If you’re a man with two functioning testicles you understand the appeal of guns. If you have more than three functioning brain cells you recognize they must be regulated. The question is, what is the right level of regulation?
If everybody thought like me we’d adopt Japan’s gun laws. I’d happily give up ever shooting a gun again to live a society with virtually no risk of people getting shot. But most people I know don’t agree. We live in a democracy and I am happy to compromise. I’m even willing to make 90% of the compromises. But I’m unwilling to accept our current gun culture and the NRA fight to make the already horrific problem worse. I am unwilling to live in a war zone. People unwilling accept basic accountability for guns are gun nuts as opposed to gun owners.
This is not a discussion about the legality of guns. This is a much more important discussion of the morality of guns. Too often conversations on gun control devolve into an argument over the meaning of the ambiguous wording of the poorly written second amendment. Clearly, that is an argument that can never be won. That is exactly why gun nuts love to retreat there. Getting hung up on interpreting the second amendment is a cowardly way to avoid having to morally defend their position. The constitution is not a moral guide. After all, it %$#ed-up the question of slavery – perhaps the easiest moral question in human history. The constitution is purely political. It helps define what the law is – it has no bearing on what the law should be.
There are certainly legitimate reasons to own guns. No carnivore can rationally argue against hunting. Killing a wild animal to eat is more humane than enslaving and killing a domesticated one. And few people, apart from Jesus (that ignorant goddamn socialist), argue against a right to self-defense.
I have only heard one reasonable argument against fighting for reasonable gun control. Stephen Dubner, one of the authors of Freakonomics, argues that our problematic gun culture is so entrenched that if our goal is purely to save lives there are other problems with much bigger impact that are much easier to solve. Auto safety is a good example. From a practical perspective, he makes sense. From a moral perspective, however, I am unwilling to accept that we should have to live the state of fear that is exacerbated and encouraged when we create a war zone by arming everyone everywhere. It may take generations to fix because of the severity of the problem gun nuts have created. But we still have a moral obligation to get started.
Many argue that the problem can’t be solved. That is willfully blind bullshit. If you go out in the morning and encounter an asshole, he’s an asshole. If you encounter assholes all day, you’re the asshole. We’re the outlier. We’re global asshole. We’re the only civilized country with a vigilante gun culture and off the charts homicide levels. Everybody else does this better than us. We are just the only nation that is too xenophobic to learn from everybody else and too callus to really care about 10,000 gun homicides every year.
There are simple compromises that will make a significant difference over time with little burden to legitimate gun rights:
First, background checks must be universal and mandatory. No exceptions. This is a no-brainer. There are many cases of people who fail, or would fail, background checks who buy guns from private sellers instead and use them to slaughter people. Gun nuts like to argue about the numbers: estimates are that 40% of all gun sales do not involve background checks and 10% of all online gun buyers are there because they cannot pass a background check. There are legitimate reasons to question the accuracy of these numbers – mainly because the bastards that run the NRA and the congressional whores they’ve purchased have made it impossible, if not illegal, to collect actual data. Regardless, I don’t care if these estimates are exaggerated. Whether your bucket is 60% watertight or 90% watertight you still need to replace your shitty bucket.
But background checks are not enough. We also need to start collecting data on gun use from doctors, hospitals, law enforcement, gun shops, universities, etc. so we can improve our legal framework and enforcement. The NRA fight that makes it illegal to collect information on gun use proves those evil bastards know their insane positions cannot stand up to reality.
Next, every gun should have to be publicly registered to an individual. Unless you’re buying a gun to shoot yourself, gun ownership is not private or personal. Every gun owner must be accountable for the use of their guns. Unless you report that gun stolen, you are an accomplice to any crime committed with it. Anyone caught with an unregistered weapon will be prosecuted. Anyone convicted of a violent crime will be crosschecked against the gun registry and have their weapons confiscated. This will help enable us to get guns out of hands of criminals. Responsible gun owners legitimately concerned about self defense shouldn’t want to keep their guns secret – advertising their gun ownership will make them a less likely target for criminals – which is exactly what they claim to want.
Finally, semi automatic weapons with high-capacity clips should be illegal. The likelihood of a citizen ever legitimately needing more than a few rounds in a clip is astronomically low and the likelihood of ever being able to responsibility use more than a few rounds is even lower. The heroic shootout where a mild mannered gun packing hero emerges victorious is merely a vigilante wet dream. If your goals require a semi automatic weapon with a high capacity clip you are probably the psycho we need to defend against. I understand that a statement like “assault weapons” is too ambiguous to be the foundation of a law. As long as we have the same objective – limiting the ability to kill at scale – a more specific definition can be negotiated. As long as gun nuts insist on retaining a militaristic ability to kill lots of people quickly we will never find common ground and gun nuts will continue to use legalistic, linguistic rhetoric to obfuscate, obscure, and distract rather than offer a defensible moral justification.
