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The Unapologetic Geek

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There is No "Common Sense" Solution to Gun Violence

Las Vegas
Let's not forget how awful and painful this is

Last week, the political world was obsessed with football. Players across the NFL were taking knees, skipping anthems, and arguing amongst themselves how best to deal with the controversy of a president who complains about them. It all started a year ago, of course, with San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick sitting out the anthem as a way to protest what he perceived as racial discrimination by an out-of-control police force. Though last week's drama was centered more on Trump than on the original purpose of the NFL protests, the message still resonates in many parts of the country today, where poor inner cities--largely black--feel a lot more like police states than free lands.

This week, however, rather than complaining about the fascistic tendencies of the president or the injustice of police brutality and militarization, the political world has shifted focus to gun control, in the wake of the horrible shooting in Las Vegas. While Democrat leaders, late night talk show hosts, and Hollywood celebrities leaping to gun control before bodies have even been counted is nothing new or surprising, the whiplash they must feel can't be mild. They are arguing that the only rational response to violent psychopaths roaming our streets, an increasingly fascistic president, and a supressingly violent police state is to whittle away the rights of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves. Moreover, they keep calling it "common sense."

Hillary Clinton ran to Twitter before most of us had even awoken to the news of what happened in Vegas late Sunday night. Her first call to action involved dealing with "silencers," things that don't actually exist outside of fiction. She posits that, had the shooter in Vegas been equipped with a "silencer," the carnage would have somehow been worse, and therefore, the most appropriate response to the Las Vegas shooting is making sure legislation restricting "silencers" is pushed through Congress. This is wrong on multiple levels, but it's important not to overlook the most glaring problem with her argument: it's entirely hypothetical. The shooter was not using a "silencer," or even its non-fictional counterpart, the suppressor. Calling for regulations on a thing that wasn't even involved in the shooting is not "common sense." Alas, it's par for the course these days.

James Bond
Turns out this isn't a documentary

Besides, even if the shooter had been equipped with a suppressor, it would have made no difference. Suppressors are not silencers, and they do not reduce the sound of semi-automatic gunfire enough to render it inaudible, even at a distance. Suppressors are designed to help protect the shooter's eardrums, not turn the shooter into stealthy assassins like James Bond. I sincerely doubt the sound of the gunfire was much of a factor in how people reacted to the Vegas shooting in real time, and I doubly doubt that a slight reduction in the volume of that sound would have resulted in any fewer casualties. The crowd was contained in a completely open area with no real cover to be found, so knowing where the shots were coming from didn't do much good. But nevermind all that, because something must be done, right?

While a lot of Democratic leaders, pundits, and entertainers have jumped on the "silencer" issue as the way to quickly exploit this particular tragedy for political gain, not everybody has fallen in line with Hillary's talking point. Others have gone back to the so-called "gun show loophole," despite the fact that not a single gun used in a mass shooting in this country has been purchased through it, or the ever-popular "universal background checks," even though the shooter would have likely passed any such check after having already passed the one mandated by the state of Nevada. Most mass shooters in this country pass one or more background checks, and those that can't are able to obtain their weapons illegally, so I fail to see how the call for universal background checks can be couched as a "common sense" solution to mass shootings. Some pundits are even talking about reinstating the assault weapon ban, even though it is incredibly easy to assemble your own "assault weapon" by modifying your weapons, the way the Las Vegas shooter did, and there is no data suggesting that the assault weapon ban, when it was in effect, had any meaningful impact on gun violence.

Add all these popular proposals together, and their immediate passage would result in exactly zero changes to the frequency or deadliness of mass shootings in this country. Criminals will still get lethal weapons, will still learn how to use them, modify them, and transport them, and will still be able to horrify us with their homicidal intent. On top of that, I'm sure Democrats will still be begging for more gun control. All the "common sense" gun control policies would achieve is to fulfill the Politician's Fallacy of doing "something," while simultaneously eroding a right specifically enumerated by the Bill of Rights. When it comes to gun violence, by far the greatest contributors in American life are suicides and gang violence, neither of which can be solved through gun control legislation.

Do something!
This is what it boils down to

Now, I've gone down this rabbit hole before--in much greater detail--and I've walked away with a modest belief that things like universal background checks and increased regulation of firearms aren't anathema to the Second Amendment and that they would be unlikely to cause any real harm. However, I also don't see them doing much good, as we already have pretty strict firearm regulations and gun controls in place that tend to work outside of places like Chicago and D.C., where the vast majority of firearm-related homicide occurs in this country. We should always err on the side of liberty, so if a new proposal appears to have no net positive gain, then by default, it shouldn't be passed into law.

I don't take issue with proposing new regulations or tinkering with existing laws, though, if that helps you sleep at night. I take issue with the smug sanctimony with which people on the left seem intent on lecturing us when it comes to guns. No, new laws are not "common sense" reactions to violence. No, you can't just dismiss dissent as being driven by the gun lobby and then resist any attempt to have an actual debate on the merits. (Instead, try digging into the facts for yourself, and the data might surprise you.) If you honestly believe we live in a police state and that the president is a fascist, the absolute last thing you should be advocating is fewer guns in the hands of the citizenry. Restricting gun rights in that situation would be the exact opposite of "common sense"; it would be embracing totalitarianism.

Still, it's not like this issue is going to be at the forefront for very long. I'm sure we'll have another outrage for the political world to obsess over next week.

-e. magill 10/5/2017

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