It seems that about 40% of the country is convinced that the best possible response to gun violence is for more untrained people to carry around firearms on a regular basis. Another 40% of the country wants “stronger gun control laws” but what that means depends on who you ask. And probably about 20% of the country either isn’t sure what the best response is or doesn’t care.
I don’t claim to know what the appropriate response is, but I have some relevant observations.
I’ve known about the ban on using federal research money to study gun violence for a long time. It’s always been stupid. If we want to make policy decisions based on anything but emotion then we need data. Banning federal research money from being used to study one of today’s most prominent policy debates it’s absurd. This is something everyone should support. If you think more people having guns will reduce gun deaths then the data gathered in legitimate research should support you. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not, currently we have very little data from which to draw any conclusions.
One accusation from we-need-more-guns advocates is that anyone who wants to modify the process of obtaining firearms is a “Constitution shredder” as if the Constitution is a holy document handed down by God himself. Here’s a clue for that group: if the Constitution hadn’t been “shredded” in the first place there wouldn’t be a 2nd Amendment to worship. If the Constitution hadn’t been “shredded” slavery would still be legal and women wouldn’t be allowed to vote.
The Constitution is what “the people” want it to be. Personally, I’m surprised that given the absolute refusal from the we-need-more-guns groups to enter into rational dialog on how to reduce gun deaths there isn’t more call for simply repealing the 2nd Amendment and ending the “Constitution shredder” argument entirely.
The discussion should be focused on concepts like:
- What does society gain by allowing easy access to firearms?
- What does society lose by allowing easy access to firearms?
- Is that trade-off worth it?
- Other countries seem to get along just fine without widespread gun ownership.
- Why does the U.S. seem to uniquely, among industrialized nations, have this problem of gun violence?
- What might be reasonable restrictions on firearm access?
- Many, maybe even most or all, Constitutional rights are tempered with reasonable restrictions for the public good. Saying no restrictions should be applied just makes you look ignorant.
- Does requiring secure storage of firearms help reduce deaths?
- Should firearm owners undergo mental health assessments?
- How about anger management classes?
- Should safe-handling courses be required for firearm ownership?
- Would any of these changes substantively alter what society loses by allowing easy access to firearms?
- Does it change whether the trade-off is worth it?
Is anyone with a loud mouth actually trying to discuss and consider these questions? Or has the public dialog been entirely reduced to “guns are the problem” — “Nuh-uh, guns are the solution!”?