A couple of thoughts on improving the Gun Debate

We have witnessed yet another horrific mass-shooting (of children!) in this country.  As with each previous atrocity, people are crying loudly for politicians and elected leaders to "do something" about guns.

The talking heads in the media will repeat the calls to "do something", yet it will remain very unclear exactly what that "something" is.  Lack of specificity and over-generalizations have continuously poisoned this debate.  In response to this lack of clarity about what is to be done gun-rights supporters will "fill in the blank" with their own worst fears ("they are going to ban the very gun I was hoping to buy one day) and rush to the stores to buy up ever more firearms.

This is predictable because the past is a strong predictor of the future.

Also predictably, gun-rights advocacy groups will use the lack of clarity in calls to "do something" to spread fears of gun bans and raise even more money to push even harder for an absolute "all or nothing" notion of gun rights.

What is a thoughtful person to do?

I commend to you two very good articles that have been circulating since the recent shooting that are worth pondering.

1) There is a Way to Stop Mass Shootings (and You Won't Like It)
As a Christian, I think this piece hits the nail on the head (and it has little or nothing to do with guns or legislation - it has to do with loving the unloved).

2) Gun Reform: Speaking the Truth to Bull$hit, Practicing Civility, and Effecting Change
I remain very concerned with the poor quality of public discourse in this country: over-generalizations, false dichotomies, assumptions, and "fake news" seem to drown out or shout down nuanced and thoughtful reasoning.  This piece looks at just a few ways that happens when we try to talk about guns and gun violence.

Now I'll lay my cards on the table.  I am a 2nd Amendment supporter and a gun-owner.
Yet I also believe that there are common sense gun regulations and compromises for the sake of public safety that could and should be considered by lawmakers.

We will never, however, be able to reach those compromises and new regulations so long as both the left and the right reflexively reach for lines of argument that are, at best, unhelpful, and at worst foolish.

On the Left, people immediately work with the logic that "if we could reduce the numbers of guns or the access to guns, we would reduce gun crime and gun deaths."  This is no doubt true.  Followed to its logical conclusion it means, "if we could reduce the number of guns to 0, we would have 0 gun crime."  This is also logically true.  But it is totally unhelpful in actually reducing gun violence; it is analogous to saying "if we could reduce the number of automobiles to 0, then we would eliminate automobile deaths in this country."
It is logically sound, but it is not grounded in reality.

The Constitution, as consistently interpreted by the Supreme Court, gives US citizens the right to keep long guns and hand guns for sporting and self-defense.  That is not going to change.
Yet suppose that gun-control advocates really could repeal the 2nd Amendment; even still history has taught us that simply legislating prohibition not only fails, it invariably leads to more crime and violence.  Just look at the Prohibition of alcohol in the early 20th Century, or the War on Drugs that has dragged on for decades.

Prohibiting a product that people are long accustomed to having simply does not work in "the land of the free."
Yet any time there is a mass shooting, the first response from leaders on the left seems always to be the same: "get rid of the guns."

Being an intellectually lazy people, we love "silver bullets" and simple solutions to complex problems.

The other issue I often see with gun-control advocates is that they often don't seem to know much about guns.  This is not surprising; if you don't like guns, you probably don't spend a lot of time at the range handling one (if you did, you might start to like them).  Yet, how can you craft thoughtful legislation, that takes into account the differences between different types of firearms and their different uses, when you know very little about it?
When gun-rights advocates encounter gross ignorance on the part of those calling for more gun-control (like the many calls to ban "automatic weapons" which are, for all practical purposes, already banned), this only serves to feed the fears of gun-owners that the (often urban) gun-control advocates really do not care one bit about the culture and lifestyle and concerns of gun-owners.  This opens the door for their fears to grow.

On the Right, I would argue the faulty thinking is even worse.  At least the position of the left is logically sound as an abstraction within a theoretical vacuum.  The position by many gun-rights advocates is at best a logical fallacy, and at worst it amounts to fear-mongering.  Many Gun-rights advocacy groups and enthusiasts hold to an absolutist, all-or-nothing approach: Even the tiniest step in the direction toward gun-control (such as banning "bump stocks" or high capacity magazines) will inevitably lead to a scenario where "they" are coming to "take your guns" (and who knows what else while "they" are at it).

But appeals to fear will accomplish nothing good in the long run.  It not only shuts down meaningful debate, but also could potentially lead to violence.
Furthermore, this line of thinking ignores the facts: we have regulated other powerful and potentially dangerous products (such as automobiles, computers, or pharmaceuticals) without stumbling our way toward a ban; there is no logically necessary reason why we could not do the same with firearms.
There can be a thoughtful give and take between the legitimate concerns of gun-control advocates and the legitimate concerns of gun-rights advocates.  But that will only happen if the Left and the Right can put down their dead-end arguments long enough to have a fruitful conversation.

I believe there could indeed be some meaningful improvements to current laws when it comes to back-ground checks, mental health screenings, magazine capacity limits, safe storage requirements (most gun homicides are accidents or suicides, not murders) and minimal training requirements for gun owners.

Presently, however, the Gun-rights advocates seem to be holding all the cards and winning all the legal battles, so they may be thinking "why open up to compromise, or even have a conversation, when you are 'winning' already?"
Because it is the right thing to do.  Because it is a show of good faith that may help restore your reputation in the minds of the wider public and earn you a place at the table and a voice in the discussions in the future when, perhaps, you no longer 'hold all the cards.'

While I do believe that there are some legal measures that could be taken to improve gun safety in this country, I seriously doubt if any gun-related measures in and of themselves will dramatically reduce crime or eliminate mass shootings, because these things are not fueled simply by access to guns.  They are also fueled by moral collapse, economic hardships, spiritual isolation, family breakdown, the drug epidemic and mental health crises that are currently devastating many of our communities.
Those are the issues that must seriously be addressed; they are daunting and it is clear at the outset that those problems do not admit of "quick fixes."

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