The discussion continues regarding gun control and there are lots of arguments that are coming from the pro gun folk that need to be addressed and lots of fallacies or at least misleading ideas being promulgated from those who are for gun control. Here are a few of the issues as I see them.
1. Violent crime has decreased in the US over the past few decades including the murder rate. Indeed, our rates of violent crime in the US are lower than many of the nations that are raised up as examples by the gun control folk. At the same time, our gun violence rate is significantly higher than all of those places.
2. Assault weapons represent a very small percentage of guns used in murders. They are disproportionately used in mass violence, but that too represents a very, very small percentage of gun deaths. While 26 were killed at the Sandy Hook school, some 700 have died by guns, almost all one at a time and the vast majority by handguns, since then.
3. A significant proportion of gun deaths occur in gang violence.
4. The rates of violent crime are higher in large cities with large populations of folk living in poverty.
5. The number of guns in a given area is directly proportional to the number of gun deaths. Whether this is a direct correlation or coincidence is debatable. For example, the south has one of the higher rates of gun ownership and of gun deaths. It also has a poverty rate that is higher than many other areas of the country.
6. All of the statistics are clear, owning a gun makes one more likely to die from a gun than not having one and those statistics are consistent everywhere. If we look at #1 again, that explains why in England there is a significantly higher violent crime rate, a lower murder rate, and an amazingly lower rate of death by gun.
7. We live in a violent society, but other cultures are violent as well. Video game playing is higher in Denmark, for example, where the rate of death by gun is extremely low. Ditto in Japan. Again, if we look at #1, England has a higher rate of violent crime, but much lower rate of death by gun.
8. We have significant problems with mental health care and with poverty in our country that directly impact violent behavior although often in ways that are counter-intuitive when one watches the news or listens to talk radio. For example, the mentally ill are more likely to be victims than perpetrators of violence. The same is true of the poor.
9. Gun ownership is going down. Still, the myth of redemptive violence is prevalent in our culture and we still have a love affair with guns that borders on idolatry.
10. There are significant differences in how to understand the 2nd Amendment.
11. There are literally millions of guns already out there.
Some implications of all of that...
1. Banning assault rifles and high capacity magazines will not lower the rate of death by gun significantly. It will lessen the possibility of mass murders, but they are extremely rare.
2. For gun control to make a dent in the raw numbers, handguns must be included in any regulations and some kind of buy back would be required to begin to lower the number of guns in the general population. Many possible laws, for example how guns must be stored, would be virtually impossible to enforce.
3. There are clearly other cultural issues like mental health care and poverty which must be addressed in order to change the level of violence, but the removal of guns from the equation cannot be dismissed as a way of lowering the level of violence.
4. Education is required to begin to dispel the myths that owning guns = protection or having more handguns in the general population lowers the incidence of violence. These ideas are widely held and clearly not true according to any of the objective studies.
5. Any gun control changes that will have a significant impact will involve conflict and serious discussion regarding the meaning of the 2nd Amendment.
What do I think?
I think all assault rifles and high capacity magazines should be banned. Currently owned weapons of this sort would be subject to a government buy-back and destroyed. Any found afterwards would be confiscated and destroyed and the owners face a substantial fine. Collectors owning such weapons would have to have them modified to be non-functional and inspected. Armor piercing ammunition would also be banned. I think concealed carry permits should be available only under the most extreme cases. Nobody should be able to purchase any gun without significant background checks, education, and licensing both for the owner and for the weapon. Nobody under age 18 would be allowed to own or use a gun for any purpose including hunting or target shooting. Ammunition would be tracked. By law, all guns must be stored in locked cabinets and ammunition must be stored separately and also locked. Stand your ground laws would all be repealed. A public service announcement campaign would begin, telling the truth regarding the statistics of gun violence. I think that would be a start.