Too much in the middle: Guns

Sometimes I wonder if the failure of gun policy in the U.S. is the result of attempts to compromise with both sides.

Perhaps if we allowed everyone who wanted to to carry guns, the level of gun violence would decrease. On the other hand, perhaps if we eliminated all the guns (this is a bit of hyperbole), the level of gun violence would decrease.

But do our attempts to keep guns while banning them result in some sort of a middle ground where gun violence is maximized (or at least much higher than it would otherwise be)? A land where you need a background check in the store, but might not need one at a gun show? Where we try very hard to keep guns out of the hands of known felons, but still produce tens of thousands of guns for domestic consumption every year?
I know everyone has argued this to death, but there always seems to be someone willing…

Though I sit on the gun-rights side of the fence (mostly), I happen to still agree with your point. I think that either banning guns entirely or making them much more freely available would lead to less gun abuse. In one case because it would be harder to get the tool to abuse it, and in the other case because everyone would be scared shitless of abusing one if they knew everyone else had one.

It’s an amusing irony, isn’t it? I do support certain kinds of gun control, while at the same time supporting the rights of people to own firearms. I sit more or less smack in the middle on this issue, and I think it’s probably the best way to be. But at the same time I totally agree that if we went to one extreme or another, we’d have less of a problem. It’s bizzare and seemingly self-contradictory. And I have no explanation, really.

I guess the only thing I can say to sum up my feelings is that sometimes doing the right thing isn’t trivial or instant. Sometimes there are no easy answers. Maybe this is one such case.

Well, keep in mind that the levels of success with regards to gun laws/ownership are not homogenous the nation over. Some places have horrendous gun crime… other places have nil.

Well, the thing is, some people try to apply a blanket solution to a general area, when, in fact, different places need different solutions. I am no expert, so I cannot say what locations need what solution, but I can say that saying “All gun crime stems from ‘pocket rockets’” is not a helpful conclusion. (I know, I’m generalizing myself… but, then again, I’m not trying to pass legislation :))

It sounds like you’re describing the “displacement” notion, i.e.- sometimes new laws don’t solve the problem, they only move it to another area. For example, if you were to slap Joe’s Gun Shop with a law that required background checks, all of Black Bart’s gang would instead go to Fred’s Gun Show next door for their weaponry… you didn’t solve the problem, you just made it someone else’s problem. It’s also, unfortunately, a self-fulfilling prophecy, 'cuz next year, Fred’s Gun Show will be hit with new laws to “solve” a problem that didn’t exist before the other laws were passed…

In other words, there’s a lot of “You’re treating the symptons, not the cause” going around.

(Note: I do not mean to imply that all gun control legislation follows this pattern.)

In order for either solution (very little control or large amounts of control) to be successful, there’d have to be a large percentage of the population in support of the solution. As it is, we are, as a whole, unwilling to commit either way, and are stuck deadlocked, getting “token” pieces of legislation passed without much real good being done.

Or maybe our current state of laws will create a situation where most people do not understand the law.

You DO need a background check if you buy a gun from a federally licensed dealer, no matter where you are when you buy it. You do not a background check if you buy a gun from a private individual, no matter where you are when you buy it.
IOW…at a gun show, the exact same laws apply to everybody there that applied to them the day before. A gun show is not some blackhole that all Legislators have “forgotten” to create laws for.

I know it’s early and I’m probably still a little cranky, but that line pissed me off.

Should we stop manufacturing millions of cars each year in order to keep them away from drunk drivers? What about all those arsonists out there, I guess we should stop making lighters and matches.

Ok, I’ll bite. Here’s my explanation:
Most gun control laws have been passed in an EMOTIONAL RESPONSE by people who hate and fear guns. Many people in the gun control movement have been associated with, or run groups that advocated banning all handguns, or even all private ownership of guns.

This prompted an EMOTIONAL RESPONSE from the gun crowd. This created a knee-jerk response to any and all gun control porposal because many of us feared that they were willing to take whatever they could get today, and then start negotiating all over again tomorrow.

So what we got was a hodgepodge of gun laws that were won in a court of media opinion by people looking to get re-elected. At no time whatsoever were these laws intended to do anything other than get some politician re-elected, or get some activist rich. (For example: plastic handguns and cop-killer bullets)

We need to scratch the entire code. Then we need to get a case to the Suprme Court where we get a definitive ruling on the Second, so that the anti-gunners will stop claiming that the Framers misspelled “state” as “people.” :slight_smile: Then we need to have a discussion on what really effects criminals and public safety, and enact those laws.

For example, in my perfect world, these would be an example of the laws:
Reciprocal concealed carry laws in all 50 states. All CCW licenses would only be issued after completing an objective, but comprehensive safety course.

None of the cosmetic laws on the “assault rifles.”

Keep the NICs, but make the government pay fines if they don’t keep a quick response average for the year.

