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A different approach to the gun control argument

On a thread at the Stranger's Slog, I noticed a semi-reasonable gun-rights advocate arguing that all the talk about the various shootings and rampages throughout the US (and any discussion of banning or regulating assault rifles or extended clips) was merely tangential to the issue at hand. What was necessary to have an adult conversation, he said, was a list of desired ends. Granted that his position makes no sense, and flies in the face of how reasoning has typically been done the world over for more than two thousand years, but I thought I'd try things his way for a change of pace.

1) A responsible gun culture (in terms of ownership, politics, and policy), and the fostering of such by federal, state, and local governments and relevant NGOs.
2) Reasonable restrictions and restraints on the sale, ownership, and use of weapons such as guns.
3) Accountability of gun sellers, owners, and regulators in the case of gross misuse, misconduct, or general bloody rampage.
4) That it should be easier for the mentally unstable to receive help than to obtain firearms. That it should be easier for a family to get their loved one mental assistance than for that person to slip through the system's cracks and end up homeless, hopeless, or murderous.

--Addendum (7/25)--

These suggestions are intentionally broad so as to leave room for debate and specifics, but they are meant to work synergystically and elucidate eachother.

Also, none of this stuff will happen, and (if it does) it certainly won't be a direct result of the recent shooting at the Colorado suburb premier of The Dark Knight Rises.  That is an event without any direct or foreseeable upside.


  1. 1) This would require neutrality on the matter from "both sides of the aisle", so I think first we'd need to put an end to partisan agenda pushing. If you ask me, that is far more detrimental to society as a whole than even frequent mass homicides.
    2) Why should there be restrictions on guns? There are already restrictions on use of weapons (eg. don't kill people or we'll kill you back, don't steal from people - especially at gunpoint, etc.), so these restrictions will only serve to restrict ownership of those who will follow all the other laws of polite society.
    3) Why should they be accountable for the actions of a madman? If they did not follow current firearms sales protocols, they lose their license and face incarceration already, it is not up to them to ensure that the magical protection of federal procedures has filtered out any and all would-be madmen. The process is ludicrous to begin with, so you're building an argument on a flawed foundation.
    4) If you have a record of mental issues, you cannot purchase/own a firearm. Who determines if someone has mental issues? Look at all the psychologists who are trying to find any link amongst the madmen who perpetrate these horrendous acts, they're all coming up empty...and that is with the benefit of hindsight. I think our society would be much better off if treatment was our focus instead of incarceration. This goes for mental instability as much as it does for substance abuse. Rather than threatening consequences, offer hope and salvation. Instead of putting people in a cage with animals or a box with padded walls to be forgotten, give them a way to make a life they can live with.

    I understand that taking away guns seems like the easy solution here, but madness will find a way to wreak its havoc with whatever tools are at its disposal. This guy (James Holmes) made explosives, most likely with unrestricted components, and I think it's fortunate that he didn't use them instead, or the death toll would likely have been much worse.

  2. You're never going to get politicians to stop being politicians. That just isn't going to happen. Besides, during the relatively bipartisan eras of George H. W. Bush's presidency and the second term of Bill Clinton, little to nothing got done in the realm of national gun policy. Thus, it isn't clear that partisanship or a lack thereof is all that relevant to the conversation at hand.

    An argument could be made that partisan politics is relevant in so far as the Republicans have made a strategy out of obstructionism, disallowing much Congressional business in Washington; and that nothing will get done so long as this is the going position of one of the major parties in power. But this seems like a tertiary matter, especially since we don't need to wait for the federal government to act in order to push for or work towards many of the goals outlined above.

    These ends are not intended to take guns away from people nor should that be an upshot), but to lessen the likelihood that people who clearly should not have firearms (i.e. those with a violent criminal background, or a documented history of mental illness or disorders known to be associated with violent outbursts, such as mania, psychotic outbreaks, paranoid schizophrenia, and antisocial personality disorder) and to offer help and treatment when feasible.

    So what I'm really talking about when it comes to legal restraints on the sale and ownership of weapons is instituting federal (and perhaps local) background checks at all points of sale (including gun shows), in order to make it less likely that a felon or crazy dude should end with guns. Law abiding, mentally stable, adult citizens would be able to obtain firearms even under such restrictions. They might just have to wait a few days.

    Where such restrictions were in place, if a seller didn't follow them, legal repercussions might follow (especially if the weapons sold were shown to have subsequently been used in the commission of a crime). As it stands, gun shows are a major loophole where no background checks are run, and weapons can be obtained by just about anyone with an ID.

    I am with you on offering help and hope to those who need it. That's part of how we stem the flow of attacks like this, but making it harder for people who clearly should not have access to guns to obtain them is an obvious component, as well.

    That other weapons are also available (some without controls, but with some effort, such as research and assembly) does not lessen our society's need for a frank and serious consideration about what to do concerning gun violence and mass murder any more than the availability of other methods of terrorism should stop the feds from addressing bombings or plane hijackings.


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