The ReThink Blog

Starting from scratch in politics and science


Rethinking Gun Control, Part 9: Conclusions

Hello Kitty rifle
Kitty wants us to chill out, and she's willing to use force to make it happen

During my series on anthropogenic global warming, I was startled by how little room there was for any degree of certainty on the matter. I definitely came away from it with a newfound appreciation for the reality of the problem, but I also developed an even stronger sense of skepticism concerning those who believe there is no ambiguity. This time around, when trying to be objective concerning gun control, I discovered something similar: neither extreme can claim that the numbers hold complete dominion over their side of the argument.

It was perplexing to note that the rate of firearm deaths does not appear to be in flux one way or another, that there definitely hasn't been a rise in spree shootings, and that there doesn't seem to be any correlation between the restrictiveness of gun laws and the rate of gun violence when looking country by country or state by state. Indeed, the numbers, when taken in context and in their totality, stubbornly refuse to conform to the preconceptions of either end of the gun control debate.

This is not to say I haven't learned anything useful. For example, upon careful review, I've discovered that the Second Amendment is far less absolute than I believed, even as it is much clearer in intent than its detractors argue. I've also discovered that gun registration, while expensive and largely ineffective, is not something to worry about, that the gun show loophole is a greatly exaggerated problem, and that the failed Toomey-Manchin bill was probably more harmless than its opponents would have you believe and less straight-forward than its proponents suggest.

Star Trek phasers
We're gonna have bigger problems in the near future anyway

At the end of the day, I walk away tempered in my rhetoric, but no less convinced that the gun control debate is a lot of sound and fury over false premises. I don't believe we are an inherently more dangerous society because we allow our citizens to carry firearms, nor do I believe that we are a vote away from having the federal government confiscate our greatest means of self-defense. I believe as strongly as ever in the intent of the Second Amendment as a check against potential tyranny and the overreach of government power, but I no longer believe that passing gun control laws at a local level has any effect whatsoever on the potential for gun violence. I, like most Americans, am not opposed to common sense measures like universal background checks, but I am opposed to passing wasteful laws that decrease individual liberty, increase bureaucratic power, and have no measurable effect on the problems they are intended to address. In other words, I dismiss out of hand the panicked voices of those who think we must do something, even if it doesn't work, because we are horrified by what we see on our news feed. I also dismiss out of hand any talk about how the government wants to sweep in and take our guns.

Certainly, for victims of gun violence--which include families, friends, and communities--it is hard to stand on the sidelines and argue that there's nothing we can do to keep such things from happening again. Still, the knee-jerk response to pass laws that would restrict the number of rounds in a magazine or the length of a shotgun stock is absurd upon actual reflection. There is no law that can do away with mankind's capacity for evil, and there is no prohibition that can guarantee security at the expense of liberty. So, instead of talking about the legality of laser sights on a hunting rifle, let's talk about how to address mental health problems and how to identify potential mass murderers before they strike. Let's talk about simple, incremental reforms that are tied to actual, measurable results. Put simply, let's find things we can agree on, rather than fanning the flames of discord that have kept us at each other's throats for so long.

-e. magill 8/19/2014

Please don't be a Ted Nugent or a Piers Morgan, people.
Please don't be a Ted Nugent or a Piers Morgan, people.

  • Rethinking Gun Control, Part 1: Statement of Intent
  • Rethinking Gun Control, Part 2: The Second Amendment
  • Rethinking Gun Control, Part 3: Looking for a Trend
  • Rethinking Gun Control, Part 4: State Track Records
  • Rethinking Gun Control, Part 5: International Variations
  • Rethinking Gun Control, Part 6: Spree Shootings
  • Rethinking Gun Control, Part 7: Registration
  • Rethinking Gun Control, Part 8: Background Checks and Gun Show Loopholes
  • There Is No "Common Sense" Solution to Gun Violence
  • 5 Logical Fallacies from the Gun Debate
  • Rethinking Anthropogenic Global Warming