Another day, another mass shooting here in the US. This time at a July 4th parade in Chicago.
After Uvalde, we got some bipartisan legislation that doesn’t do much, followed by a SCOTUS decision the seeks to limit states’ abilities to rein in gin violence. Half-step forward, two steps back.
Our previous writings, which sadly remain relevant, are below.
No End in Sight for Gun Violence
Posted on by The View from the Armchair
We periodically re-publish the same pro-gun-regulation piece with a new title. Not because we like sounding like a broken record, but because the same issues keep coming up.
We are up to 21 dead, 18 of which were children, in a school shooting in Uvalde, TX today. Ten died in the racially motivated 14 May supermarket shooting in Buffalo, NY. And there have been numerous other shootings with fewer fatalities but more wounded as compiled by https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/reports/mass-shooting.
Thoughts and prayers are not enough. They haven’t been enough. They won’t stop the next mass shooting.
It is not “too soon” to talk about meaningful firearm regulation. It is far too late. We need action, now.
Below please find our previous writings on the topic.
Gun Violence Strikes Again – and Again, and Again, and Again…
Posted on by The View from the Armchair
republicans are again calling for protection of “gun rights” (gun manufacturers’ profits) in the wake of the second clear indication in a week that we need better gun regulation. They simply do not care how many Americans die so long as gun manufacturers make money. In all contexts, the gop put profits ahead of people.
The gop puts out a lot of disinformation and creates a plethora of disingenuous arguments to prevent meaningful discussion of gun regulation. Today TX Senator and weaselly coward ted cruz offered an impassioned defense of prayer as his newest disingenuous argument, in response to someone saying that “thoughts and prayers” weren’t enough. ted pretended the argument was anti-prayer, which it obviously isn’t. It’s just one more reason to hate ted’s lying ass.
Human sack of paste Sen. john kennedy argues that we don’t address drunk driving by restricting sober driving as an analogy. That’s a pretty stupid argument – we regulate the hell out of sober driving, and mandate that driving be sober. We do that because we know driving, even under optimal conditions, poses significant risks. Driving drunk exacerbates all risks, so we make it illegal and assign strict punishments. And though cars can be lethal, they are not meant to be. They are designed as a means of conveyance, not a means of taking life. Guns are MEANT to be lethal. That is their telos. Should they not be regulated at least as well as cars?
Democrats now have control of both houses of Congress, and the Presidency. Will there finally be some action?
Below find our previous commentary on gun regulation.
Gun Control, Part One
Posted on by The View from the Armchair
Although some believe now is not the proper time to discuss gun control, the increasing number and severity of major incidents suggests that this conversation should have taken place long ago. We will attempt to look at this as dispassionately as possible, though to be clear we believe that better regulation of firearms is necessary as a public safety matter and our writing seeks to support that position. In order to keep this digestible, we will address the overall topic of gun control in small portions. First we will address some of the common arguments against gun regulation, and attempt to dispel some myths and misconceptions.
- Gun control advocates seek to ban all gun ownership: False. While I cannot say with certainty that no single person or even group of people advocate a wholesale ban of firearms, that is not a mainstream position, and certainly not a position that would gain any traction in our state or federal legislatures. There is not one coherent plan being put forth to address gun violence, but the larger goal is fairly uniform, which is to work to create legislation that limits access to bad actors while protecting the right to firearm ownership as provided in the constitution.
- The Constitution provides that all individuals may own firearms: Not specifically in its original form. The Heller case is the first from the Supreme Court that specifies an individual right to bear arms over a collective right, so current interpretation is that firearm ownership is an individual right. However, it is not an unrestricted right, either in its original constitutional form or its legal interpretations through the years. Regulation for public safety is deemed appropriate by the courts. This is not a situation unique to the 2nd amendment; all amendments are subject to restriction or regulation to the extent that the regulation can be shown to serve the public good.
- Other things kill more people than guns: True, but irrelevant. A discussion about mitigating gun violence and deaths has nothing to do with other things that may kill people. However, for what other things that kill people – whether more or fewer than firearms – do we take no action to mitigate risk? We take action to limit injuries and deaths attributed to disease, chemicals, tools, cars, boats, machines, alcohol, tobacco, illicit drugs, prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, toys, you-name-it… Why not firearms?
