Minmaxing gun laws

As suggested by What Exit, I’m hoping to have a focused discussion of gun laws. To wit: what policy measures could be passed that would minimize the deleterious effects on gun owners, while maximizing the protection to human life?

I’m leaving the “min” side deliberately ambiguous. A policy of knocking down doors, confiscating all guns, and shooting any resistors clearly doesn’t minimize the deleterious effects, whereas one that merely adds an extra apostrophe to the background check form probably goes too far in minimizing the effects; but I’m going to leave it to folks to explain why their policy proposal minimizes the deleterious effects.

The “max” side is less ambiguous: the policy should have significant effects in reducing injury or death to humans. Note that I’m not saying “innocent humans” or anything like that: I think it’s clearest if we just talk about humans. I’m also not saying “injury or death from firearms,” because I want to leave the door open for arguing that a policy, by restricting firearm ownership, might result in a net increase in deaths (for example, from knife attacks). But that argument better have some really clear support.

What I’m not interested in includes:

  • Your opinion about the second or first or 27th amendment (or any other amendment, for that matter).
  • The safety regulations surrounding stepstools or pacifiers or anything else.
  • Your opinion about gun owners or about gun non-owners
  • Slippery slopes

For example, one common proposal is to universalize background checks: any time a firearm changes ownership, a background check must occur. This seems to me to be a reasonable min-max approach, but I don’t have the stats at hand. Is this proposal by itself (without any slippery slopes) too intrusive? What sort of gun crime would it make more difficult?

All right, hopefully this is sufficiently focused. What do y’all think: what are the best minmaxed policy proposals?

Here’s RAND’s list of gun policies and the weight of evidence (scientific studies) on their effectivity at reducing negative outcomes (suicides, accidental injuries/deaths, violent crime, mass shootings):

Ignoring the policies where the evidence is either “inconclusive” or “limited” (I’m artificially drawing the line at policies that have either “supportive” or “moderate” evidence behind them) gives the following categories:

  • Child-Access Prevention Laws
  • Stand-Your Ground Laws (Repeal)
  • Waiting Periods
  • Background Checks
  • Prohibitions Associated with Domestic Violence

Note that other hot-button policies such as assault weapons bans, high capacity magazine restrictions, concealed carry laws, and minimum age requirements did not make the above cut (were either “inconclusive” or “limited” evidence)

That’s really helpful–thanks!

The associated commentary is interesting, though:

Which makes me wonder: maybe one minmaxed solution is to fund more research into gun policy efficacy? If we have a deliberate effort to gather data, that might help us make the best decisions; and if we set aside slippery slope arguments (which as the OP I’m strongly suggesting we do), increased study has negligible deleterious effects on owners.

I would argue for a neurological basis for minimum age requirements (for unsupervised possession and use) even absent of conclusive evidence, but otherwise the RAND study is on point. The focus on nebulously-defined “assault weapons”, high capacity magazines, and other accessories is mostly a distraction that plays well to the public but has little impact upon most crime although AR-15-pattern rifles with high capacity magazines have been used in prominent mass shootings and minimizing how and when people can access and use such weapons also bears scrutiny, although making an explicit technical distinction versus semi-automatic hunting rifles is difficult. Certainly removing the rules allowing short-barreled rifles to masquerade as pistols with the addition of an ‘arm brace’ is a step in that direction. One of the largest problems is actually around the identity politics that has grown up around gun ownership and paramilitarization of American society but those are obviously expansive issues far beyond gun control measures.

The Dickey Amendment has largely prohibited federal funding of such research on the basis that it is a political issue (instead of a public health and safety issue) and thus funding it would be prejudicial. However, we can look at gun violence statistics and issues around the world and draw inferences that, unless you are stuck on “American Exceptionalism” as a tangible quality, does give reason to believe that such restrictions manifestly reduce both general firearm crime and mass shootings.


I think this cite can be responsive to the OP.

That absence of federal funding for research into this area has to be understood to be believed, and to understand how nefarious its underpinnings and supporters are and were (see: the usual suspects):

[ETA: Ninja’d … but of course]

Yeah, I definitely know about the Dickey Amendment. Is there any reasonable argument against repealing it–especially if we specifically exclude slippery slope arguments?

I worry that the RAND’s “limited or inconclusive evidence” category will be misinterpreted as meaning “ineffective.” There may be measures that ARE effective, but that we don’t know about due to the lack of research.

I agree that as a cultural issue that’s true–but I want to keep this discussion strictly limited to policy proposals, so unless there’s a policy proposal that addresses the identity politics, I think it’s beyond the scope of this thread.

