The gun violence debate we're not having

Most arguments around gun control tend to revolve around access to guns. But historically, that’s not the only way we’ve fought gun violence. During the 90s, there was a concerted effort by many cities and states to reduce crime through more aggressive policing, with an emphasis on harsher sentencing for crimes involving firearms.

In recent years, some states are starting to pull back on these efforts. The main reason is that such measures tend to fall hardest on minority communities.

But whether or not we pass more laws, those new laws have no value if not enforced, which is going to require… aggressive policing and harsh sentencing. So shouldn’t we be talking about what we actually do with people who violate our gun laws? One of the reasons those of us who support gun rights scoff at gun control advocates is that criminals don’t obey laws. Which in itself is not a valid argument against gun control, since all laws are violated by criminals. That’s why they are criminals, and yet we have laws. The reason why the argument has validity in this context though is that most gun control advocates aren’t fans of the very enforcement methods which make those laws work.

So, when it comes to guns, are we in general agreement that people who commit crimes with guns or unlawfully carry guns shoud be dealt with harshly? And if not, what plausible path to real gun control that would actually make a difference is there?

The reason I own a gun is simple. Protection. The police only respond ,- they don’t protect. You have to protect yourself.

California just did away with their mandatory sentencing enhancements for gun crimes, so I think it’s safe to assume we’re not all in agreement.

OTOH, Massachusetts passed a bump stock ban with a penalty of 18 months to life in prison. Life in prison, for owning a piece of plastic :eek:

That’s just the thing, they were operating from different mindsets. California passed their new sentencing requirements with an eye towards reducing mandatory sentencing.

Massachusetts on the other hand was motivated by mass shootings.

The problem is that mass shootings cannot be separated from overall gun violence. There’s no surgical way to reduce mass shootings. You either deal with gun violence or you don’t.

For owning a piece of plastic whose only practical use is mass murder, yes.

Have we really backed off on enforcing quality of life violations? We may have backed off hassling any nonwhite person the cops see.
As an example, based on BART police reports, they seem to be enforcing fare paying quite heavily - and are catching lots of people with warrants out or with drugs or weapons when they do. This is in the liberal Bay Area.

Aggressive policing is not going to stop the last two mass murders. Neither murderer would have shown up in any conceivable sweep. Limiting access to military style weapons that can kill a lot of people quickly might possibly have helped.
In Vegas (and I’m sure other places) you can go to a range and fire all the automatic weapons you want, at targets. I’m all for that. Some clown buying 40 of them is not so cool.

Bump stocks are owned by a lot of people, 99% of whom will not commit mass murder.

By contrast, everyone who has used a firearm in a crime is guilty of gun violence. California is being more lenient with these people than Massachusetts is being with people who merely possess a bump stock.

That’s where a lot of unlawful firearm possession arrests happen though. There are good reasons to oppose things like stop and frisk, mainly unfairness since it’s not enforced equally, but there’s no doubting that it gets a lot of illegal guns off the streets. Probably more than just passing a law and then not enforcing it.

That’s a good policy, because it’s going after an actual crime, at which point worse crimes are discovered.

Now mind you, I’m not saying that police have pulled back everywhere, or even at all, since such things are hard to measure. But I am saying that many of the same people who want gun control want less enforcement of gun laws.

No, it wouldn’t have stopped any mass shootings that I know of. But it’s not about mass shootings. It’s about gun violence in general. And the techniques developed in the 90s did take a lot of gun toting criminals off the streets.

Automatic weapons are already illegal. Most of us agree on bump stocks and those will probably be banned. AR-15s, I’m not really sure that an AR-15 is the most effective weapon to do a mass shooting. We can ban certain types of weapons, but if alternatives that are as effective are available it doesn’t accomplish anything. There have been mass shootings without AR-15 style weapons.

You don’t really believe that, do you? You don’t think that all those people who bought them were just thinking, “I don’t know what I’ll ever do with this besides mass murder”, right?

Is the Mass. law life in prison for owning plastic? Or life in prison for using said plastic for murderingses?


