There is a good deal of faulty thinking about gun control that confuses people and prevents society from reaching consensus on how to handle the problem. Here are just a few examples pulled from recent reports.
One influencer suggested that his proposed, all-encompassing federal legislation is the only way to go because “big problems require big solutions.” But our history shows that the best solutions often come painstakingly in states and localities, which try a variety of different approaches. In the gun field, a lot of tiny steps can move the country in a better direction. Perhaps we should first take the measure of the literally hundreds of approaches being tried across the country today.
Another couple of national influencers seem to like this less grandiose view. One does not want to move forward on a program now because he wants “an (actual) outcome,” apparently foreseeing a big fight with bad results. The other wants more than “soundbite solutions,” neat little summaries that leave a lot of questions unanswered.
A common statement in the gun control arena is, “It is people who pull the trigger, not guns that pull the trigger.” Yes, we all understand that, but what is not mentioned here is that guns play a pretty big secondary role in the actual violence. People couldn’t pull the big trigger if they didn’t have the big gun.
One oft-heard idea is that we need to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, not law-abiding citizens. Great idea, except very often a citizen surprises everyone and goes from nice guy to active shooter seemingly overnight and with no criminal record.
One individual interviewed on the news said, “I want a bigger gun than my enemy.” This makes tons of sense if we are in a society with no law, no police, no education system, no national guard, etc. But we have hard working professionals who can help us deal with our personal enemies, so we don’t have to do it all by ourselves. Besides, I thought we are all in this thing together in one big tribe, not lots of little ones opposed to each other.
Very popular today is the notion that the real problem is lack of adequate mental health services, so we ought to be putting our emphasis there. Nothing wrong with that, except it will take a whole lot of time to make changes in the system, and in the meantime assault weapons will continue to destroy people in big bunches, with mass events coming to your hometown soon.
Gun commenters often bring up statistics, like “Violent crime has diminished since the 1990s.” So, violent crime may have leveled out a bit as a whole, but this view leaves out the fact that violent crime boomed monstrously during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, so the plateau we are at now is not a very pretty one.
Another comment bandied about is that today’s proposed measures “won’t stop mass killings,” but just change the type of weapon used. True, but there would be a lot fewer deaths per active shooter incident if the shooter were not using a military assault weapon.
It seems like the public should be engaging in a moral calculation rather than the political or philosophical calculations used by so many. Do we want to do something, or are we content to be done-in by gun violence?
Kimball Shinkoskey is retired from state government employment and writes about American history, politics, and current affairs.