In the phrase, “keep and bear arms”, I’d suggest focusing more on the “bear arms” part of the problem.

Canada has almost as many guns per capita as the US, but we have far less gun related deaths, and I’m of the opinion that it is largely because it’s simply not normal for people to carry guns in public. Part of that is based on the laws, but there’s also a cultural component to it.

If you limit where and when a person may legally carry a gun, as well as where it’s socially acceptable to carry a gun, you not only reduce the need for “self defence” (no one else is likely to have a gun, either), you eliminate “crimes of passion”, in which a person shoots someone else largely because they had a gun easy to hand at the exact moment they were enraged enough to use it.

As well, this means that carrying a gun in public can become a primary target of law enforcement. When it’s legal (and socially acceptable) to wander the streets with a gun, the police need some other reason to justify stopping the person. This means you can only stop a shooting after the person starts shooting. If the police were empowered to stop people just because they were seen with a gun, at least some shootings would be stopped before they could start.

Reasonable ?

Not that I can think of.

Practical, political, or otherwise not really on-topic ? Of course: the usual suspects.

But here’s what we have, and – at the risk of straying a skosh – it seems to inform the notion of repealing the Dickey Amendment:


[please note that me offering these things isn’t, in any way, an assumption that they are news to you. Hopefully, it adds to the GD and may well be news to another]

Again: I don’t mean to whatabout the OP, but the notion that public policy values research into drug use, tobacco use, and alcoholism seems to indicate that another major public health issue might merit comparable attention.

Whatever resistance those organizations met with, they found a way.

Though we really seem to be in an environment where we cannot all agree on a set of facts, I don’t see that as a reason to abandon the process (science) that has taken us from the caves to the stars :wink:

I’d also like to expand upon existing ‘secure storage’ laws, currently on the books in 23 states:

Keeping firearms out of the hands of children is more a given than admirable.

But ISTM that we can extend those laws and require that owners make a reasonable effort to secure their firearms against any kind of person not authorized to handle, use, or take them.

[That’s currently a subset of the above 23 states]

And we use reasonableness standards all the time.

So an owner who has firearms for home defense may have to store them in a biometric gun safe of some sort.

This seems like a pretty fair minmax proposal (to me).


This article talks about secure storage requirements in a few other countries. We should always understand who does what better, and then seek to implement best practices. Gun policy shouldn’t be sacrosanct in this regard (I think that’s still more public policy than cultural).

LAST ETA (promise):

This is what better laws about securing firearms seeks to mitigate.

I noted that none of the proposals listed provided even limited evidence that they would prevent mass shootings. Mass shootings are in my understanding a small minority of gun related deaths, so understandably there wouldn’t be much data about the effectiveness of reforms.

Are we to consider homicides on the same level as suicides? Because in the case of homicide, the victim didn’t choose to be killed.


I suspect that a lot of people would find this doesn’t meet the “min” part of the equation: that is, it’s a significant curtailment of the desires of gun owners in many cases. Something like background checks, by comparison, is likely to be considered a much smaller curtailment.

For the purposes of this thread, see the OP: “The “max” side is less ambiguous: the policy should have significant effects in reducing injury or death to humans.”


Along those lines, something not in the RAND article is a complete ban on commercial sale of firearms (and ammunition) for personal use. The deleterious “min” effects on existing gun owners are zip. They can keep their guns until they break or run out of ammunition. The “max” effects down the road flow from a reduction of guns in circulation.


I’m leaning in to the “…but I’m going to leave it to folks to explain why their policy proposal minimizes the deleterious effects” part of the post.

Most of the “every day carry” types posit “self defence” as the reason they carry everywhere they’re legally allowed to carry. A law limiting carrying guns in public, combined with a public campaign to teach people that this actually makes everyone safer, can (at least potentially) convince these people that it’s not such a great imposition on their rights or desires. They’d still have guns at home to “defend their castle”, or “resist tyranny”, they just wouldn’t be allowed to have them anywhere in public.

Sure, it’s an uphill battle, but at this point, anything Americans try to do to limit the damage of guns in the US will be an uphill battle.

This is a pretty disingenuous argument; it isn’t ‘gun control’ but ‘gun prohibition’, and aside from the assertion that it has no ‘min’ is not a rational argument from the standpoint of a gun owner engaged in lawful recreation, hunting, and legitimate self-defense.


It looks like they’re only studying laws which have actually been passed by some State.

Modnote: Does this look like it is part of this OP? Drop this derailment attempt immediately. Anything further from you along this lines will mean a warning and banning from the thread.