- Guns don’t kill people, people kill people: True. And people kill people with firearms more than any other method, per FBI statistics. That has been a continuing trend for many years, most likely due to the fact that firearms are meant to kill efficiently. They are certainly not the only way to kill another human being, but they are the best way available to the average citizen. Of note, handguns are far and away the most used firearm when it comes to homicide.
- This is a mental health issue, not a gun control issue: False. Regulation of firearms and addressing mental health are not mutually exclusive; it’s not an either/or proposition. It’s fair to say that both aspects need to be addressed in order to mitigate the risk of gun violence.
- Gun regulations can’t stop all gun violence: True. While it would be nice if no innocent life was ever again taken by a firearm, that isn’t a realistic expectation. And we know this. The goal is to reduce the number of people killed and injured; to mitigate the risk; to make our country a safer place to live.
- People will always find a way if they really want to kill someone: Probably. With that being the case, why make a highly efficient method readily available to anyone who wants to kill someone, or to injure hundreds and kill dozens in one event? Knives, baseball bats, airplanes, cars, explosives, and all manner of other implements never intended to take life have been employed at one point to kill or seriously injure someone. But none have been used as effectively over time as firearms.
- Gun control is a conspiracy to disarm the population and institute totalitarian government control: False. This is a baseless conspiracy theory. If you subscribe to this idea then you are deluded and need to reconsider to which sources of information you give attention.
This first part has no specific recommendations. We just need to have a level playing field for discussion. And, really, that’s the first step that we on the gun control side of the coin want the most: honest discourse. No disingenuous arguments, no ad hominem attacks; just an honest discussion about reducing the risk of death by firearm while protecting the constitutional right to bear arms.
So please, if you are railing against having a discussion or taking any kind of action, stop and think about what you are arguing against. We don’t want to take all your guns away. We do want fewer people killed by firearms. That seems like an idea more people could get behind.
We’ll discuss issues and potential suggestions in the next installment.
Gun Control, Part Two
Posted on by The View from the Armchair
Part one dealt with myths and misconceptions. Part two was to be some suggestions. That will wait until part three. Part two will instead focus on disingenuous arguments and lies. There are many. I can’t promise to be as dispassionate about some of these lies. Lets’ dive in.
- Gun control advocates want to ban and confiscate guns. No-no-no-no-no-no-no!!!!! Not true. We covered this generously last time as a misconception, but it’s really a lie. It is a deliberate re-invention of the gun control position; a straw-man argument, which gun rights advocate rail against despite the fact that there is no movement pushing for complete bans and confiscation. The 2nd amendment and subsequent court interpretations do not support wholesale bans or confiscation. This nonsense needs to stop. I have heard a suggestion that there needs to be a new term, because gun control is tainted by this association with a ban. Wrong. The association is deliberate to kill conversation and debate. Any new term will be deliberately mislabeled as a call for a ban as well. Instead, we need to call people that claim gun control means guns bans what they are: liars. This includes narratives that more subtly insinuate that gun control advocates seek bans such as, “We welcome a reasoned and well-informed debate on public safety and our constitutional freedoms, but we reject the false choice that we can’t have both.” There is no narrative that we can’t have both. None. That is a lie. Whoever wrote and issued this point is a liar.
- Gun laws don’t work; new laws won’t help. There is nothing to support this. If this were true then there would be no reason for any laws. The fact is that some people will break the law, but if there are no laws then no one is behaving criminally. Laws deter crime to an extent, and they also provide a means for recompense and restitution when laws are broken. They tell members of a society up front what is and is not acceptable. Our laws respecting firearms are not uniform across states and municipalities, and tend to allow access far too easily. The result is a continuing series of spectacular mass shooting events in ever increasing severity and frequency, not to mention the smaller gun crimes that actually result in the bulk of annual gun deaths. The answer may not be in “more” laws, but in better laws, enforced with consistency across borders. Saying laws don’t work is just evasion, and it indicates that one doesn’t care at all about the lives lost and otherwise impacted to gun violence. Some say massacres are “the price of freedom.” That sentiment is absolutely sickening, and certainly not in keeping with the spirit and intent of allowing people to bear arms for defense or sport.
- The cities with the strictest gun laws have the most gun crime. Wrong. Most statisticians continue to point out that it is very difficult to draw a causative conclusion from a correlative indication regarding guns. That said, the correlative data do not indicate the areas with stricter gun laws have more issues with guns. The correlative trends tend to show the opposite. Even if one can’t prove a causative effect of laws on crime, the correlations prove this claim to be false. And since we’ve known it to be false for some time, those who push this narrative are not merely mistaken; they are liars. Here are some highlights from a FactCheck.org piece on the topic:
What role do gun control laws play in these statistics? It’s difficult to say. One news report that compiled these same CDC numbers on firearm death rates, by 24/7 Wall Street and published by USA Today, listed several reasons besides gun laws that these states might have high rates of gun deaths (suicides included). Many of the states also have higher rates of poverty, lower educational attainment and perhaps more rural areas that make getting to a hospital in time to save someone’s life difficult.
But that report also noted weaker gun laws were common among the states with higher gun death rates: “In fact, none of the states with the most gun violence require permits to purchase rifles, shotguns, or handguns. Gun owners are also not required to register their weapons in any of these states. Meanwhile, many of the states with the least gun violence require a permit or other form of identification to buy a gun,” reporter Thomas C. Frohlich wrote.
The full text provides additional insight with respect to the broader context of “gun crimes” as well, and their conclusion still is that there is no indication that stricter laws are associated with more crime. Chicago continues to get singled out for its high gun crime despite tough gun laws, but claims that it is the “murder capital” or the has the most stringent gun laws are demonstrably false. Folks like to point out the handgun bans that existed in DC and Chicago as evidence that stricter laws lead to more gun crime. That isn’t true, but one must wonder why bans didn’t have a significant impact on gun crime. There are many reasons, not the least of which is lack of consistency. Banning a handgun in one municipality is meaningless if one can get the firearm in the next municipality. In any case, there is nothing to support the idea that strict laws result in more crime or the lax laws result in less crime. Such an assertion is a lie.
- Other countries with less stringent gun laws have less crimes. Wrong. This is the same bad argument as in number 3, but expanded to include the world. Causation is again difficult if not impossible to demonstrate, but correlations don’t support this. Countries with more restrictions on guns and fewer guns owned have fewer gun deaths. There are bad arguments that make faulty comparisons between developed nations and underdeveloped nations, and there are fantasies of countries that mandate gun ownership with nearly zero crime. These things simply are not true. Comparing a wealthy, developed nation like the US where laws tend to be enforced with a developing nation with widespread corruption in its legal system is invalid, and making up stories to prove a point only proves that there was no point to prove. If you must support your position with lies then you don’t have a position.
So let’s knock it off, ok? We can’t have a meaningful conversation about how to both reduce gun crime and protect individual rights if one is lying about that data and deliberately derailing the discussion.
Gun Control, Part Three
Posted on by The View from the Armchair
This portion will discuss possible ways ahead to regulate guns in a way that minimizes risks, reduces the number of deaths, and maintains the right of individuals to own firearms as prescribed in the 2nd Amendment and subsequent court interpretations.
THE GOAL IS NOT TO BAN AND CONFISCATE ALL FIREARMS.
These are ideas for discussion, and not every suggestion may be practical. They are all worthy of conversation, in an effort to reduce the risk of death from gun violence, including mass shootings, routine gun violence, and suicides.
To start, we’ll identify some areas where there is a reasonable amount of bipartisan agreement according to Pew Research:
– Preventing the mentally ill from purchasing guns.
– Barring gun purchases by people of watch-lists or no-fly-lists.
– Background checks for private sales and at gun shows.
– Banning assault weapons.
– Federal database to track gun sales.
– Banning high-capacity magazines.
These are in descending order of bipartisan agreement. It would be wrong to say that there is as much public support for banning high-capacity magazines as preventing the mentally ill from purchasing firearms. Nevertheless, these ideas all have a reasonable amount of popular and bipartisan support; enough that they ought to be able to pass as legislation.