Owning=automatic life in prison? I just want to be clear.

Follow up question, is owning an unlicensed automatic weapon also automatic life in prison?

Nope, owning a bump stock (regardless of whether the thing is used for mass murder or just sits around collecting dust) is / will be a crime in Massachusetts punishable by “18 months to life in prison” like I said back in post #3.

I’m not sure what state-level penalties might apply, but at the federal level, possessing an unregistered machine gun is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a quarter-million-dollar fine.

ETA: ETA: David Olofson got 2.5 years.

It is even more complicated than that.

  1. No gun laws ever passed at a national level have removed possession from current owners. (In the US we have more guns than people, and every law seems to increase this ratio)
  2. Prohibition of drugs like Methamphetamine, LSD or other items never results in their absence in society.
  3. Firearms, even semi-automatic firearms predate the automobile, are trivial to manufacture or smuggle. (19th century devices are trivial to manufacture)
  4. Passing effective legislation that will work around points 1, 2 and 3 may have a limited impact on individual murders but will most likely have little impact on mass murder even if they have an impact on reducing mass shootings.

To clarify, I am not against gun control because it is gun control, and I may even vote for the provision. But I am pretty sure that it is a distraction from finding effective ways to deal with the underlying problems no matter how much comfort the efforts provide for the population as a whole.

Most of the lives saved will probably be the result of less successful suicides, and even if there was a massive effort to confiscate the existing firearms already in private circulation mass murders can simply move on to another technique.

Take for example the NYC attack that used a commercial truck, or the previous NYC attack that used box knives.

Or think about the Las Vegas shooting, which was committed by an individual who had the means to legally purchase machine guns and would have passed most practical background checks. Or consider the

This is the general problem with solutions that depend on prohibition, they ignore the root causes of the problem as it is far easier both intellectually and politically to target objects while ignoring the deeper causes.

As most mass murders plan these attacks, and you are equating gun violence with mass murder, here are some lists.


9/11 - Box Knives - 2,996 dead
Oklahoma City - Fertilizer and fuel oil - 168 dead
Happy Land fire - 2 matches and a can of gasoline - 87 dead


2016 Nice attack - commercial truck - 87 deaths and - 434 nonfatal injuries.

So while the language of your post was careful to say “There’s no surgical way to reduce mass shootings. You either deal with gun violence or you don’t.” Is the goal to reduce just mass shootings, or to reduce mass murder. Because to date a can of gasoline is the most “deadly” object for non “terrorist” attacks in the US, and bombings are far more deadly around the world from small numbers of actors.

Now if the intent is to reduce individual murders and suicides there may be an argument, but to equate mass murder with firearms, as they are accessible, no one has provided me with information to think that these individuals wouldn’t use another method that may be as effective if not more.

Because if the only effect is to shift the method used, I would rather not pay the high political costs of pursuing effective gun control at the cost of other political needs.

(To be clear again I am not anti gun control, but I don’t think the efforts will very effective in preventing random massacres)

adaher - one cynical way of framing the debate that you proposed is that minorities should just get over having their Fourth Amendment rights limited for the higher good of reducing gun violence; because most Americans simply won’t accept having their Second Amendment rights limited for the greater good of reducing gun violence.

Agree or disagree?

I absolutely agree. I understand completely why we’re pulling back on that kind of law enforcement. The fact still remains however that these methods are more effective than any gun control that is actually on the table, and more effective than previous attempts at gun control such as we passed in the 60s and 70s.

Then there’s the simple logic that if you’re unwilling to enforce laws, you shouldn’t pass them. You know what laws that you won’t enforce accomplish? It makes law abiding people obey, and criminals more emboldened than ever. If someone shoots a convenience store clerk and gets 5 years, that’s not dealing with gun violence. Life in prison, which is what that person would get in Florida, that’s dealing with gun violence.

What do you mean by a lot of people?

I don’t know how many, but bump stocks are pretty easy to get, which means there’s a decent amount of demand. You can still order one on Amazon.