One of the frequent arguments against these common sense ideas is that it will cause too much hassle and gun owners don’t believe in government competence. The hassle is a legitimate concern. There will, of course, be some degree of bureaucracy, delay, mistakes, and general governmental incompetence. However, if you believe that your inconvenience outweighs thousands of deaths you need a new moral code.
Another way gun nuts divert attention away from common sense gun law is to claim this is a mental health issue – not a gun issue. Bullshit. Our daily mass shootings involve guns 100% of the time.
They involve someone with known mental health issues 5% of the time. I would absolutely welcome any idea that will help keep guns away from people with violent tendencies and provide them with help. However, until gun nuts actually push legislation to address what they claim to believe is the problem we’ll all know this is is nothing but a sick and cynical diversion from the issue that is common to 100% of the events to focus blame instead on a fringe issue they don’t really care about and that is relevant in only 5% of the events.
None of these gun regulation ideas ideas are radical. We regulate cars and we can’t regulate guns? To operate a car you much be tested, licensed, and insured and these have to be renewed and inspected regularly. We have traffic laws to regulate where, when, and how fast you can go. We have safety requirements for manufactures that include crash tests, air bags, and seat belts. We even ticket people who don’t WEAR their seat belt. We have large numbers of special police that exist only to enforce our car specific laws. Yet we can’t implement the simplest, most common sense, gun laws.
We regulate cars in spite of the fact that they are universally acknowledged as a personal and social benefit that far outweighs their cost in lives. Nobody in the world proposes we should stop driving – or even curtail it. Even the Amish, who religiously oppose modern life including education and cars, openly cheat and ride in hired cars. But because we’re not stupid we tightly regulate our universally beloved cars to minimize their safety risk. Yet for most people in the world, and rational Americans, guns – unlike cars – do to not have a similarly obvious social benefit that far outweighs their cost in innocent lives. If even they did, if we weren’t irrational hypocrites we’d still regulate them at least as much as we regulate cars.
There is one other extreme justification people use for amassing arsenals of unregulated weapons. Some people believe they have a right, and even obligation, to maintain the capability to violently overthrow their own government. This idea is an outdated, delusional, and hypocritical.
America is a divided country. American citizens can’t agree on jack shit and presidential elections that are won by anything more than a few percentage points are considered a landslide. This would not be a war of all Americans, red and blue, united against a corrupt government. In the gun nut’s fantasy I think it is save to assume they’re going to be fighting on the minority / losing side. (If they were on the majority / winning side they wouldn’t need to fire off a violent rebellion.) And they’re going to start a bloody civil war against their own legitimate, democratically elected government? Because, for example, they can’t have 20 round clip?
And it won’t be Obama that will be coming personally for their guns – or whatever other issue sets them on their murderous rampage. It will be the military personnel that they claim to adore. Are they willing to murder their fellow citizens for doing their job? Even if they are willing, do they think they’re capable of taking out a squadron of marines in a firefight? And are the rest of us willing to continue to live under a legal system that enables these nuts to stockpile militaristic weapons to enact their ridiculousness, murderous fantasies whenever they feel slighted by democracy?
If a national apocalypse really did happen it wouldn’t look anything like the gun nut fantasy. It won’t be a Red Dawn style assault by a military with conventional weapons. If it comes it will be covert – ushered in slowly by infringing on civil rights for a arguably legitimate cause. Many of the same people stockpiling guns are currently fighting to yield their fundamental freedoms in the name of counter terrorism.
In the real world, violence is the least effective way change a society. Consider Tunisia, which had the lowest firearm ownership rate in the world (890 times fewer guns per capita than the US) yet its people toppled a brutal, 24-year dictatorship and sparked the Arab Spring. The fantasy of a violent overthrow of the US government shows a mindless hypocrisy born out of a lust for vigilante power at any price.
The inexplicable resistance to simple, common sense gun laws can be explained by three words: delusional vigilante fantasies. I have no issue with guns in the hands of rational, responsible people for legitimate purposes, but we need to stop allowing gun nuts to define the culture and continue pushing us into living in a perpetual war zone with more guns and less control.
I have little hope that this post will change gun nuts minds because their opinion is not based on reality. It is based on irrational fear and heroic fantasy – which no amount of evidence can disprove. If you’re willing accept almost daily mass murders to protect your delusions, what is a blog post going to do? If we’re going to improve the situation, the rational majority, including many gun owners who are reasonable and responsible, need to do change the law over gun nuts howls and violent threats. We need to care enough to become a stronger and louder voice to our politicians than the NRA gun lobby and their mindlessly zealous minions. Until we become that strong political voice we may care, but we don’t care enough. I’ve only given financial support to two politicians or political causes in my life. One of them is Everytown For Gun Safety. I will never vote for a candidate who is too much of a gun lobby whore to even support universal background checks, regardless of their other positions, and have written my representatives to let them know.
Responsible owners are willing to be accountable for their guns and moral people are willing to put up with some inconvenience to save lives. Irresponsible and immoral gun nuts should no longer be allowed to dictate our gun culture. It is literally killing us.