The time for pacifying gun fanatics is past, and the president made that clear last night in Newtown lamenting that America had failed “to keep our children, all of them” safe and, without specifically mentioning gun control, pledged a fresh effort to curb violence. “We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end and to end them we must change,” he said. “In the coming weeks, I’ll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this. Because what choice do we have? We can’t accept events like this as routine.”
So what can really be done about gun violence in a country where its citizens cling desperately to their guns and bibles, relying on the United States Constitution to protect them from government intervention? The Week’s Marc Ambinder offers these thoughts:
Doctors can’t save every patient. But they must be able to tell the patient’s family that they’ve done everything they can. Our politicians cannot say the same. Hollywood, by glorifying gun violence, can’t say the same. If “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” then make it harder for “people” to get guns. And make guns harder to be misused.
In 11 years of living in Washington, D.C., I knew one person who was mugged. In the six months since I’ve lived in LA, I’ve had a friend raped, two friends mugged at gunpoint, and another was the victim of a gay bashing attack. I take self-defense seriously. But getting a gun should be at least as hard as getting a driver’s license.
A citizen who wants a gun and a concealed carry permit should go through exactly the same training and recertification as a cop would… it’s easier to get a gun as a citizen than as a cop.
Criminal background checks, a basic mental health test and recertification, along with registration, limits on the types of guns available for purchase, and limits on the amount of ammo that can be bought. Guns bought and sold at hobby shows ought to be subject to the same regulations.
Hunting rifles are different than pistols and ought to be treated accordingly. One-shot-per-trigger-pull pistols ought to be as “semi-automatic” as semi-automatic can get. There ought to be a limit as to how much ammunition a gun can fire. Very rarely, if ever, will self-defense require a high-capacity clip.
If this costs money, then tax gun owners.
The NRA can set the standard for training. Their educational arm does a great job here. People who get NRA firearms training tend to be responsible with their weapons. Their political arm is opportunistic and craven, which of course it has every right to be.
Every gun bought ought to be registered with the state, just like every car you buy.
Finally, we need to examine the trade-offs between privacy and safety when it comes to mental health. Let’s assume that everyone has at least some sort of crazy in them. So let’s have people affirmatively prove their mental health in a psych test.
Criminals will always break laws and bad people will find ways to get guns. That’s a given. But rarely in mass shootings are the perpetrators criminals before the fact; in most cases they obtain the gun legally. The argument that gun law violators are responsible for the negative externalities of gun violence ignores the fact that the black market in guns manufactured legally is enormous. The argument doesn’t wash either way. The availability of guns now makes it easier for anyone, bad or good, to get them for any reason. Our concern ought to be with what can be reasonably done to mitigate the chances of mass shootings.
None of the suggestions I’ve made above will help the city of Chicago stem its gun murder rate, except for a lot more heavy and risky law enforcement, which costs a lot of money.
So step two is an aggressive shaming campaign to hold gun manufacturers accountable, at least in terms of being called out on it, for every criminal act their gun is used to effectuate.
The entertainment industry, movies and rap, bears responsibility for helping create a culture of permissiveness.
In terms of approbation, straw buyers of guns ought to be treated like we treat child rapists.
Start from there.