I have largely been silent on the issue this time around. I have seen nothing that contributes to the debate and thought I had nothing to add since the Vegas incident. Mostly, if someone asks, I just refer them to my earlier points on why banning bump stocks and strengthening the Brady Law not will not change anything. However, it seems today my more liberal and conservative friends have been posting quite a bit on the subject and I thought now might be a good time to tackle the issue again by looking at problems on both sides and finding a solution.
First, let’s start with some of the conservative talking points.
- “If someone is determined to hurt people and commit a felony, what’s to say that they won’t break a law to get their hands on a gun to do it?”
This may be true, but it is doesn’t move the dialogue forward and is often used deceptively. It is basically saying that since criminals don’t obey laws, anyway, why have a law? By this logic, we could apply the following to Trump’s desire to build a wall. Walls have not proven to be effective in stopping people wanting to come in, so why build a wall? I don’t understand why conservatives who use this logic don’t apply it elsewhere. Laws are largely there as deterrents. People will not do something because it is against the law regardless of how pointless they see it (I guess this is why I always get stuck behind that Kia doing 65 on the interstate). A psychologist found that most of the population is motivated to do things by one of two factors: sympathy and empathy. or law and order (I think this sums up the current gun debate).
- “Cars kill more people than guns do, yet we don’t ban cars.”
This is a strawman argument, and not even good one. Cars are highly regulated, require an age limit, require a permit of sorts, a registration, require training and safety ((things the left claim to want for guns) and are designed for transportation, not to kill. They can and have been used to kill people, but that is not their primary purpose. In fact, it is a gross misuse of their purpose. The argument falls further apart because while you have a right to a gun, you do not have a right to own a car. The government could decide to remove all cars (for whatever reason); this is an apples to oranges comparison.
- “Arm teachers; that will fix the problem.”
Well, maybe— we’re not really sure. Recent evidence has shown that a good guy with a gun can quickly stop a bad guy with one in a school. The sample size is too small to draw any broad-based conclusions. However, teachers’ primary responsibility is to teach. We put hundreds of hours into training military and police personnel to make sure they are properly trained to deal with these situations, to identity, de-escalate, and protect, not to mention constant training, upkeep, and psychological evaluation. So the solution is to let a gun carrying amateur take over the job of a police officer because they are willing? I’m not sure I’m ready for my kid to be in that school. The armed teacher might be Rambo, and a great protector, but I would much rather they stick to their real job, which is hard enough.
Now let’s look at some of the liberal points.
- “The NRA is a terrorist group” or “the NRA has blood on its hands”
I’ve seen a lot of this in various forms today and has made me cringe each time. The NRA, like the ACLU, is an advocacy group. Like the ACLU, they have often taken an extreme position for their cause. They have no more blood on their hands than I do (well, maybe they do). To make these claims about dedicated rights advocates shows that a critic knows nothing about NRA, advocacy, the Second Amendment, or how to debate credibly.
- “Countries like Japan and Australia have proven gun control works.”
There is a lot of debate regarding whether gun control actually does work in Australia, but that is besides the point. Japan only proves that gun control works for Japan. Brazil proves gun control doesn’t work for Brazil. Both countries are radically different from the United States, and as such make these apples or oranges (in the case of Japan apples to steak) comparisons as well. Never mind that countries like Japan are highly focused on collective mentality where the USA is an individualistic society: there are so many material differences between the two countries that it would be impossible say, let alone prove, that the U.S.could have similar results (and this is before you even get into the mess of completely reworking our current laws).
So what can we do to fix the problem? As I already mentioned, the Brady Law expansion and the bump stock ban would do nothing to fix the problem. Outside of banning guns, other measures have been discussed. I know some Senators, such as Diane Feinstein. have proposed using the No Fly list as a way to stop gun purchasers who might be potential law-breakers. But here you run into other problems such as false positives, lack of due process, or as the ACLU put it, a measure that ” does not provide meaningful notice of the reasons our clients are blacklisted, the basis for those reasons, and a hearing before a neutral decision-maker.”
I would really like to hammer the issue with using breaches of due process as route to solving the gun control problem. It seems like more and more of society is moving away from “the right to a fair trial” and “innocent until proven guilty” for quick and easy solutions. I can only see this resulting in more “Dear Colleague” letters, kangaroo courts, and witch trials. When have these kinds of methods ever turned out positively?
So what can we do? I have three things to suggest to at least move the dialogue forward.
First, be willing to communicate, listen, and accept you might be wrong in your position. As Jack pointed out, emotion does not help an argument. Hurting people need time to grieve, not to be exploited. We do a lot of stupid things when we are hurt, angry, or upset. These are the best times to step away, not step forward. This conversation needs to happen, but we need the right people who are qualified to do it with civility, reason, power and restraint. This leads me to my second suggestion.
Stop giving people like David Hogg a platform. He adds nothing but anger, and only destroys dialogue. As with the the NFL protests, no one wants to listen to someone who has no idea what they are talking about. Being forced to listen to him and people like him convinces those on the other side of the issue that the objective is to harangue and annoy, not to persuade.
Third, we need be more diligent as a society. It is becoming a common thread that shooters were not stopped by law enforcement before the incident happened (See Fort Hood shooting, Charleston church shooting, Texas church shooting, 2014 Washington shooting, and the Parkland shooting). A NYT article listed all the f mass shootings in the last 15 years and showed multiple times where people were able to acquire the deadly weapon only because some form of law enforcement failed to do its job. I hope this was because of the problems with due process, and not laziness, or “kicking it down the road.”
I doubt the problem of mass shootings will never be fixed (please prove me wrong), at least not without removing the Second Amendment, and even then I doubt it. But some progress has be made and I want to do it the right way. At the rate we are going the lines of communication between the two sides are going to stop entirely, and something even worse is going to happen.