A safety course similar to the hunter education course now required before you can own any firearm. After passing that test, and a background check, you are done for life. You can own anything you want.

Increase the penalties for felons cought with guns, or for crimes committed with a gun. Make those penalties mandatory.

If you are a regular Joe, then you get to do whatever you want with minimal effort as long as you are safe and law-abiding. If you are a criminal, then we put you in jail for a very long time.

Scrap all the crap that trips up legal owners like magazine capacity and why you can have a flash suppressor on your 1990 AR-15 but not on your 1996 AR-15.

It’ll never happen, but that’s my explanation of why the gun laws suck.

Well I guess since banning drugs has been so effective in eliminating drug use, the same model would apply to firearms:(

As well, licensing owners and firearms registry might be seen as effective laws to curtail the flow of firearms to the criminally minded, if such devices have not been hijacked previously by antigun activists to institute near-as-needs-be to be called bans and confiscation.

The has led to the knee-jerk emotional response by pro-gun groups opposing such devices.

Mandatory storage and mandatory trigger locks also emphasize economic disparity as well. With even cheap gun safes running several hundreds of dollars, such laws would effectively disarm millions of Americans on the lower-end of the economic spectrum, a situation I’m fairly sure antigun forces would dearly love.

On the surface, such proposals make sense, and many gun owners already attempt to comply with them in a socially responsible manner. But blanket mandates are seen as anathema to civil liberty.

I feel many Americans desire to own guns for the wrong reasons. “Just because I can” is not a reason. Self defense, hunting and recreational (target) shooting are. For the rest, though, (and I believe that they actually represent a dangerous majority, but have nothing more than intuition to back this up) a gun is a one-time novelty purchase, and they never take the time to fully consider the implications of owning a lethal weapon.

If data on gun-purchasing trends is correct, handgun purchases are declining, and I have mixed feelings on the issue. With a smaller base of gun owners, pro-gun organizations may be weakening. The remaining gun owners may be the “core fanatic” gun owners who will never compromise, out of fear of losing their rights forever. We may be losing a critical “voice of moderation” among middle-of-the-road gun owners.

On the flip side of that coin, that very “core” of remaining gun owners may also be the more responsible users of firearms, and accidents, already at very low levels, may decline even further.

Overall, I believe that the partisan adherence to our respective positions drives out clarity of reason and purpose, in the manner suggested by the OP. Accusatory rhetoric (by both sides, regardless of who “fired the first salvo”) and the politicizing of the issue widens the divide.

Thanks to the OP for a moderately worded appeal to thoughtful reason. It’s a welcome change from the typical gun control debate.

I await further responses with both anticipation and dread.

I think this makes sense. There are enough guns around so that criminals can get them. Gun control laws mostly take guns away from law-abiding citizens – people who would use their weapons in ways that reduce crime.

Looking at wevets’s two options, I believe that eliminating all guns is impossible. Because of the 2nd Amendment (whatever it means, exactly) and because of the political clout of gun-owners, the US will never come close to eliminating guns. Therefore, I see relaxation of gun control as the only practical alternative.

I disagree with the OP’s first option that gun violence would decrease if everyone had a gun. This seems to be based on the idea that people would be afraid to use their gun for fear of being shot in return. This would work in many cases but not all. If the bad guy already has his gun out and pointed at you, you are likely not going to be able to get yours out and pointed back at him. There are also likely to be those who will always think (mistakenly or not) that they will be the one to get off the first successful shot whatever the situation. If everyone had guns, the bad guys could just wear body armor when out to do harm.

I think there is plenty of reason to question the premise that a lot more guns would lead to less gun violence.

ExTank wrote:

Just for the record, I store my guns in a locked steel cabinet mounted to one of the studs in my wall. It’s a lot cheaper than a full-blown gun safe, and nearly as secure as one.

As far as I know, the “mandatory storage” laws would only require that the gun be “locked up”, not that the gun be locked up in an impenetrable fortress that can survive a thermonuclear blast.

Of course, if all guns were ‘eliminated’ there would be no “gun violence” at all since guns would not exist. Banning–as opposed to eliminating–guns may increase or decrease “gun violence” but it does not matter. The only thing that matters is what happens to the overall rate of violence including “knife violence”, “car violence”, “rope violence”, “ax violence”, “hand violence”, “box cutter violence”, rape, etc. If some of these terms seem silly to you and “gun violence” does not, think about that. If guns were banned, I am not sure what would happen to “gun violence” but “violence” would increase.

You’re looking at it wrong. If a confrontation has gotten to the point where Mr. Bad Guy already has his gun out and pointed at you, there’s nothing in the universe - except maybe divine intervention - that can save you if he decides to shoot.

