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Breaking Down the Gun Arguments
Author: BobR    Date: 04/15/2013 14:22:46

To hear the gun nuts' hysterics, you'd think President Obama had declared himself Supreme Leader and was sending out the troops goosestepping into every community to arrest anyone with a gun. In reality, the Senate has finally agreed to discuss the possibility of expanding background checks. The notion of background checks is apparently forbidden in the Constitution if you believe these people. Their arguments against any sort of common-sense regulation are legion, and spoken with such earnest matter-of-factualness that you have to believe that they believe them. Perhaps it's time (again) to look a little closer at some of those arguments...

Background checks won't work because most criminals don't get their guns from retail stores: This canard is sometimes backed up with a government study (interesting that they distrust the government until they find something they think reinforces their pre-conceived beliefs). They cite a study that provides these general statistics:
  • 39.6% of criminals obtained a gun from a friend or family member
  • 39.2% of criminals obtained a gun on the street or from an illegal source
  • 0.7% of criminals purchased a gun at a gun show
  • 1% of criminals purchased a gun at a flea market
  • 3.8% of criminals purchased a gun from a pawn shop
  • 8.3% of criminals actually bought their guns from retail outlets

(apologies for the Daily Caller link)

See? - they say - Only 8.3% buy their guns at retail outlets! Perhaps they don't realize this takes the wind out of their argument: The gun shops are the only ones currently doing the background check. That's the whole idea behind "universal" background checks - it would require checks for ALL transactions. If a criminal buys a gun from a street dealer selling out of the trunk of his car, that is currently a legal sale. That street dealer can buy as many guns as he wants at a gun show, and turn around and sell them on the street with no legal repercussions. This was what the Fast & Furious investigation was monitoring - legal "straw purchases" for drug gangs (despite what the right-wing may otherwise say about that operation). The idea is that ANYTIME that a gun changes ownership, the new owner must pass a background check, or both the buyer AND the seller are committing a crime. Sadly, I doubt that any bill that makes it out of the Senate will be that comprehensive and loophole-free.

Clip size doesn't matter because people can swap them quickly: This is the typical "I can change a clip in 0.XX seconds" argument from gun enthusiasts that completely ignores the fact that most of these mass-murders are committed by people that don't train themselves to change clips that quickly. It's been fairly well-documented that the shooter of Gabby Giffords was stopped from shooting any further when he stopped to change clips. There is really no compelling argument for needing a large clip other than "I want it, and I think the 2nd Amendment says I can have it". That's really not good enough - not in today's world.

Background checks wouldn't have prevented Sandy Hook: Yes, that is true. However, this fails on two accounts. First - the Sandy Hook shooting may have been the straw that broke the camel's back, but it is not the only shooting that is prompting the review of current gun laws. There is a long bloody history backing up the need for changes to gun regulations (although on the other hand - we now have to take our shoes off before boarding a plane just because of a single incident. Funny how THAT works). Secondly - removing loopholes from background checks is just a single prong in a multi-pronged approach to reducing gun violence and gun deaths in general. There is not any one single regulation that is going to prevent all gun deaths, or prevent all tragedies. That sort of leads to the next bit of "common wisdom"...

Regulations don't work because criminals won't obey regulations: So hey - why have any regulations at all? Why have any laws at all? They just "inconvenience" the rest of us law-abiding citizens, right? Everyone breaks the speed limit on the highway, so why have any speed limits at all? Of course - if the speed limit is 55 and everyone is going 65, no speed limit at all means everyone would be going anywhere from 55 to 125. I think that's a pretty apt metaphor for where we are now with the lax regulations currently in place.

A good guy with a gun is the best defense for a bad guy with a gun: This absurd canard put forth by the NRA leadership is one of the worst not-based-in-reality approaches to gun violence I've heard. who is a good guy anyway? We trust the police and military to be good guys, yet the shootings at Ft. Hood and the cop who went on a vendetta in California show that a person with a gun can be considered a "good guy" until they do something bad. There have been several stories in the news recently about toddlers shooting people. Do we need to arm toddler good guys? It's absurd.

Arm the teachers: This was another brilliant idea from the NRA (and still argued by gun nuts) - arming teachers or school administrators. When the shooting occurred at Ft. Hood, the soldiers there called 911. Why? Because they aren't allowed to have guns on base. If we can't trust trained soldiers on a military base to carry a gun, how is it that we want to trust untrained teachers to carry a gun in a school full of children??

A government registry of guns will result in the government confiscating all guns: This has been the paranoid conspiracy theory since the day President Obama was elected. They pointed to the fact that he did nothing his first term as evidence he was lulling us all into complacency so could get re-elected and really pull out his agenda (although why he wouldn't just do it his first when he had a friendly Congress defies common sense). After Sandy Hook, he has decided to pursue getting gun laws fixed to prevent needless gun deaths. As mentioned in the first paragraph, the Senate is having a hard time getting even universal background checks passed. How likely is it that anything even remotely onerous has a chance of passing into law? And while we're at it - let's look at the logistics of this. With 30-40% of households in the U.S. owning guns and anywhere from 200 to 300 million guns owned, what is the likelihood that the government has a remote chance in hell of rounding all of those up? It's not physically possible, there's not enough manpower to do it, there's not enough money in any department's budget to accomplish it. This one is just plain stupid.

The Supreme Court has determined that the 2nd Amendment applies to more than just militias: Again - the gun nuts (who tend to be right-wing) have decided that the Supreme Court is suddenly The Law Of The Land when they agree with a ruling. The Supreme Court has also previously decided that blacks were not citizens and that slavery could not be outlawed. They got that one wrong too. The right-wing coined the phrase "activist Supreme Court" and I think it applies to their ruling on gun ownership and the 2nd Amendment. If any law were able to make it out of Congress and make it to the President's desk, it would likely get tested via the courts, and then we'll see what they think of any of these proposed gun regulations.

The end goal of any gun regulation (or package of regulations) is to reduce gun violence. The gun nuts say "guns don't kill people - people kill people". The truth is that people with guns kill people, easily, efficiently, and from a distance (if desired). I think the simple answer is to make the gun owner legally liable for any death or injury that results from the use of any gun of which they are the legal owner. Comprehensive background checks + a registry of gun ownership for every gun that leaves a gun factory will ensure that anyone who buys a gun knows they a liable. If they loaned it to a friend or family member - unless they registered the transaction, they would still be liable. If they resold it without doing a background check on the buyer and registering the new owner - they would be liable. If it was stolen and they didn't report it - they would be liable.

This would eliminate street dealers, would prevent criminals from getting guns from pawn shops, and would encourage owners to be more responsible to prevent accidental deaths. It also would not prevent "law-abiding" gun owners from buying and owning guns. I think that's something we could all agree on.

155 comments (Latest Comment: 04/16/2013 02:37:04 by livingonli)
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