificing liberty for safety, which might make sense in some cases. But when armed home invasion is a reality, armed homeownership follows.

      You mention “assault weapons”…do you guys mean “automatic weapons” or “machine guns”? The latter are strictly regulated by the ATF and only weapons owned and registered with the ATF before 1986 are legal to own. The nature of the ban makes for a finite number of legal-to-own automatic weapons which are extremely cost-prohibitive. Many are war relics and range rentals. While I personally would not argue with an altogether ban, the reality is that Joe up the street cannot readily and legally buy a machine gun anywhere in America. He can arrange a transfer of ownership, but even that is a meticulous process overseen by the ATF, and if Joe up the street is wealthy enough to purchase one of those, I’d bet he’s not looking to use it for a shooting spree. (Why he feels the need to own one, I do not know.)

      Where I’m going with this is, gangsters and disgruntled madmen by and large are not running around with store-bought machine guns. Legal machine guns are cost prohibitive for most criminals, and it is MUCH easier and cheaper for criminals to find illegal weapons on the street.

      The only legal “assault weapons” are semi-automatic rifles. You could argue that a criminal is better off with a high-capacity pistol, or two, or three. He could conceal those. And there are few things more devastating to the human body than the old, common shotgun. I think the mental makeup of the person, as you suggested, matters far more than the gun, or the knife, or the bat, or the screwdriver the person is holding.