HOWEVER… if a criminaly-minded person knew that people in a certain area would be more likely to be armed - hence, more likely to be dangerous, and hence, would make a mugging (or whatever) all the more difficult - he would be less inclined to commit a crime in the first place. He would either A: go somewhere else where there are less guns… or B: if every place has the same standards, he would commit non-confrontational crimes which do not put people at direct risk.

Well, the other part of the equation is that a true gun ban is impossible. The government will still need guns for their military - we still need to compete on a global scale - and a huge chunk of guns aren’t even produced in the United States. A gun ban would simply raise the price of the guns purchased by the military/police, since the companies would be losing a SHITLOAD of revenue… this increase in price would result in the gov’t being unable to buy as much hardware as they would like, and they’d either have to increase spending or suffer an underequipped military.

Ergo, guns exist. They will always exist. It is impossible to make them not exist. Anyone who thinks otherwise is, frankly, deluding himself.

You beat me to it. I don’t think the “less guns = less crime” extreme would in any way be practical. You’re simply taking it to the extreme that the anti-gunners want - criminals can have guns, but law abiding people can’t. I think this would encourage crime and violence.

You seem to forget one basic, necesary, and simple fact:

Criminals ALREADY have the guns. Being more liberal with concealed carry laws is not going to give more criminals guns.

So you’ve already got a heavily armed criminal force. Now the debate is whether or not you’ll allow the law abiding citizenry to carry in addition.

In your hypothetical situation, if you think we’re better off with the criminal having a gun, and you having nothing - rather than both being armed, I think you’re being irrational.

Sure, you might not shoot the criminal before he shoots you. But A) Criminals don’t want to shoot people. Lots of high profile cases, and lots of jail time. B) It will alert any of your fellow (potentially armed) citizens around to a criminal. B) If he’s going to make a life’s work out of risking this sort of thing, he will probably die one of these times.

This is as opposed to… criminals knowing no one is going to have a gun, and pretty much having freedom to do what they want with theirs.

Let’s keep track of one simple, simple fact, people.

The criminals have guns. They will have those guns, regardless of what laws you make. When implementing gun laws, you’re only affecting those who obey laws. So “gun control” isn’t “controlling everyone’s guns”, it’s “controlling law abiding citizen’s guns”.

So I’ve got to disagree with the OP. Strict gun laws wouldn’t make the current situation better.

I hope I did not imply that I thought it was possible to eliminate all guns. I was trying to point out that if they were eliminated (including military, police, every single gun) along with some magical spell not allowing further production, then the world would probably be a more violent place. (Think Braveheart/Gladiator). Of course this is impossible to do anyway. Not just politically impossible but physically impossible unless you believe in magic spells. Therefore, given that only one of the two options set out by the OP is feasible, the only sensible option is less gun regulation.

Please, when some one says everyone should be ALLOWED to carry a gun do not reply “I think if everyone carried a gun…” No one is saying everyone would carry one, just that if they wanted to it would be legal.

ModernRonin2 and SPOOFE immediately pointed out one of the biggest flaws in my post; that it just doesn’t address the complexity of the gun issue, and that it assumes there’s some easy, simple answer when, of course, there isn’t. I’m completely guilty on both counts.

I have to admit that I don’t have a very deep or well-informed opinion on the issue, but it does still strike me that there is a grain of truth in the words of extremists on both sides if we want to reduce violence, and yet, unlike in many issues, the middle ground doesn’t have a lot to stand on with respect to reducing violence. The middle ground does have practicality and political expediency going for it, though, and so it has generally won, perhaps to the detriment of a peaceful society.

This particularly interests me because if it’s true, I would be part of the problem, since I’m sort of a moderate on gun issues. Although I lean a bit in one direction, I’m not an extremist. Perhaps I should be? :wink:

The current state of gun legislation has caused a bit of confusion ;). I didn’t know this, but I seemed to remember something about no background checks at gun shows from the media furor around the Columbine incident 2 (or 3?) years ago. I guess it’s either been fixed or never existed in the first place. But it was just a rhetorical example of how America in general has a love/hate relationship with the gun, where some people seek to make guns easy to get and others seek to make them difficult to obtain. Both sides seem to succeed as often as they fail, generating an unsatisfactory stalemate.

I don’t think manufacturing guns and manufacturing cars are the same thing. If you’re manufacturing guns, you’re in the weapons business, while you’re not if you’re manufacturing cars. Sure, a car can be used as a weapon in a pinch, but I think we can use common sense to tell the difference between a gun and a car/match/lighter/knife. These are really not the same thing. There is some grey area which those guns which are primarily used for hunting or target shooting reside, but many guns are designed for the purpose of killing or maiming people.

I’ve thought of designing a car specifically for the purpose of killing and maiming people, but my colleagues assured me that I would have insurmountable marketing difficulties. :slight_smile:

I don’t know; this sounds a little one-sided… I’m pretty sure there are people on the gun control side who are not quite as demonic as you make them out to be… perhaps Jim Brady actually is concerned about others suffering the same fate he suffered through rather than getting rich. I’d want a little more than your opinion on the matter before condemning him in that way.