The extent to which any of these would be effective is unclear, at least in part due to a moratorium on conducting research into gun violence that has been in place since 1996, at the behest of the NRA. A previous assault weapons ban was correlated with a precipitous drop in murders, but since the overwhelming majority of gun crimes involve pistols rather than assault rifles it is difficult to read a causal relationship between these two events. Assault rifles have played a prominent role in mass shootings, but not in the majority of shootings overall. Private sales and gun shows may not account for a significant number of gun purchases nationwide. High capacity magazines have definitely proven problematic in mass shooting, but the role they play in the myriad individual shooting that occur every year is unclear. Still, these would be steps toward mitigating risk that most people currently agree on.
It occurs to me that the disparity of laws between states and municipalities is a significant issue. Having a restriction in one locality is of little meaning if one can go to the next locality and make a legal purchase. Also, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) provides broad protections for gun manufacturers and sellers that can enable straw purchases and bulk purchases that are otherwise illegal to go unreported. A uniform federal code with respect to regulations is necessary in order to ensure traffickers or other who wish to circumvent local laws can’t simply drive a few miles to make their gun purchases. Here are some general ideas for gun ownership that should be implemented by federal legislation:
– Universal background checks for all firearm purchases.
– All firearms owners require training and certification as part of registration.
– All firearms sales must be registered/recorded.
– Limit magazine capacities.
– Limit the number of weapons an individual may own.
– Establish a periodic recertification requirement.
I am inclined to suggest that open and concealed carry permits be very strictly regulated. Not forbidden, but strictly regulated by a federal policy that would, like the previous suggestions, apply across state lines. For the concealed carry enthusiast, there is an upside to federal regulation of permits; if all states must adhere to the same standards for issue of permits then there should also be reciprocity among states. The downside for the enthusiast; there would likely be fewer permits granted. The requirements will be similar to regular ownership; background checks, training and certification, and recertification. The background checks would be more thorough, and the training would be more involved, and the period for recertification would be shorter.
Keep in mind that there is no data supporting the notion that more guns = less gun violence, and no data indicating the “good guys with guns” regularly thwart gun crime. In an active shooter situation, the first responders cannot immediately tell good guys with guns from bad guys with guns. For that matter, neither can individual good guys with guns be certain about which other people with guns they might observe. Occasions where an armed private citizen with a firearm saved the day are extremely rare, and the off chance that someone might save the day 3.8% of the time (429 justifiable gun homicides of 11004 gun homicides in 2016) doesn’t justify the increased public risk of having more guns that can be negligently discharged, inappropriately discharged, or stolen.
The suggestions above are general aren’t meant to serve as the backbone for legislation, but rather as a point of departure for discussion. Perhaps these ideas are too restrictive. Maybe some aren’t restrictive enough. It could be that additional data is needed, making an end to the moratorium on gun-crime research a necessity. What should be clear is that inaction isn’t the correct action. We may not need “more” regulation, but we certainly need better regulation, and more consistent regulation, and more data on what truly is and is not effective.
Some good news; we have seen a drop in gun crimes from the 1990s to today. Even though gun crime has been on the rise the last couple of years, we are nowhere near peak levels. However, the frequency and severity of mass shootings has picked up over the last six years. We need to have a real discussion about how to reduce these mass shooting events as well as further limit other gun crimes and accidents. We can’t do this without access to data, and we can’t do this by pushing false narratives.
ADDENDUM: Data indicate that while gun ownership went up in the US the gun crime rate went down. Some suggest that this supports the notion that more guns = less crime. However, the data fails to take a few things into account. First, while there were more gun purchases, the number of gun owners did not go up. That means more guns were and are being consolidated in the hands of a statistical few owners. That would not indicate an increase in the number of guns actually on the street, and the numbers of justifiable homicides has decreased even as gun crime decreased, which does not support a narrative that vigilantism or self-defense was a factor in the decrease of gun violence. Next, during the same period of time when there was a precipitous decrease in gun violence both the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993 and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 went into effect. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 ended in 2004, and since then most federal legislation related to guns has had the effect of loosening restrictions. During this period we see a leveling and then slight increase in overall gun crime. These correlations are not enough to prove a causal relationship between the legislation and the crime rate; neither is the rate of gun purchases.