8/23/13

America's guns: an international problem?

8/23/13
Assuming we're all okay with the idea of governments across the globe banning citizen gun ownership, the sale and spread of American guns can be seen as a problem. But the headline I wrote implies something more. As if the problem isn't just about governments overriding certain rights or being inept on crime, but rather it implies American law and people are what's wrong. Taken to the logical conclusion, such a headline and its implied argument suggests the 2nd Amendment is what is plaguing the entire world. I don't see it that way at all.

Just writing that headline made me feel dirty. Similar to how I imagine smart, but intellectually dishonest and disingenuous hacks peddling canards to advance their tribe might feel, if they had a conscience.

But maybe I give them too much credit. Maybe they're not so smart, and they really do believe their secular prayers. On the recent and horrible shooting of the Australian student in Oklahoma, Piers Morgan, celebrated gun control cheerleader, had this to say:



Some Australian officials are even calling for a tourism boycott of the U.S., echoing the knee-jerk assumptions about American guns being a global plague.

But let's get back to Piers.
I guess the good thing about Twitter is that it forces people to be pithy. But so many assumptions can be concealed in 140 characters. Going along with my premise that Piers and like-minded people are (in this case) not hacks, but sincere, they must think there are some specific laws that can prevent such horrible crimes.

Let's assume that the chief objectives behind such laws are to make guns significantly harder to buy, sell, and trade along with making it more difficult for more people to own them. That's pretty much their goal. Strictly and statistically speaking, fewer guns necessarily means fewer crimes committed with guns. So why can't we just pass some stinkin' gun control if it makes so much sense?!

Because the NRA, they say. Piers Morgan apparently thinks organizations lobbying congress on behalf of their members is immoral:
They bullied and traduced people in Washington and threatened them. They said "if you vote for these gun control laws, we’re going to drive you out of power," and guess what? Enough cowardly Democrats in particular said "OK. You're right, I’ll keep my mouth shut."
I could say the same thing about the AARP and Medicare/Social Security issues. So I don't think he wants to ban interest groups, which would raise serious 1st Amendment issues; rather it's that the 5 million strong NRA has too much sway. But there is little to be done about that. For the gun control advocates, the NRA is just an inevitable hurdle (a big one, albeit).

But let's go further and pretend the NRA doesn't exist anymore and Congress is ready and willing to pass some gun control. What kind of gun control laws would prevent shootings like the one that took place in Oklahoma? How about:

-Banning people under 21 from owning handguns?
-Requiring a license to carry a firearm?
-Banning convicted criminals from carrying firearms?
-Requiring background checks?


Don't those sound like commonsense laws that would limit the number of guns and possibly prevent such a crime? Well, we're going to need much more than that, since those are already laws in Oklahoma (and most of the U.S.). They didn't prevent killing "for fun."

Okay, so we're going to have to go further to follow the "fewer guns, less crime" slogan. Let's assume the Supreme Court Justices were personally hand-picked by the Brady Campaign. Let's also assume there will be no violent backlash, and all the law-abiding citizens continue to be law-abiding. Basically, lets give ourselves some optimistic, but plausible hope for new gun control laws.

What new laws can we make, short of blatantly tearing up the 2nd Amendment? How about:

-Banning personal sales and trades of firearms (must go through licensed dealers).
-Establishing a national firearms registry.
-Requiring a license for owning any firearm.
-Requiring training prior to gun ownership.
-Establishing and/or extending wait-times for gun purchases.
-Requiring the reporting of stolen firearms.
-Banning "assault weapons" and high-capacity magazines.
-Significantly increase taxes on firearms and ammunition.
-Banning any with a "mental disability" or those with one in the same household from owning a firearm.

Stuff along those lines. Some states have laws very similar to these, but generallly speaking, most do not. [And again, these kinds of laws run afoul of the 2nd Amendment in my opinion, but it's just for argument's sake.] Would these laws prevent or significantly reduce criminal shootings? I think only slightly, and at great cost. Why do I think so?

Because we have very similar laws regarding drugs. And yet, if I wanted to get my hands on some marijuana, meth, cocaine, even heroin, I could. It's the story of prohibition. We saw it in the 20s, where the black market thrived and crime got out of hand. We see it today with drugs, gangs, and exploding prison populations--billions of taxpayer dollars spent, thousands of lives taken, a war waged and yet I can go down the street and get me some willy-nilly.


Why would guns be any different? You can't legislate what people want. They want guns. They want to protect themselves, or worse, they want to commit a crime and no law is going to stop them. If there is demand, there will be supply.

So maybe Piers thinks we will get a handle on the black market. Maybe he thinks saving a few lives is worth the significant cost of freedom we would give up. And this may only be attainable through a vastly bigger police force, and perhaps amending the Constituion. The onus probandi however, is on him.

If Piers wants to really restrict the availability of guns in the United States, to the effect it actually and significantly reduces gun crimes (counterexamples notwithstanding), he will have to demonstrate that the government will effecasiouly hinder all firearm-related black market activities, to a much further extent than it has the drug trade. And that all newly prohibited firearms in circulation are confiscated.

The kind of state power required to achieve such ends should give anyone pause. It would take something along the lines of North Korean style control just to put a dent in the number of guns in circulation. And even North Korea is having trouble with black markets. Even if you wanted the government to be your overbearing big brother, would you want to pay for it? It may just save a life!

I don't want to. But how can I accept a gun-friendly America, especially if it costs lives? Because we make these decisions all the time, and it generally works well. For example, a lot of Americans die every year from tobacco-related deaths, and yet we still allow it, even though it has certain externalities like 2nd hand smoke and additional costs on our healthcare system. Another example is the auto-industry. I can't say it much better than Milton Friedman:



If Piers Morgan and his fellow gun control advocates are sincere, then I pity them. The only way to achieve the desired result through more gun control, is to seriously curb the rights of millions of good citizens while expanding the cost, nature, and power of the state to an alarming degree (even moreso than now). That is part of why their side is losing. Their laws don't work, and the laws they want move us, however incrementally, toward that dystopia.

If Piers and his ilk are not sincere, then it's not so much about saving lives as it is about control, and I despise them. In either case, it is why our side is more passionate, more persuasive, joins interest groups like the NRA, and is more effective. That's why we have too much sway.

And things like this won't change anything.

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