However, I agree with you that in general, we need to revisit the entire gun code to evaluate which laws will actually contribute to public safety and which are just chaff.

I really did say eliminate rather than ban for a good reason. A ban on guns would be unconstitutional and logistically impossible to make effective.

But here’s where we get into the problem with extremists from both sides balancing each other out.
Let’s defy reality for a moment and live entirely in the imagination (it’s a nice place, I intend to retire there someday):

A) Would you like to live in a free country where nobody had guns; not even beat cops… perhaps just the SWAT team, and crimes involving firearms are extremely rare? And do you think such a place would have a low rate of violent crimes?

My answers would be an unqualified yes to the first and a highly qualified yes to the second, after all, violent crime depends on many other factors than the availability of guns. All else being equal, I’d say that fewer guns would mean fewer violent crimes.

B) Does the answer to A have any impact on what our policy in reality should be?

This is a question I haven’t been able to answer. Surely decreasing the rate of violent crime is a worthy goal, but as december, SPOOFE and others have pointed out, should we reach for an unattainable goal? Lately I’ve been thinking that the other extreme is safer, since the middle ground doesn’t seem to offer a lot of safety.

On the other hand, jebert has expressed the opposite viewpoint:

We should remember that not all crimes are committed by some “criminal” class or group. Ordinary people get inflamed by passion and emotions, and if a gun is available when they ‘blow their top,’ someone (or many people) could wind up dead. This is why I find it reassuring that many gun owners agree that there is a great deal of responsibility and training that should be involved in owning a gun (much more so in carrying one!). Perhaps a more effective mode of gun control would be to regulate the types of people who could own guns than in the types and number of guns that can be owned? (I can just imagine the screams of thousands on how “types” of people can be defined and regulated. It would open itself up to potential abuse, but there are probably still some distinctions that can be made objectively, like a person trained in gun safety is a different “type” of person than a person not trained in gun safety.)

I hate to break it to you, but we have plenty of evidence of what a gun free society would look like.

Just go back a few hundred years and then look at history. It was a brutal place where the average person had no power.
I’m not quite sure I have the time to assert and then defend that private gun ownership helped bring more freedoms to the world, but I’ll just throw it out there as a loose thought in a friendly discussion.:slight_smile:

Some responses to wevets:

  1. “many guns are designed for the purpose of killing or maiming people”
    Which is perfectly moral and legal when done in self-defense.

2… “…a free country where nobody had guns”
Unintentional humor? But seriously, as has been mentioned repeatedly, it is impossible to keep guns out of the country. They would be easier than drugs to smuggle, because criminals could manufacture them inside our borders. Not that they would have to since there are enough already to last criminals hundreds of years.

  1. “All else being equal, I’d say that fewer guns would mean fewer violent crimes”
    I would say the opposite. Civilians use guns to prevent over 2 million crimes a year. That is a very conservative estimate from multiple independent studies by pro-gun, anti-gun, and neutral academic researches. These studies have elaborate procedures to avoid over counting. No study has refuted these findings. Do you really think rapes and murders would be lower without guns? Most rapists do not use a gun. Think of all the crimes criminals do not event attempt because they are afraid of an armed victim. Then disarm all victims. More crime.

  2. “Ordinary people get inflamed by passion and emotions, and if a gun is available when they…”
    This is a myth. It happens occasionally and makes headlines, but these occurrences are like a drop in the ocean of defensive gun use. Most of these cases turn out to be criminals after all. Criminals have wives and children too, don’t forget. How would training help reduce this? Seems to me training would make the crazy guy more efficient.

  3. “I didn’t know this, but I seemed to remember something about no background checks at gun shows from the media furor around the Columbine incident 2 (or 3?) years ago. I guess it’s either been fixed or never existed in the first place”
    It never existed in the first place.

  1. (additional point) your recollection was correct. The media did report what you said. They lied. All gun dealers must be liscensed by BATF and must do a backgound check on every gun they sell, even to their father, even at gun shows. This was true before Columbine. There never has been any special laws relaxing regulations at gun shows.

I’m tired, so I’m only going to respond to this one point…

But that’s just the problem… all else isn’t equal. We don’t live in a society where crimes happen at random, spread homogenously throughout the population. Nor do we live in a society where the only violent crimes are those that involve guns.

When you get down to the nitty-gritty, a gun is simply a tool. Criminals find it as a good tool to commit crimes, yes… but, if you were to find a way to take away their guns, they’d find, oh, knives. Or baseball bats. Or a syringe infected with the HIV virus. Or crowbars. Or Britney Spears CDs.

Every time I see a gun debate, I am reminded of an e-mail I once got: